What’s one move you’ll find in every gym across the world?
And for one reason: they work. That is, they work as long as you’re doing them right. Think you can't do squats? Then this is the article for you.
While squats are primarily a lower body exercise, they work almost all of the major muscle groups:
Squats are such a fundamental part of working out that even babies have a natural ability to squat with perfect form. They’re essential to staying fit and limber as you get older - everyone wants to be able to get out of a chair by themselves when they’re 90, after all.
What are the benefits of squatting?
Number one on the list of reasons to squat is helping you to build stronger glute muscles. This isn’t only so you look good in leggings (although let’s be honest, it doesn’t hurt), but also helps to protect your lower back, which overcompensates when your glutes are weak and can often lead to pain and tightness. In addition, having strong glutes will make you a faster runner, as increasing the strength and capacity of these muscles will enable you to pound the pavements more effectively.
Squats are also a core workout. As you bring your body closer to the ground, your core activates to keep you stable and balanced, so every rep works out your entire midsection as well as your glutes.
Having a strong core is essential not only for having abs that could grate cheese, but maintaining good posture and keeping us upright and steady on our feet.
Last but by no means least, squats are a simple way to turbo-charge your metabolism. As they build up one of the largest muscles in your body, they’re an effective way to increase your lean muscle mass. Having a high percentage of lean muscle mass means your overall metabolic rate is faster even at rest, so you’ll burn more calories without even trying, helping you to lose body fat and be more toned overall.
If you want to have the energy and capacity to squat for as many reps as you want without tiring, The Fit Protein is designed to help you push yourself farther and faster than you even have before. For an extra boost, The Energy Booster is formulated to raise energy, improve stamina and to help push yourself further.
Combined with your squatting regime, you’ll be an unstoppable force.
Am I squatting wrong?
Squatting in a way which doesn’t engage the right muscles or uses the wrong technique not only means that you miss out on the many benefits this move provides, it could mean you sustain an injury while doing so.
The first mistake many people make while squatting is not dropping low enough to the ground.
You shouldn’t be stopping when your thighs are parallel to the floor, but should instead continue dropping it like it’s hot, as low as you can go, as long as you’re pressing your knees outward and keeping your feet flat on the floor.
If you’re lowering your body only halfway towards the floor, the reduced range of motion from this lessens the muscle-strengthening benefits of squats.
If your hips are tight and you struggle to loosen your lower body enough to achieve this, try stretching and foam rolling until you can.
Next up: are you bouncing out of your squat or are you rising from it in a smooth, controlled manner? If it’s the former, that’s a mistake which could cost you. Using the momentum of your body to return to standing means you’re at greater risk of losing control of your movements, which greatly increases your risk of injury.
It’s worth paying attention to how you’re positioning your knees while squatting. If your knees tend to lean inwards, this could mean that your glutes aren’t firing properly and thus aren’t supporting your body as they should.
To combat this (and to strengthen your glutes generally), try incorporating some glute bridges into your workout regime before you start squatting to keep your glutes alert and firing on all cylinders.
The final most common mistake made while squatting is dropping your chest forwards, which often occurs when you attempt to squat lower than your mobility allows. Resist the temptation to allow your chest to sink forward when you drop your body downwards, as when this happens it can put strain on your lower back, which can lead to problems long-term.
How to squat right
So now we've covered all the ways you can't squat properly, let's give you a run down on the correct form.
1. Start in a standing position, with your feet shoulder width apart and your toes facing forward.
2. Inhale, engage your core and push your hips back as though you’re lowering yourself into a chair, while at the same time reaching your arms forwards until your hands are clasped together at chest height.
3. Keeping your torso facing upright and your spine straight, concentrate on pressing your knees outwards and distributing your weight evenly on both feet.
4. Lower yourself until your thighs are at least parallel with the floor, or as deep as you can go.
5. Then breathe out, press upwards through your heels and reverse the movement, returning to an upright standing position.
When it comes to squatting sets, this entirely depends on how experienced you are, how much weight you are using (or whether it's a bodyweight squat), and what other exercises you're planning to engage in during your workout.
So, we've learned a couple of things here. Form is everything.
Make sure you follow the steps above to get it right, and not only will you avoid injury, but nail your squats and improve your glutes. It's a win-win.