The squat is regarded as the “king of exercises”. The principle reason for this is the manner in which it works the whole body. From the feet to the shoulders the body is working to stay strong and stable. This is also good for the brain and nervous system. Those with long legs will find the squat harder than those with shorter legs, however it remains as a great exercise that will build strong legs and hips, stabilise the knee joints and improve balance.
The How To: Looking at the pictures above, stand tall with feet comfortably about shoulder width, or a little wider. Feel your weight through your whole foot, and try to gently spread the floor under your feet – this switches on the leg muscles. Maintain this feeling as you drop your hips as if sitting in a chair, and control the movement on the way down with muscle tension in the legs. Keep your shoulders back and chest up. It is good to find a point on the wall just above your head height and keep looking at that as you go down. This helps you to not fold forward from the waist, especially when coming back up! Going down to the lowest point possible is best for creating strong supple legs and back. A goal would be to be comfortable at the bottom of the squat and be able to hold that position for 10 seconds.
The push out of the bottom of the squat is very important. Visualise pushing the floor away from you, this will keep the focus on the legs, rather than letting the hips do the work of getting you back up again. Aim to not lock the knees straight at the top of the rep, but start the next squat rep with a controlled “sitting” movement again.
How Many: If you are just starting or returning after months or years, start with 10 quality slow reps with body weight only and do 2 to 4 sets. The legs muscles have the capacity to become strong, so we can move the repetitions up to 20 and aim for sets of 50 reps!
Body weight or Weighted: A body weight squat done well is a good work load. For strength and power adding weight will have a dramatic effect. Squatting with 1.5 x your body weight is regarded as a good goal to aim for. Good form and working the muscles properly is much more important than lifting a big weight. Clearly using a big weight with perfect form for sets of 20 reps will see you at the tailor ordering new trousers!
There are a great many resources that can be helpful for those wanting to delve deeper into this area. A good coach or trainer will also be invaluable in instructing good form and setting goals.
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