Want to incorporate a powerful strength-training motion into your exercise regimen? Try squatting. You’ll find that ordinary actions like sitting down in a chair, reaching for something on the lowest shelf at the grocery store, and stooping down to pick something up off the floor are all made easier with regular practice.
Here is a summary of the health advantages of squats, when and how to incorporate them into your fitness program, and how to perform them properly.
What Muscles Are Worked by Squats?
Why do fitness instructors recommend squats so frequently? Tony Ambler-Wright, CSCS, product manager and master instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and a coach at the performance training facility Movement Edge, who is based in Roswell, Georgia, says that the squat is a fundamental movement pattern with functional carryover to many activities of daily living and sport.
In a squat, three different types of muscles are used. The largest muscle in your butt, the gluteus maximus, the quadriceps muscles (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis obliquus, and vastus intermedius), and the soleus, a deep calf muscle, are among them.
Helper’s muscles exist as well, such as those in the inner thighs, hamstrings, back, and calves, while stabilizer muscles, such as your abdominals and inner and outer thighs, assist you to maintain perfect form.
What Are the Advantages of Squatting?
I’ll list five:
1. You can strengthen your glutes by squatting. Squats are helpful for anyone looking to develop a stronger butt. According to research published in Yoga & Physical Therapy, this strength can transfer into better performance in daily tasks like running and jumping as well as sports that need it, especially if you’re older. You can walk, run, and hike more comfortably if your glutes are strong.
2. Squats improve functional ability (particularly as you age). Squats will help you build functional leg strength and mobility, which could make getting up from the floor simpler, according to Ambler-Wright. Why is that relevant? Your capacity to sit and stand up from the floor may be a good indicator of your likelihood of dying young, according to research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
3. Your bones will get stronger via squats. Squats count as weight-bearing exercises, which are great for developing bones. According to Ambler-Wright, “squats help make hip and leg bones and joints more durable through greater bone mineral density.” Your chance of getting osteopenia or osteoporosis may decrease as a result.
4. You will burn calories by doing squats. You’ll burn more calories throughout an exercise if more muscles are used. According to Jonathan Olonade, a corrective exercise specialist and NASM-certified personal trainer with Life Time headquartered in Cinco Ranch, Texas, squats undoubtedly meet that requirement as they have a significant caloric expenditure.
5. Your brain may benefit from squats. Exercise is important for the brain, and working on your lower body can be a smart idea. According to a study published in the journal Gerontology, having more leg strength was linked to having fewer indicators of brain aging and a healthier brain structure up to 12 years later compared to having less leg strength.
Squats: Are They Safe for Everyone?
Most people can safely perform squats. But there are some restrictions.
According to an individual’s medical and injury history, training state and history, and goals, there may be variations that are less suitable for them. The pistol squat, overhead squat, jump squat, goblet squat, and box squat is a few examples of squat variations.
Finding a squat variation and progression you can perform without experiencing pain, running the danger of a certain ailment getting worse, or running the risk of getting injured is the key. For instance, Ambler-Wright says you might need to adjust how wide you stand or how deep you squat if you have a knee or hip issue. Women who are pregnant might also need to alter the motion. Before performing squats, see your doctor if you have any doubts.
How Many Squats and How Frequently Should You Perform Them?
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PDF) advise people to perform strength training on two or more days that are not consecutive for all major muscle groups. However, Ambler-Wright notes that how frequently and how many squats you perform will depend on a number of factors, including how difficult the squat is, what variation you’re performing, what your goals are, how fit you are right now, and how much rest and recovery time you’ll need.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) (PDF) suggests performing one set of 8–12 repetitions if you’re in good health, but you may want to perform more or fewer repetitions depending on whether your aim is to increase muscular strength or muscular endurance.
According to ACSM, you can do upper-body strength exercises one day and lower-body exercises the next. Your fitness regimen and goals will determine whether you perform squats (and other leg exercises) on the days you perform cardio.
Correct Squat Technique
Learning the proper squat form will help you avoid injuries and make sure your muscles are being used efficiently. For a simple, body-weight squat, adhere to Ambler instructions: Wright’s
1. Put your toes forward, knees over your second and third toes, and feet shoulder-width apart.
2. By swiveling at the hips and bending at the knees, you may lower your butt toward the floor while keeping your heels on the ground and making sure your knees pass over your second and third toes. Allow your glutes to extend and push out behind your body as if you were sitting in a chair as you do this. Maintain a neutral neck and head position, with your chest up. Drop to a level where you can retain good form. Some people might be able to do that with their thighs parallel to the floor, while others would not be able to get quite that low.
3. As you stand up and press your hips forward to get back to your starting position, push into your feet to lift your body up and away from the floor.