Resistance training is far more effective in creating a greater muscle stimulus compared to running. It helps you tone the muscles and burn even more calories. The simplest exercises are often the most effective exercises that help you burn fat and tone muscles. It is a misconception among cardio trainers that heavy lifting makes them muscular and bulky. This is a myth as the developed muscles are not bulky but healthy and functional.
One such simple, yet effective exercise is the squat. Many people assume that squats are an exercise solely meant for the legs. In reality, squats are a full-body movement that targets almost every muscle group in the body. Here, we look at the benefits, correct method, common mistakes, myths, variations, and using weights, and other aspects of squats.
Benefits Of Squats
Contrary to the popular belief, squats are not meant to target just your legs. They work on various groups of large muscles and
- Core (gluteal muscles, low back stabilizers, obliques, transversus, and rectus abdominus)
- Back (latissiumus dorsi and erector spinae)
- Hamstrings (semitendinosus, semimemranosus, and biceps femoris)
- Buttocks (gluteus maximus)
- Quadricepts (vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris)
- Begin by standing with the head facing forward, keeping the back straight and place the feet shoulder-width apart.
- Extend the hands straight out in front of you to maintain balance.
- From this posture, simply sit back and down. Keep the head facing forward while bending the upper body a bit forward and slightly bend the lower back while descending.
- Now, start lowering while ensuring that your thighs are parallel to the floor and place the knees over the ankles pressing the weight back into the heels.
- Finally, push through the heels to haul yourself back up to the starting position.
As squats are relatively easy to perform, many people do it without consulting a qualified trainer and as a result, do it wrong. Here are some common mistakes that people do while performing squats.
- Wobbly and knocked knees
- Twisting, tight, and unstable hips, which cause unsymmetrical leg squats
- Chest hinging forward
- Heels rising from the floor
- Going very low
- Not going low enough
- Rounding back while squatting too deep without proper technique
- Lack of control that causes bouncing on the heels and falling into the squat
Myth 1: Knees Must not fall in front of your toes.
If you fall into your squat, let your heels rock off the floor and bounce at the bottom with your knees almost touching the ground, it can be dangerous. A controlled squat with the knees just beyond the toes is ideal for strengthening the quadriceps.
Myth 2: Knees
If your back starts to round and your pelvis is rocking, then you must end the squat at that point. The angle – 90˚ or 45˚ or 110˚ – does not matter. It’s more about the form than the depth.
Myth 3: Squats are bad for the knees.
If you have a physical deformity or a problem with your knees, then squats may be bad. But, if you have sore knees that is not a structural issue, then squats are beneficial. If your knee feels wobbly or misaligned, squats may cause repetitive stress and injury. Strengthening the quads aids better control, more strength and less repetitive damage.
Basic Squat Variations
Regular practice of the basic squats can transform your body and help tone the muscles. Adding some variety to your workout routine helps avoid boredom and makes it more challenging.
Position of the feet – Different feet positions target different stabilizers and muscles.
- Sumo – maximum external hip
- Narrow – feet closer than shoulder-width or touching
- Parallel – feet shoulder-width apart and facing forward
- Turned out – heels shoulder-width apart, and feet turned out 30˚
- Wide – heels slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, feet turned out 45˚
Depth of the squat – The squat depth depends on the form you can maintain. Some people go all the way down while others may stop at a position that looks like you’re sitting on an invisible chair. It ensures that you do a perfect squat. You can go deeper and carry weight as you keep strengthening and increasing your flexibility.
Machines – Using the leg extension and leg press isolates your quadriceps and eliminates the full core and body engagement. Machines are good for isolating muscle group but free weight squats are far more effective. Finishing up the squat workout with machines is a good method when you can’t maintain the perfect form.
Unstable surfaces – Before you perform heavy squats, challenge yourself with a warm-up on a Bosu ball or wobble board. Do it with very light weights or body
Variations With Weight
You can utilize various types of weights to add more resistance to the squats. You can use dumbbells, barbell, goblets or other weights that enhance the effectiveness of the squats.
- Goblet Squats – First, set the stance up. Then, keep a flat back, keep your head forward and then hold the weight up at the chin.
- Dumbbell Squat – Stand up straight and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Don’t allow the dumbbells to slouch your shoulders. Keep the shoulder blades squeezed together all along.
- Barbell Squat – Place the barbell either behind or in front of your body, depending on your experience, form, and wrist and shoulder flexibility.
Once you have mastered the basics, you can move
- Single Leg Squats
- Jumping Squat Variations
- Cossack Squats
- Plyometric Box Squats
Low Rep And High-Weight
Low repetitions with heavy weights can improve strength, and helps in building and toning the glutes and quads. Perform 3-10 reps with high weight and ensure you get sufficient rest. Maintaining your form is vital as the heavy weights may lead to serious injuries.
High Rep And Low-Weight
High repetitions with light weight can increase your endurance. Perform 10-20 reps for 30 seconds. Though the form is not crucial here, it is still important because of the high repetitions.
Note: People having back or lower body problems must consult their physician before you perform these squats. Additionally, a qualified trainer can help you perform the exercises in the correct manner.