Adding Squats to Your Workout Routine
What is a Squat?
Briefly, before we begin learning what a squat is, I want to compel you to read through the whole article and if you can't, read the last section, "Why Should I Add Squats to My Workout?" There are great reasons to add this exercise to your training regime from the strengthening aspect to the simple everyday practical reasons that you should not pass up on. Check it out, thank you, and please enjoy!
So What is a Squat?
Simply put, a squat is exactly what comes to mind, squatting. Concerning the exercise, a squat can be accompanied with a weight either held chest high, such as with a dumbbell or kettle bell, or with a weight upon the shoulders, such as a barbell. (Honestly, just the squatting motion with no weight at all can be a suitable exercise!)
While everyone knows how to squat, when exercising with the squat, there is a proper form to protect your body from injury. Proper form will also guarantee you get the most benefit from this full body workout that not only strengthens your legs, but also strengthens your core, back and shoulders. This is great for everyday activities like picking up your kids or even putting the dishes away.
For another good explanation of what a squat is see the article: Adding Dead Lifts to Your Workout Routine
So do you have the general idea in mind? Let's move forward.
How to Squat
To get ourselves ready for the weight room, lets use imagery to visualize good form then apply it to our exercises. Much like the Deadlift article, we should imagine ourselves standing before a milk crate full of bricks. To lift this crate we are not going to bend over, but we are going to lower our buttocks to the space behind our heels*. Keep your back as straight as possible and what helps with that is sticking your chest out and sticking your butt out.
*The goal here is to keep your knees from reaching over your toes. If you haven't been aware of this before, it isn't a great error, but something to be mindful of. If you are having trouble seeing the meaning, take a moment to stand up and then squat down, most likely your knees are farther forward than your toes. You can also correct this by trying to keep your shins perpendicular to the ground (or always straight up and down).
Once you have lowered yourself, grasp the crate and push your yourself up with your legs. Keep your chest out and your bottom out to make sure your back stays straight, and you just learned how to properly lift an object off the ground! Along with proper squat form....
In the example above we lifted a crate of bricks, but now let's place ourselves in the gym standing before a squat rack.
You might have seen this rack before and seen men or women doing their squat workouts here. While it might seem intimidating, these people who squat regularly had to start somewhere too. There should be a barbell on this rack and it might not be at the right height for you. Feel free to adjust the height for your use, preferably chest high.
Begin without adding weight plates to the barbell so you can get familiar with the feel and form. This next part is crucial and you will probably decide you do not like squats if you get it wrong. We are going to position ourselves under the barbell, resting it on our upper backs. You want to squeeze your shoulder blades together to create a 'muscle cushion' on which to place the barbell. Warning: If you place the bar too high, you can hurt your neck and if you place it too low, you are at risk of dropping the barbell behind you.
- Make sure the barbell is centered and balanced.
- While you have the barbell positioned on your back, grip and hold in place on each side a comfortable distance from your shoulders.
- Now be sure you back is straight (chest out - butt out) and push up with your legs
Now that you have the bar on your shoulders, centered and grasped, under your control, take a step backwards and position yourself in the squat rack so you are centered (to keep from hitting the sides when squatting).
Now lower your buttocks with your chest out and back straight. For this first time, just get comfortable and keep yourself balanced. Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground then push yourself back up. That is your first rep! I would suggest doing three super sets of 12 repetitions. When you feel comfortable with the technique, add more weight.
If you go too hard at first, you are guaranteed to be sore afterwards. Feel free to take it at an easy pace, gradually increasing weight and intensity.
There are thousands of variations on the squat, here are some resources:
Why Should I Add Squats to My Workout?
The barbell squat demonstrated above along with other variations are great ways to work out fast. Are you looking for economy in your gym time? Squats will work several muscle groups at a time, eliminating the need for so many isolation workouts.
Once you get the hang of barbell squats, the variations are endless and each one just as valuable as the next. If you want a cardio workout, lower the weight and raise the repetitions for an exhausting good time. If you are looking for muscle growth and strength gain, raise the weight and watch your body transform into one solid machine.
The most important benefits might simply be the balance improvement you will have in day to day life and the injury prevention that will occur from not only your muscles growing stronger, but your ligaments and bones also. As your muscles grow, you will begin to lose excess fat. Ultimately, with a proper workout regime you can quickly reach a place you have always wanted with the squatting workouts.
Please feel free to ask questions and seek assistance from others. Sometimes the best resources will be the guys in the gym who have done it before.