In my previous post I mentioned 3 exercises that I think are integral to any exercise programme, or even to any person no matter what their goal, age, size or shape. One of these exercises was SQUATS – in my opinion, the king of the gym.
Squats, when performed correctly, are so beneficial it would be crazy to cut them out of any exercise routine (except for medical reasons). However, performing them correctly can take a lot of time and practice, and a lot of people don’t want to spend the time and effort practicing a technique – most people just want to get on with it! But I can’t stress enough how important it is to do them properly in order to minimise injury and maximise results.
So, why are squats such a highly thought of exercise to all regular gym-goers?
Squats work so many different muscles in your body (it is a compound exercise). As I said before, achieving that ‘toned’ look requires building muscle and losing fat. Squats help you burn fat as your body is using significant amount of energy (calories) to perform the exercise. But they also help you build muscle/strength – hence, they’re great for everyone. It is just important to adapt your diet depending on your goal.
Squats use muscles in both the top and bottom halves of your body – the core works overtime to prevent injury and maintain a correct posture, and of course they work your bum and legs muscles!
Squats are not only great for looking good, but they also improve flexibility and stability. As it is a free weight exercise, your stability is being put to the test and will improve with practice. Also, moving your body in a full range of motion like you do whilst squatting boosts flexibility, and increased flexibility also helps prevent injury.
So, if squatting correctly is so important, how do we do it? ’Starting Strength’ by Mark Rippetoe is one of the best explanations of squats I have ever read. He uses diagrams and to accompany his explanation in order to explain the mechanics behind squatting.
I just want to share a few tips with you before you get started: 1) Make sure you have perfected body weight squats before you add any weight – this is to ensure you don’t injure yourself before you even get started. The best way to check your technique is to get a friend to video you performing the action.
2) Point your toes at a 45 degree angle – if you do this and then keep your knees over your toes as you squat, then it stops your knees from buckling in on the way up.
3) Don’t arch or round your back – keep your back straight all the way through the movement. Practice in the mirror! Keep your chest out and your abs tight.
4) Always squat until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor – this prevents knee injuries because it engages the hamstrings (Starting Strength explains this well). It also means you are working your muscles more efficiently.