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Keep It Simple: Squats

19 Mar. 2013 Posted by Hannah Mich
squats, squat with counterbalance, correct squat balance, squat variations, fitness, exercises, squat exercise

Workouts over time can become quite complicated. But in many cases keeping it simple is a much better way to go. Therefore, I am starting a series of blogs that are all about “keeping it simple” with your exercises and workouts. For this first blog in the series I decided to discuss squats.

I love squats. Squats are what I would consider a foundation exercise – meaning they utilize major muscle groups and are a motion vital to daily activities. A day does not go by that the average person does not do some form of squatting. Sitting down on your couch, getting into your car, squatting down to tie your shoe and, well, lowering your behind onto the toilet. You would think with all this daily squatting we would be perfect “squatters” and there would be no need to add them into the old exercise routine. Sadly, that is not the case.

I have found from my personal training experience and working with a wide range of clientele that squats are frequently performed with poor technique. Furthermore, squats are a very versatile exercise and once mastered are a building block for more advanced and dynamic exercises.

The major muscle groups the basic squat works are the gluteus maximus, hamstrings and quadriceps. Additionally, core muscles and “lower” leg muscles provide stability during squats.

Common Squat Mistakes

* Holding your breath.
* Putting your weight in your toes. Lifting heels off the ground.
* Not completing the range of motion (i.e. Not returning to a tall standing position after squatting).
* Performing squats with too much weight (squat bar, dumbbells).
* Performing squats too quickly, leading to quantity over quality.

Common Reasons for Poor Technique

* Inadequate knowledge of proper technique.
* Muscle strength and/or flexibility imbalances.
* Postural discrepancies, or misalignment of your hips and spine.

I also want to point out that performing squats with incorrect technique repetitively can perpetuate muscle strength and flexibility imbalances, and contribute to misalignment of the hips and spine. Not to mention, drastically increases your risk for injuries.

Performing A Basic Squat

Watch video here and follow instructions below.

1. Place a chair about a foot behind you.
2. Extend your arms in front of you to act as a counterbalance.
3. Space your feet approximately shoulder width apart.

Now that you are in position. It is time to squat…

4. Push your hips back and lower your butt down to the chair. [Note: keep weight in heels.]
5. As you go down, roll your belly button back activating your transverse abdominis muscle. Also, inhale as you go down into the squat.
6. Tap the chair with your butt.
7. Exhale as you slowly stand back up to a standing position.

Changing It Up

Unfortunately, a simple squat can become boring for some. Simple ways to add variations to your squat routine, while still keeping it simple include:

* Removing your counterbalance by crossing your arms across your chest, or putting your arms up into the air for an added challenge.
* Varying your foot placement: wider, narrower, or slightly staggering your feet for an added challenge.
* Remove the chair from behind you (make sure you are ready for this – we do not want you to fall).
* Hold some extra weight, using dumbbells or a squat bar. Add weight slowly though. For example, start with 10 lbs and work your weight up.
* Vary your repetitions and sets: 2 sets of 15 repetitions, 3 sets of 10 repetitions, or 3 sets with different repetitions (10 repetitions, 8 repetitions, 6 repetitions).

Watch this video for squat variations.

Again do not be fooled by the simplicity of squats. They are a great addition to any workout. Say yes to stronger thighs and hips with no equipment required. And be ready for summer activities in your shorts and bathing suit.

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