The most effective strength training exercise you can do for your lower half is the squat! Squats work all the largest muscles of the legs and butt, including those ‘hard to reach’ areas such as quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.
A squat is what we call a ‘complex movement’ because of the high amount of muscle activation from hips to knees, all the way down to your feet.
You could even say that the squat is a foundational exercise as it assists many other movements you do in your daily life. Squats prepare your body for sitting, and the many other exercises that you do throughout your day that engage your lower half like walking and climbing stairs.
The Squat Technique
Always keep it simple and focus on achieving the best squat technique first. Begin your squat with a setup; standing fully upright with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Next, when performing a full squat movement, go through the checklist below:
- Put your weight on your heels.
- Maintain a gentle curve in the lower back.
- Keep your chest up and open as your butt travels back and down.
- Bottom of squat is when your hip is below or parallel to your kneecaps.
- Knees stay parallel to feet.
- Return to an upright standing position to complete the move.
- Remember to keep your head in a neutral position during the entire movement.
Pro Tip: Keeping your knees in line with your toes will keep the weight on your quads and glutes – minimising stress on the knee joints.
Get better results with more variety
Variations are essential to creating a great training routine. Variations give you the opportunity to make your workout regimen fun and help you enhance your fitness level by including more challenging exercises and movements that work new muscles.
Important: Remember that if you have injuries or any health concerns, you should always consult your doctor before engaging in any new or vigorous exercise.
A good place to start
For beginners, we recommend starting with regular squats and master the movement first. Or, if you have an injury or need to start slow, then a Chair Squat is a good variation that won’t put too much strain on the legs and joints while simultaneously allowing you to work on your technique.
Try something new
There are many variations of squats that will help you target different muscle groups. To target the outer part of the legs try Narrow Squats. On the other hand, to concentrate on the front part of the legs and hips, you can do Kneeling Squats.
While the squats above require dynamic movement from start to finish, there are some squats that don’t require much movement at all! When there is no movement but the muscle fibres are still activated, this is called ‘Isometric training’ which can be perfectly demonstrated by a standard wall sit.
Increase the challenge of your squats by including aerobic movements that will increase your heart rate or put more stress on the ligaments. Frog jumps and 180- or 360 degrees Jump Squats are a great start!
Overall, for the best results you should continuously vary your exercises. Variations will also make sure your body is ready for sitting down at the office to jumping out of your seat and running to catch the bus at the end of the day! To make sure your muscles have balance and to help prevent injuries, be sure to vary your squat movement.
Find all squat suggestions and demonstrations in Seven!