Squats: The Exercise No Fitness Program Should Be Without!

This article is meant for apparently healthy individuals. The squat may be contraindicative to exercise for individuals with orthopedic problems involving the knees or lower back. Check with your doctor before performing this movement.
This article is meant for apparently healthy individuals. The squat may be contraindicative to exercise for individuals with orthopedic problems involving the knees or lower back. Check with your doctor before performing this movement.


Muscles Worked:


Benefits:

  • Engages most of the muscular system
  • Excellent for the cardiovascular system
  • Great for developing the shape of the buttocks
  • Requires stabilization from the core muscles (low back and abdominals)
  • Functional (replicates the sitting and standing movement)
  • Helps with balance
  • Allows for great variation in order to prioritize certain muscle groups


How To Perform:

Place a barbell on the trapezius a little higher than the posterior deltoids (on back below the neck). Grasp the bar with a palms forward position and pull the elbows backward and up. Place your feet parallel to each other and about shoulder-width to hip-width apart. Toes should be in line with knees - either pointing straight forward or slightly outward.

  
Traditional Barbell Squat.

Take a deep breath, look straight ahead (preferably into a mirror), and while holding chest up and out and slightly arching your back, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Exhale upon returning to the starting position by extending your thighs and powering through your heels.


Variations:

  • Bodyweight only or with a staff instead of a barbell
  • Dumbbells held by sides or up on shoulders
  • With an elastic band under feet
  • Sumo style - legs spread wide apart and toes pointed outward
  • Narrow stance
  • With a bar on upper pectorals and anterior deltoids
  • At a Smith Machine
  • At a Roman Chair
  • To learn about squat variations, click here.


Safety First:

  • Do not place the bar on the cervical spine (neck)
  • Do not round your back
  • Do not allow your knees to move forward, between, or outside your feet
  • Avoid bringing your thighs below parallel
  • Do not hyperextend your knees at the top of the movement
  • Have a spotter if not comfortable with the movement or if using heavy weights


Notes:

  • Keep in mind that the wider your stance the more the emphasis will be placed on the adductors/inner thighs. The narrower the stance the more the emphasis will be placed on the outer thighs/abductors and quadriceps.

  • Going below parallel on the downward phase of the movement recruits more of the hamstrings and gluteals.

  • Beginners not familiar with this movement should practice correct form and balance with no added resistance and with a chair or bench behind them. Cross your arms over your chest or hold them both straight out in front of you (this will work your shoulders endurance as well). Squat down and when you feel your butt touch the chair or bench, immediately push back up to the starting position - do not allow yourself to sit down or rest at all on the bench or chair.

  • By positioning the bar on the posterior deltoids instead of the upper trapezius the cantilever is reduced, increasing the power of the leverage of the back, which allows for heavier weights.

  • Squats at a Smith Machine or a Roman Chair focuses on the quadriceps.

Thanks,