Introducing the queen of all exercises...
Ok, granted, its name isn't suggestive of grandeur, but don't they say the best things come in small packages? Squats are probably best known for their bum-like-Beyonce building capabilities and they are definitely good for that; they'll also make your legs stronger and your whole body fitter. You'll build muscle AND burn fat - not bad for a short-ass exercise eh?
The squat is a full body exercise meaning you're going to work the muscles in your legs, hips, bum, core, lower back and, if you're holding weight, your arms, upper back and shoulders too. Plus, unless you want to take powerlifting up as a sport, you don't need to step foot in a gym; this exercise can be done anywhere... why not try it on your tram commute tomorrow?
Maybe not... but if you're not already including it in your exercise programme, perhaps it's time to start!
The Golden Rules
Just like with any exercise, if you're going to get the most out of the squat and avoid injury, you need to make sure you're doing it properly. As you squat, think about the following key points:
- pull your stomach in, shoulders back, down and chest up
- look straight forward
- As you lower, resist the urge to round your back and roll your shoulders forwards
- squeeze the muscles in your thighs and bum
- Sit back into your heels as you lower and push your feet down into the ground as though you're trying to 'split the floor apart'.
From beginner to advanced
If there weren't already a lot of reasons to love the squat, another one is the number of variations that exist. Your starting point doesn't matter and there's no end of ways you can shake it up if you're looking to continually challenge yourself.
Here's just 5 examples of how you can adjust a bodyweight squat to suit your ability level:
squat to a box (or a chair)
Quite simply, lower yourself back onto a chair, pause and stand back up again.
Change the tempo
You can change the tempo of your squats to make them easier or harder. Test out the difference between taking one second to move up and down and taking 10 seconds to move down, then firing up in just 1!
Holding the squat at the lowest point or half way makes things tougher again... If you really want to feel the burn add in some tiny pulses!
Add a plyometric element and really fire up from the lowest point; get maximum benefit with a 3 second hold before leaping straight up or forwards.
Add weight and/or squat on one leg
Ok... so that's a slight cheat but who's ever seen a 'top tips' list of 6?! So, to sum it up, other ways to add challenge and interest to your squat routine include adding weight to your front or your back, split leg squats, adding weight to split leg squats and (if you're really feeling brave) the pistol squat!
Here's 4 squat variations to try out at home...
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