The squat exercise is undoubtedly one of the best weightlifting exercises for enhancing the power and strength of the legs and lower body. It takes some coaching and practice to master safely because this is a complex exercise that involves several muscles and joints at once.
The squat also strengthens the muscles required for a strong, powerful stride, such as the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core. Thus, it makes sense to include this exercise in your workout plan to help you balance your training. Learning how to perform squats correctly is the most crucial thing, though.
What Muscles Does Squat Exercise Work?
The squat is an exercise that can challenge almost every muscle in your body. The prominent muscles targeted are those in the lower body, but to complete this compound exercise effectively, you must also activate muscles above your waist.
A squat targets your lower body muscles, which include:
- gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius (buttocks)
- quadriceps (front of the thigh)
- hamstrings (back of the thigh)
- adductor (groin)
- hip flexors
The squat stimulates your core muscles in addition to your lower body. The rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae are some of these muscles.
Benefits of Squat Exercise:
Strengthens your core:
Having strong core muscles can help with daily activities such as turning, bending, and even standing. Also, having a strong core can help you balance better, lessen low back pain, and maintain good posture.
Back squats were reported to result in greater engagement of the muscles that support your back in studies that compared core muscle activation during a plank with back squats. (National Library of Medicine)
Based on these results, the researchers suggested using back squats to strengthen the core muscles to lower the risk of injury and improve athletic performance.
Aerobic exercises like cycling and running are frequently associated with calorie burning. High-intensity compound exercises, such as squats, can also burn many calories.
Strength Your Lower Body Muscles:
Some of your most vital and largest muscles are located in your lower body. Your glutes, quads, hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors, and calves are involved in practically every movement you make, from getting out of bed to sitting in a chair.
Squats and other strength training exercises can help tone and build the muscles in your lower body. When these muscles are in good shape, you could discover that anything from walking to bending to exercising is simpler to do and that you can move more easily and pain-free.
All of your body’s lower-body muscles are put to the test when you squat. because the hip, knee, and ankle joints are used to complete this exercise in a closed kinetic chain. it demands a strong level of hip and ankle mobility as well as stability of the lumbar spine.
Our tendons, muscles, and ligaments lose their elasticity as we get older. Squatting, however, is a good way to stretch your hamstrings, which can become tight from too much sitting. The result? improved flexibility in the lower body.
Reduces the risk of injury:
When you strengthen your lower body muscles, you are better equipped to execute full-body motions with proper form, balance, mobility, and posture.
In addition, including squats in your total workout routine helps strengthen your tendons, ligaments, and bones, which may minimize your chance of injury. (The American Council on Exercise)
Tips to Perform Squat Exercise Properly:
- The knees should remain parallel to the floor.
- Avoiding a forward tilt by maintaining weight on the balls of the feet
- Throughout the movement, maintaining the heels on the floor.
- During the squat, maintain a straight back and an upright posture.
Different Squat Exercise Variations:
- The glutes and hamstrings, as well as other muscles at the rear of the legs, are the focus of box squats. To do this squat variation, one needs a box or bench.
- Stand facing away from a box or bench.
- Sit on the box or bench by squatting down until the knees are 90 degrees apart.
- Keeping the heels on the ground, carefully push back up.
- Rack the barbell (or other weight) onto your traps and rear deltoids (backs of your shoulders.)
- Your toes should be directed forward or slightly outward at a 45-degree angle when you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- After taking a deep breath, keeping your body tight and your core engaged, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Make sure your chest stays up and that your weight is on your heels rather than your feet’s balls.
- Drive your heels through the ground to stand as you exhale.
Bulgarian Split Squat:
- Choose a firm surface, such as a box or bench that is knee-high, and extend one leg back behind you to rest on it. You can tuck or untuck your toes.
- Hold one weight in each hand by your sides if using weights.
- Maintain a high chest, a straight spine, and square hips as you bend your front leg and lower your back knee to the floor.
- Exhale by pushing through your front heel and squeezing your glutes. Switch sides.
- Lean slightly forward for better mobility. Make sure there is sufficient distance between you and the box or bench.
- Standing straight, space your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Throughout the exercise, keep the medicine ball or barbell raised above your head.
- From a standing position, squat as you normally would by bending your knees and pushing your hips back.
- Stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- In your squat stance, take a little pause.
- Return to the beginning posture by pushing through your heels and squeezing your glutes at the top.
- Hold a heavy dumbbell or a single kettlebell by the horns in front of your chest.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed out.
- Lower into a squat by sending your hips back and down and bending your knees.
- Keep your chest up. Step on the ground to get back on your feet. Repeat.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed slightly outward.
- Using both hands, place a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of you.
- Squat down by sending your hips back and down and bending your knees.
- Come up from the squat about halfway, then go all the way back down into that deep Squat.
- get back up to your standing position, that count as one full rep, and then you repeat.
Don’t let your knees stretch past your toes. Moreover, rather than being tilted to the side, the knees should be parallel to the toes.
Bar on Spine:
The bar should be placed on your shoulders, not your spine. That is too high if it touches your spine.
Heels or Ball of Foot Off Ground:
Your feet should stay firmly planted on the ground. Make sure the bar is placed so that you don’t have to stand on your toes to un-rack it.
Looking up or Down:
Maintain a straight-ahead posture. Looking up or down can put your neck in jeopardy.
To Sum Up:
The squat exercise is a wonderful exercise to strengthen the lower body. There are numerous variations for all types of constraints, progressions, and goals. This functional exercise, when done properly, increases your calorie burn, aids in injury prevention, strengthens your core and enhances your balance and posture.
Think about switching up the standard squat with new variations to stay motivated. This will not only keep your workouts interesting, but each new move will challenge you.
For other types of workouts check the links below: