Squats are not just mere leg exercises, like many assume. They actually are a full body exercise that work lots of muscle groups at once. Squats can easily help you lose weight or fat, depending on your goal. It may look easy, but in fact, a squat is a very dangerous movement if done wrong.
If it is executed poorly, not only the exercise won’t be effective, but the risk of injury will be very high.But the movement has plenty of benefits and helps you develop strength and endurance. As a plus, squatting can improve circulation, digestion and posture, and can help you shape and define sculpted thighs and buttocks. Consider increasing the weight as you progress. This will continue to challenge your body and raise your metabolism.
A perfect squat requires a muscular coordination throughout the body. And because of its very high metabolic demand, it can help you build muscle and burn fat at the same time. If performed correctly, squatting will help you to:
- build muscle
- burn body-fat
- improve mobility and posture
- improve balance and coordination
- increase flexibility and endurance
- increase strength gains
Putting too much pressure on your lower back and not enough on your legs will cause you a major injury. Unfortunately, this is the most common mistake we get to see really often. If done wrong, squatting can seriously hurt your knees and lower back.
How To Fix It
Standing on your toes while bending – keep your heels on the ground the entire time is the best thing you can do. Your toes should be able to move while squatting.
Knee positioning – keep your knees in line with your feet and bring them above your toes at the end of the squat. Keep your knees out to the sides or you could be twisting your knee joints.
Back positioning – maintain the natural curve in your lower back and do not over-arch it. Keep your chest up and shoulders back.
Head positioning – do not look up because this might hurt your neck. Keep looking straight forward, with your chin in a position that a tennis ball could fit between it and your chest.
Losing balance – if you squat lift and the bar comes over your toes, you will end up in loosing balance forward. The same will happen if the weight moves to your ankles and you will lose balance backwards. You need to keep the bar over your mid-foot at all times.
Descending too quickly – when you add weights to your squats and you move too quickly, you could easily increase the chances of injury. You are more likely to maintain a proper position if you squat a little slower.
Not warming up – it is critical that you warm up before squatting, to prepare the joints and muscles for movement. It is better to warm-up before any activity in the gym. Use glute bridges to open up your hips and any other warming up exercise to help prepare you for movement.
When squatting, technique is a critical aspect of your workout. A good squatting technique should not hurt your back and knees and should bring all the benefits we mentioned before. Let’s see some of the variations you can do and how to properly execute them.
The Bodyweight Squat
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart hips over knees and knees over ankles; roll the shoulder back and start lowering your body pushing your hips back and bending your knees;
- Push your body weight into your heels; extend your hands in front of you, with palms looking down for balance;
- Keep your chest and shoulders upright and your back straight. Your head is facing forward with eyes straight ahead;
- Pause for a moment, and then engage core and lift back up in a controlled movement.
Kettlebell, Dumbbell, or Medicine Ball Squat
- Hold the weight at the center of your chest;
- Slightly bend your knees and maintaining a good position, drop into a squat; drop the elbows between your knees to get a full range of motion;
- Go straight down and stand straight up for the remaining reps.
Barbell Front Squat
- Place the bar in front of your shoulders and grab it with both hands;
- Keep your hand on the bar and don’t let it roll onto your fingertips;
- Keep your elbows up, as high as you can, and your upper arms as parallel to the floor as possible;
- Drop below parallel and come back.
The Low Bar Back Squat
- Step up to the bar, face towards it, and step under the bar and put your hands around it;
- Grab the bar with a thumb-less grip and place it on your rear deltoids. A narrow grip will help you better with placing the bar in your upper back, but if you don’t have the flexibility for a narrow grip, start out wider, slowly bringing it in as you gain flexibility;
- With the bar on your back stand up, tighten your core and step back;
- Feet slightly wider than hip width apart, butt back, squat down slowly so the tops of your legs are parallel, and stand back up.
The High Bar Back Squat
- The starting position is the same as for the low bar back squat, but this time you need to put your thumbs around the bar in a narrow grip;
- Instead of placing the bar on your rear delts, place it about two inches higher up so that the bar will be across your shoulders;
- With the bar on your back step back, tighten your core and squat down. Due to the placement of the bar, you will need to keep your torso more vertical.
Starting a squat is easy. The position itself is very comfortable and it will give you the chance to have a proper workout. Make sure you warm-up before you attempt to squat, and incorporate it into your routine as a regular exercise. For extra protection and assurance, look into gear that will protect your knees and your quads and hamstrings during your training.
Squats are an incredibly valuable exercise for building strength and losing body fat, and the benefits we pointed out will highlight every aspect of your fitness. If you are willing to learn how to squat correctly, you will be rewarded with consistent progress and limited injury risk.