One Great Exercise: Squats
Many daily activities, sports and exercises involve the same muscles used in squats.
If you’re short on time, this is an easy exercise to do that will work many muscle groups.
The squat will improve your lower body and core strength, as well as assist with improving balance and posture. The best part about a squat: it can be done anywhere, with no equipment needed.
- The exercise targets quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves, but your core muscles also work to hold correct posture during the squat.
- Squats can improve leg and core strength, help with mobility and posture, and are shown to increase the strength of bones and joints, so they help prevent injuries.
How to Do a Squat
Begin by standing with your feet hip to shoulder distance apart, toes are slightly pointed outward.
- Activate your core by thinking about pulling your muscles in toward a center point right behind your belly button. Shift your weight back into your heels. This will help your hips to hinge – and lead you to push your bottom (glutes) out.
- Begin your downward motion like you are going to sit in a chair. Keep your toes aligned with your knees during this phase. Lower your body as far as you can.
- Begin your upward movement by pushing into your feet, squeezing your glutes and returning to your stance at the start.
Tips for Beginners
The squat can be done by starting seated in a chair with feet placed hip to shoulder distance apart. Here’s how:
- Cross your arms and place your hands on the opposite shoulder.
- Start your movement by bracing your core and pushing into your heels. Come to a complete stand.
- Lower your body back down by hip hinging and slowly lowering your bottom back to your chair.
Tips for Advanced Variations
When you add weight to the exercise, it works the muscles harder. You can do that in several ways.
- Hold a dumbbell up at chest level or racked on your shoulders.
- Do a barbell squat to increase resistance.
- Add a hop or jump at the top of your movement. Begin like you would for a bodyweight squat, lower your body and at the bottom of the squat, explode up and let your feet leave the floor.
- As you land, be sure to land with bent knees to absorb the impact of your jump. This will protect your knees from injury.
By Sara Plucker, Fitness Manager at Avera McKennan Fitness Center.