Everyone is always looking for a magic new exercise or a quick tip to get the best workout possible. Well, there’s a tried and true exercise that is king among all other exercises.
You could call it the one exercise to rule them all. This episode will look at all things squat and why it needs to be the cornerstone of any good training program, So dig in your heels and let’s get our squat on:
In This Episode On Squats You Will Learn:
- What makes the squat so effective
- How you can get stronger all over from it
- All the muscles the squat uses
- The hormonal changes that occur in your body
- Squatting and your sympathetic nervous system
- How to prepare to squat and execute it properly
- The most important tips when squatting
- Other variations of the squat you can do.
What is a Squat
Let’s talk about why the squat is the king of all exercises. Not only does it help you get strong but helps you get fit overall as it improves your overall body composition.
Everyone’s always looking for a new exercise- a secret weapon that can get them fitter, bigger or stronger. People consume endless amounts of supplements or research extreme new exercises that might bring an instantaneous change.
New trainers in gyms are always trying out new acrobatic based exercises because they’re new and they want to look like they’re bringing the current, groundbreaking approaches to fitness.
Regardless, squats need to be the foundation of your whole workout. If you want to boost strength, muscle, athletic performance, you need to squat. And the promise that they are difficult is what makes it so effective.
When you’re in a gym, it’s easy to dedicate a day to work your arms, legs, shoulder, or abs. Squats need to be the cornerstone of your training. So if you want to boost your fitness and get real results, adding squats to your routine will make it more worthwhile.
What Muscles Do Squats Work?
The squat is a great exercise that targets several muscle groups. The muscles that are targeted include:
- Gluteus Maximus
- Hip Abductor
- Hip Flexors
- Lower Back
Plenty of muscles are used during squats. The main ones you’re going to work on are your thighs, hips, glutes, all of your quads which include the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis.
You’re also working your hamstrings, but also beyond these big muscles. They’ll also help you strengthen your bones, ligaments, and tendons. The muscles working on your feet will also get worked.
Squats are a weight-bearing exercise, meaning it can help boost bone density. It’s also a high-impact exercise, which means it’s not recommended for people who have knee conditions like arthritis or previous injuries to the knees.
Benefits of Squats
To look at the benefits of squats, the obvious one is squatting works all your leg muscles but it goes a lot further than that. Squats can build up your entire body because of the demanding nature that it takes to perform them.
When you do a barbell back weighted squat, it creates a real anabolic environment in your body. And that provides bodywide muscle growth. When you are doing a squat, a free weight barbell squat, it puts your body into a super-defensive position.
These situations bring a surge of testosterone and growth hormone, both of which are vital for muscle growth. You probably heard about growth hormones from a legal drug used by athletes (baseball) or bodybuilders.
But in your body, it’s a naturally occurring hormone. It’s an important hormone and is much akin to the fountain of youth in terms of hormones. When you have a good stable range of growth hormones prevent premature aging and stuff.
When it does plummet to low, the effects on aging may rapidly enhance. When it comes to fitness and muscle and everything, this elevated hormone level from doing exercises like squat will help you build your muscle mass and other areas besides the leg.
Other big compound movements like deadlifts boost normal growth hormones. Bench-presses help to some extent but nothing touches the output from the body like barbell squats.
If you have one of those heart rate monitors and you’re wearing it through all sorts of activities from walking up the stairs, or doing a hundred-meter sprint, or boxing, you’ll notice nothing has as much impact as a bodyweight squat.
This is because it activates the sympathetic nervous system and the accompanying hormone growth. This will help your athletic performance as your ability to run and jump significantly improves.
Don’t worry if you’re not an athlete. This will carry over to your everyday life. Mundane things are much easier as squats will help you build balance, strength, and coordination.
If you’re playing with your kids or grandkids, it helps in picking them up and balancing them. Even simple mundane tasks like taking groceries from the car to your house become easier. Having more stability will prevent you from accidentally injuring yourself.
You have a better base of strength. Humans were meant to be on their feet all the time and they need a strong base and a base core to help with stature and mobility and everything like that.
How to do The Squat
To execute a basic squat:
- Start with your feet shoulder length apart. It helps with stability.
- Your back has to be straight and your spine needs to be in a neutral position.
- Keep your knees centered over your feet. Make sure your knees don’t move inwards.
- Keep your chest up and engage your abdominals.
- Put your hands upwards for balance.
- Lower them until your thighs are (almost) parallel to the floor.
- Pause with your knees over your toes.
- Push back up to the starting position.
Let’s look at how to properly do squats.
On any day when you’re doing squats, you need to activate your muscles through a 5 to 10-minute warm-up. You need to get your heart rate up and blood flow going. If you’re in a gym, you can hop on the stationary bike for 15 to 20 repetitions.
You should also throw in some dynamic stretching or movement like leg swings. Stand facing a wall with your hands up again against it, taking one leg at a time and swinging it side to side for 15 to 20 reps.
If you have enough room, you can consider doing knee kicks. Swing your knee up like you’re trying to hit yourself in the chest, then swing it right back like you’re trying to touch your heel to the ceiling.
While squatting, your foot position should be shoulder-width apart. When you line your feet up with your shoulder, you’ll get your best case of stability. It’s okay if it’s not perfectly aligned but when it goes too much in either direction then that’s when you can get into balance issues and get injuries or falls or whatever.
Your back and spine should be in a neutral position which is keeping them as straight as possible. Keep your knees centered over your feet. Make sure your knees don’t move inwards.
If that takes place, you’ve got to reduce the weight or work on your natural squatting motion. You can extend them outwards but it’s more dependent on your body mechanics and composition.
As you’re going down, you’re going to inhale through the nose and in one control motion, slowly bend your knees, hips, and ankles and lower until you’re at least that 90-degree angle.
And this is where you want to keep the weight on the front of your heel and you want to make sure your head is up and your chest is up and extended out.
For the bar position, keep it at the base of your neck. Other movements might require you to go lower, but these movements are usually more advanced. Keep your elbows kind of pointed directly to the ground.
It’s hard not to be watching yourself while squatting, especially when you have a mirror in front of you. This can be a little dangerous because it doesn’t help with balance and coordination.
If there’s a little spot on the mirror and keep your eyes locked onto that. This is going to help more with stability as opposed to watching as your eyes are constantly moving up and down.
This depends on your goals. Are you squatting to gain strength or to lose weight? Do you want to go easy on your body or hard? For strength building, you need to start with 3 to 5reps and slowly increase the number.
If you’re in the powerlifting phase, you can aim for 12 to 15 repetitions with 2 to 4 sets. This also means you need longer breaks to cool off. So make sure you take at least ninety seconds off before you take on a new set.
Once you’re done with cardio to get your heart rate up, throw in a couple of sets of dynamic stretching. Do a couple of sets with just a bar on its own to prepare your body for what’s coming.
This takes a lot of your central nervous system so don’t overwork yourself. Your cardiovascular system tends to recover quicker than your muscular system so you might think you’re ready for another set, but you’re not.
So make sure you take at least a minute and 15 seconds to get muscle recovery!
Just as life needs an occasional change to get a break from monotonicity, your squats do too.
You have to hold the barbell place and support the base of the neck. In this exercise, your elbows are going to be pulled in. This is a little more advanced so it depends on whether you’re looking for muscle recruitment.
This is going to build more muscle in your quads and your glutes and translate well over to other activities or sports. It also incorporates the hamstrings more than a high bar squat and the low bar squat.
If you don’t want to use bars, you can choose to do bodyweight squats. It follows the same outline as the previous one, just without the bars! You can keep your hands across your chest or cross them in front of you like you’re praying.
You can make it more athletic by adding jump squats like exploding out of the bottom and extending upwards and then a controlled landing into the dissent lowering phase.
You shouldn’t ignore your body’s capacity. Make sure you exercise progressively. Start with one repetition and build your way up. Do sets of 12 to 15 and choose weights around 15 pounds.
Regular Freeway Barbell Squats
These are top squat exercises. You can mix it up with other variations. It has similar motions to the others. You get to burn more calories with this.
This is when people hold a dumbbell or kettlebell under your chin and close to your chest. It’s great for balance and coordination.
This places more emphasis on your quads. You have to cut down the weight you’re carrying. The position of the bar is where you rested on your front shoulders.
Use a shoulder-width grip and swing your elbows up underneath. Make sure they’re pointing upwards and forwards and you hold it there. This is more advanced but makes a great quad workout.
These help balance core strength and muscular control, but they’re hard to execute. You press the barbell overhead with a pretty wide grip. It has to be closer to where the weights or where the cuff part is.
Keep the bar over your center of gravity while you squat again. You can even do this with a broomstick or just a smaller bar.
Bulgarian Split Squat
It’ll look like you’re doing lunges, but you still hold the bar on your back like a regular squat again. You’re going to need a bench to put one foot behind it and have a normal foot position in front.
You’re going to push your hips back like in a regular squat and bend at the knee again. You’re going to have to do around 12 to 15 repetitions on that first leg before you switch over to the other.
Squat for a Healthier Body
If you’re working out, everything’s going to feel good and healthy. You’ll face no joint problems and also get lean muscles. Squats ought to be the real cornerstone of your fitness and strength training program. Squat to get a fitter, stronger and healthier body.
Thanks For Checking Out How To Squat!
So that’s why the squat is the most important exercise and If you are new to exercise you want to check with your doctor to make sure everything is ok before undertaking a new exercise program and you want to make sure you don’t have any bad knee or joint pain. But if all things are go then the squat can remain the cornerstone of your workout and can help get you as fit and strong as possible.