The squat is often called the king of all exercises. When performed correctly, it’s one of the best all-around movements for total body strength and conditioning. When using resistance as described below, the squat uses muscles of the legs, hips, core, back, shoulders, and arms.
We’ll use bodyweight and a barbell to perform this exercise, but you can also use dumbbells, kettlebells, or even a rubber band for resistance.
To Perform: Begin with your feet between hip and shoulder width apart while holding your arms straight out in front of you. Slowly squat down as you inhale, ensuring that your heels stay heavy, while pushing your hips back and maintaining the natural curve in your low back. Drop down to a depth where you still feel stable in your stance. Exhale as you stand back to the top, but don’t lock your knees all the way out. Repeat for 10-15 controlled repetitions. Squatting with just your bodyweight is a great way to become comfortable with the actual squat mechanics. It’s also an effective warm-up exercise to prepare you for your workout.
Try to Avoid: If you have limited flexibility or stability, it’s very easy to lose your form as you squat down. Ensure that your heels stay planted on the floor and don’t push your knees forward past your toes or allow the knees to cave inward. Also be aware of your overall posture – at no time should your back become rounded. It’s important to keep adequate tension built in your abdominal wall to protect your spine. Always hold your chin at a fairly neutral position – not too high or too low. Also avoid bouncing back up from the bottom position.
How to Progress: A simple way to progress the squat is by adding resistance. Step under a racked barbell and place it on your upper back (not so high that it rests against your neck). Perform the squat as described above, but keep the barbell held firmly in place throughout the exercise. Choose a weight that allows you to perform between 7 and 15 reps and repeat for at least 3 sets. With added weight on your back, it’s crucial to keep your body in good form.
So get back to the basics and take advantage of the squat and all it has to offer. Add this variation to your workouts 1-2 times per week for an effective strength and conditioning tool.