Do you know squat?
This basic, go-to exercise has a host of health benefits
If you’re willing to try one muscle-strengthening exercise, get the best bang for your buck with the standard squat.
“The squat is one of the most basic, functional exercises,” says Gina Ryan, personal trainer and general manager of the Well for Life Center at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. “This simple move can improve your mobility and balance. As you age, the squat will help you do everyday activities with ease.”
- Squats engage more muscles than any other exercise move: your quads, hamstrings, outer thighs, glutes and core.
- Squats will help you maintain your mobility: getting up and out of chairs, helping with balance and strength.
- The squat has the potential for bigger and faster muscle growtH than many other exercises.
- Done correctly, squats can help minimize knee injurieS by keeping the muscles around the knee strong and supportive.
Get in proper form for your squat
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your legs at the knees until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor, like you’re sitting in a chair. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Start with three sets of eight squats and gradually add more repetitions.
Before you start, remember form
When you squat, proper technique is critical, says Ryan. “Without proper form, you could risk serious injuries or gradual injury over a period of time.” Focus on these concepts:
- Your back. You’ll want to keep your back straight as you squat. Don’t round it out. To do this, keep your head up and your eyes focused on an object directly in front of you.
- Your core. As you squat, keep your core strong and tucked in.
- Your arms. Stretch them in front of you or bend them at the elbows while you squat, or lightly position your hands behind your ears.
- Your knees. As you squat, don’t allow your knees to travel over your toes. You should be able to see your toes throughout the entire squat.
- Your glutes. Stick your bottom out as you squat. As you lower your body to the ground, do not allow your bottom to drop lower than your knees. “Think like you’re sitting down in a chair,” says Ryan. The goal isn’t a deep squat, but rather one that is effective and keeps your thighs parallel to the floor.”
- Balance your weight on your heels. Don’t lean forward as you squat. Balance most of your weight on the heels of your feet, not your toes.
Looking for a variation to the standard squat? Ryan recommends the following:
With a stability ball. “If I have a client who has knee problems, I recommend using a stability ball,” says Ryan. “With the stability ball balanced against the wall, and your back on the ball, you lower yourself into the squat. You get the same strength exercise; it’s just less stressful on an injury.”
One-legged squat. To add challenge, and help with balance and strength, try a one-legged squat.
Add weight. If you’re looking to add more challenge, use resistance bands or dumbbells with your squat.