Squat, the master of all exercises. Some love it, some hate it. But what cannot be denied is the fact that it is an amazing full body movement. The best aspect about the squat is that it can be tailored to the individual – you can squat if you are a baby without instruction, it’s just natural, and you can squat if you are 70 with a little bit of tweaking. I remember someone once told me if you are tall you don’t enjoy the squat as much, but the deadlift is your friend. Longer legs and torso just make it that little bit more tough to get right down. More on the deadlift another time, but I must say I am absolutely buzzing after a set of those guys.
You may or may not of heard of the term “glute amnesia”, we sit a lot, we sit on the car/bus on the way to work, we sit at our desk in the office, and then we come home and sit in front of the TV, so our butts aren’t getting much activation, they are sleepy.
Being 5″8 and reasonably tall I have a love-hate relationship with the squat. I know it’s good for me, so I try to squat at least once a week, and as always I often feel much better after completing a few sets. The key to a good squat is all about technique, if you haven’t got that nailed, adding on more weight could not only be dangerous, but also you may not be engaging the proper muscles. On that note let’s discuss proper technique and the top benefits of a squat.
Lots of people have their own opinions, but from my point of view you want to squat down and aim for your thighs to be parallel, I know the goal is just below parallel, but at the end of the day you have to work within your own range of movement, and if you can get below parallel, awesome! Basically if you aren’t down far enough you may not be engaging your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, furthermore you don’t want the stress on your knees and your back.
You may or may not of heard of the term “glute amnesia”, we sit a lot, we sit on the car/bus on the way to work, we sit at our desk in the office, and then we come home and sit in front of the TV, so our butts aren’t getting much activation, they are sleepy. Why do we need to activate our glutes? Well when we strengthen our glutes we build strength in our core, and help prevent lower back pain, hip pain, and even knee and ankle pain, we are taking the stress off the joints by using a pretty large muscle group. (Insert cheeky joke here!)
The squat is a functional movement, so once you master it you will have much better mobility in your entire body. I know I used to suffer from lower back pain, and generally had poor flexibility, if I sat for long periods of time I’d feel all twisted when I stood up. Thankfully I have no such pain anymore. Squats also help with your balance, and help you to burn more fat as you build up the muscles in your legs.
When you squat down you want your legs to be about hip distance apart or slightly wider, pushing your knees out slightly and trying not to let them go in front of your toes. Slowly go down to parallel if possible, keeping a nice straight back, and when you come back up squeeze your glutes, let them do all the work by pushing you back up.
Body weight squats, if you have an iPhone the Squats Pro App is a great motivator, you can hold your phone and it counts down as you squat, the accelerometer in the device senses your movement. Don’t’ worry if you don’t want to go down that route, a simple unassisted body weight squat is great.
Complete 5-10 squats.
If possible hit the gym and work with a PT – use just the 20kg bar, or some lights weights 5-10g each side.
Complete 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions, gauging how you feel as you go along.
Work with a PT, make sure your technique is on point, and gradually add more weight carefully. Lower your reps to ensure you can complete properly.
Complete 3 sets, perhaps 6-8 reps depending on how much weight you are adding.
The squat really is for everyone, I have even seen workouts tailored for the elderly, holding onto a chair and squatting down as much as they can. Once you have been doing this exercise for a while you will see your strength increase, your mobility get better, and your bum will probably start to look pretty decent too.
Are you new to the squat? Find this guide useful? Why not share your experiences using the comments box below.