If you’re hoping to boost your lower body strength, one move that you must have in your workout session is the squat. It’s the granddaddy of lower body exercises – the king of the exercise castle if you will. It is one move that can completely transform your physique.
Oh, and it burns fat. Lots of it. Many people think that squats will only make their lower body bigger, but this isn’t always the case. Sure, if you eat a high calorie diet, adding squats to your workout routine will have you building more lean muscle mass, however if you’re using a lower calorie weight loss diet, squats are only going to make you leaner.
They do this by ramping up your metabolic rate, while burning up a high number of calories while you perform them as well. Since the exercise will utilize so many muscle groups – your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core, this makes it ideal for total lower body conditioning.
As an added benefit, a heavy set of squats will also get your heart rate up considerably, which will provide excellent cardiovascular benefits as well. For those who strongly dislike cardio training, this will allow you to reap the benefits of strength training along with cardiovascular sessions.
So now that you know why you should squat, let’s talk about how to squat better. There’s more to it than simply hitting the gym, putting a bar on you back, and lowering your body down.
Know Your Depth
First, you need to know the depth that you should be squatting. If you have no pre-existing knee problems, your mission is to squat as low to the ground as you can possibly go.
This is going to allow you to get full glute activation taking place, ensuring that you are really building up that lower body as best as possible.
If you do suffer from knee pain, you only want to squat to where it’s comfortable. For most people, this will be around 90 degrees. The moment you feel any sort of uncomfortable strain on your knee is the movement you’ve gone too far.
Keep Your Head Forward
It’s also important to keep your head forward. The worst thing that you can do is begin looking downward, which is only going to cause a forward lean in the upper body, potentially putting you at a high risk for back pain.
By looking forward, or even up ever so slightly, you can help ensure that your spinal column stays in the position it should be.
While a very slight lean forward is permissible, you should never have a very noticeable lean.
If this is occurring, you might consider utilizing the smith machine for a few sessions so that you can get a better feel for keeping the body upright.
The next point to know as you squat is that your breathing needs to be regulated. Note that you are not to actually breathe while you squat down. This is contrary to what you do during most exercises, but for the squat, you want to maintain a high level of intra-abdominal pressure and this will come from holding your breath.
So you’ll want to breathe in before you lower yourself down, hold that breath as you squat to lower, and then exhale once you return to the standing position.
Do a few sets with very light weight when first starting so that you can get used to how this breathing pattern feels.
Adjust Your Foot Position
Finally, the last step to squatting better is to know your foot position. If you are someone who is quite inflexible, it may help to turn your feet out ever so slightly. This will increase your range of motion, allowing you to squat all the way down to the ground.
Just don’t turn them out too much or you may place excess strain on the knees. Remember, the knees should always move directly over the toes.
So there you have the key points to know and remember when it comes to your squat. Follow these and you’ll be seeing the best results possible form this exercise.