are a basic component of almost any fitness workout. Whether they're in
an a aerobic or muscle building program they are almost inescapable.
Why should you do squats? They're extremely useful for burning fat,
muscle building and eliciting an aerobic response. As terrific as
squats are you may want to do them gingerly or not at all if you have
severe knee problems.
In strength training programs, studies
have shown that squats can also release growth hormones in the body.
These hormones encourage fat loss and help regulate your metabolism
(the exact way growth hormones work are complex but I highly encourage
you to read more about it). Squats also tone the thighs (quadriceps and
hamstrings) and buttocks (gluteus maximus). The primary muscle groups
used in squats are the quadriceps (front of the thigh) and the gluteus
maximus. Squats do also affect the hamstring muscles (back of the
thigh) but only as a secondary muscle group. If you want tone your
hamstrings I highly recommend doing an exercise that focuses on the
hamstrings as the primary muscle group.
Squats are also ideal
for eliciting an aerobic response. The muscle groups required to
perform the exercise are some of the biggest in the body. Large volumes
of blood are required to shuttle nutrients to the working muscles
thereby increasing heart rate and producing an aerobic response.
Needless to say, squats alone should not be the only element in an
aerobic workout, but they are an excellent way of increasing a flagging
So now that you know all about the wonders of the
squat how do you get started? First, if you have any kind of knee pain
stop! Consult your physician first. If your physician gives you the go
ahead, squat carefully!
Keep your weight on your heels. You should almost be able to pick your toes up of the ground
your knees away from your toes! When you squat your knees should not
move forward past your toes. When the knees go past the toes it
increases the stress placed on the knees and decreases the
effectiveness of the exercise.
angle at the knee should form a 90 degree angle . Lower than that adds
stress to the knee. If you can't get down to a 90 degree angle don't
worry about it, you'll get there. If you have knee problems, you may
never want to get there.
your chest up. Yes, you will have to stick that bootie out! It's a
squat, not a ballet plier. Do try and keep your spine straight as you
your belly button in toward your spine (contract your abs) and squeeze
your pelvic floor muscles. When you contract your pelvic floor muscles
the sensation is the same as when you stop urinating mid flow (LOL).
Keep your feet parallel and hip distance apart. You may step out a bit to decrease difficulty.
The action of the squat is much like sitting down. If you're having problems getting it right you can practice by sitting.
Try and use something that brings your knees to a 90 degree angle when you sit. If you don't have anything that high your couch will do.
If you're having trouble keeping your balance, try bringing both arms out in front of you as you squat.
Be aware of your body as you sit. Notice how your butt moves out behind you, the position of your feet and knees and keep that chest high!
Alright, now that you know the how and whys; get out there and squat!
American Council on Exercise. ACE Personal Trainer Manual: The Ultimate Resource for Fitness Professional. San Diego: American Council on Exercise, 2003.YMCA. YMCA's Fitness Leader's Basic Theory Manual. Toronto: YMCA Canada, 1999