There’s a reason that people say squatting is the best exercise out there.
Not only is it a compound movement that activates multiple different muscle groups, but it’s also a primitive movement that transfers into everyday life movements. Plus, squatting is very anabolic meaning that it helps the body build muscle mass.
“Squatting is great for the knees because it strengthens the muscles around the knee including the calves, hamstring and quads,” says Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., owner and head coach at TS Fitness in New York City. “It’s great for mobility because it recruits the hips, ankles and shoulders to work, and when it’s done in heavy loads, it forces you to learn to brace the body to protect the lower back.”
Still not convinced that squatting is an important exercise?
Squatting works it all—from the glutes to the hips, to the abdominals, and upper body (if weight bearing), if you’re squatting properly, everything is fired up. “The primary agonistic muscles used in the concentric movement of the squat are the glutes and quads; while the antagonistic muscles used during the eccentric are the hip flexors,” explains Tamir. “The hamstrings are the synergists that assist and transverse abdominals help stabilize.”
There’s not an area you aren’t hitting.
Think about it: Each and every time you sit down and stand up, you’re technically doing a squat. “It’s the most primitive movement,” says Tamir. “It strengthens the whole body so things, like sitting and even walking up the stairs, are easier.” The more you squat, the easier simple movements will be.
Because of the transfer of weight when you squat, you’re forced to activate your stabilizing muscles in the transverse abdominals. “When performing a squat, your spine of the upper body needs to remain neutral so that good posture is maintained,” says Tamir. “The use of the posterior muscles of the back and shoulders also work to help do this.”
Front squats work more of the muscles in the anterior of the body, while back squats work more of the posterior muscles. This strength can transfer over to improvement in your balance and posture in everyday life, too.
In order to squat correctly, you need to have the mobility in your hips, ankles, and shoulders (if you’re using a barbell) to get into the proper position. “Squatting helps to increase the mobility in these joints,” explains Tamir. “Exercises that require mobility when loaded with weight can help mobilize because it forces you to control the movement through a range of motion. And that’s basically what mobility is.”
Squatting is an axial loading exercise, which helps to keep your body healthy and strong. “This is great not only for young adults but especially for older demographics and people who have a low bone density to help them stay healthy and prevent injury.”
Squatting doesn’t discriminate—anyone from a teenager to a senior citizen can and will benefit from squatting. “You have to squat at any age. If you don’t use it, you lose it", says Tamir.
- Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointing forward or slightly turned out.
- Keeping chest up, shoulders back, push knees out as you sit back and down like you were going to sit in a chair. Do not let knees go forward past ankles. Lower until your butt is in line with knees, thighs parallel to the floor, or as low as you can.
- Keeping chest tall, push through your heels to stand back up.
There are several types of squat exercises you can add to your routine including:
- Bodyweight Squats: These will be the best option to start out with if you’re a beginner to squatting exercises. A bodyweight squat just requires you to use your own body weight as resistance.
- Goblet Squats: These are generally the next step in the squat progression. Goblet squats involve holding an object (usually a dumbbell or kettlebell) close to your chest while squatting.
- Barbell Back Squats: This is one of the major staple exercises in many people’s routine. Whether your goals are increasing strength, building muscle, burning fat, or getting faster. Back squats involve holding a barbell across your upper back as you squat.
- Front Squats: These can be challenging for some people because of the front rack position but they’re an excellent exercise to target your legs and core. Front squats have you holding a barbell across the front of your shoulders as you squat.
- Sumo Squats: This type of squat can be done with just your bodyweight or with other types of resistance like a barbell, kettlebell, or dumbbell. A sumo squat is like a regular squat except your feet are positioned a little wider with your toes pointed out in a stance that resembles something a sumo wrestler would do.
- Split Squats: Many people find these squats challenging because they require greater levels of balance. Split squats require people to be in a split stance with one leg forward and the other leg back, they will bend the knee of their lead leg as they squat down.
- Box Squats: These squats are helpful for people that want to hit different depths on their squats. During a box squat, a person will squat down onto a box or bench which serves as a marker of the depth they need to hit before they stand back up.
- Pistol Squats: Are another challenging type of squat that requires good balance. Pistol squats involve balancing on one leg and squatting while the other leg floats in the air.
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