Get up and get moving! It isn’t always easy scheduling the time to get to the gym, or your favorite spinning class. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get up while you’re watching your favorite TV and move your body for 15-20 minutes. Squats are one of the most effective exercises that you can go at home that strengthen muscle throughout your entire body. By gaining more muscle you also burn more calories throughout the day. For better mobility and joint strengthening, squats are a good go-to. While you’re primarily targeting your butt and thighs, you’re working your core, lower back and hamstrings as well. If you’re an athlete, squats are your new best friend. Want to run faster? Do squats. Want to jump higher? Do some squats.
When we sit for 8-10 hours a day at our computers, in the car and so on we shorten our hamstrings and compress our lower spine. A squat is one of the best exercises to turn on your endocrine system and get proper hormone functioning moving throughout our body. Boosting the muscles surrounding your knees and hips is a quick method to reduce your chance of injury when doing almost any activity. In terms of what happens on the inside of your body, squats improve the pumping of body fluids and stimulate your digestive system aiding in removal of waste, thus delivering nutrition to all tissues, including the organs and glands. If you have issues with your digestion, get to squatting!
Bodyweight Squat Exercises
Working with your own bodyweight will help you have longer, leaner muscles and instantly get the heat turned up in your body and calories burning. Not to mention, no matter where you are in the world- with your own weight, you can work out! No more excuses.
The Basic Squat
You’ve likely done the basic squat in gym classes growing up, because it is in fact, basic. With no equipment and limited space, you can rock this out anywhere! For proper technique, so you don’t injure yourself look at the following:
- Hinge from your hips- your butt goes back and down, while your knees stack over your ankles. Avoid tracking knees over your toes, to maintain proper alignment and prevent injury.
- Keep your head and spine long and straight. Pick a spot on the wall to focus on, which will keep your form rounding in the spine and upper back.
- Relax your shoulders away from your ears and melt your shoulders down your back. This will give a natural lift in your chest.
- Maintain a natural C-curve in your spine. Hyperextending your lower back by arching too much, or rounding your back can put significant pressure on the intervertebral discs.
- Watch your breath. Exhale on the up, inhale on the down. Improper breathing can make you lightheaded and potentially make the posture much more difficult than it needs to be.
- Depth of the squat will depend on the flexibility in your hips. Try to shoot for your hamstrings about parallel with the floor, which will engage your thighs, hips, and glutes. If you can look at your profile in the mirror, this will help you keep proper alignment if you’re just beginning.
- Your arms can either come out to shoulder height in front of you, or you can bring them behind your head. To tone and strengthen your arms and for the extra challenge, engage all of your muscles and keep them stretched in front of you. Keep the muscle attached to the bone, nothing lose, nothing hanging!
- Always keep the same alignment as above when trying different variations to protect your spine.
- Stretch one leg out in front of you, arms straight at shoulder height.
- Squat as low as you can- without compromising alignment, while keeping your leg straight. Hold at the bottom for one full breath. Repeat.
- If you’re struggling to keep your back straight to start, try practicing squats on the wall.
- Sit low into an “invisible chair.”
- At chair height, maintain and steady your breath. Legs are parallel to the ground.
- Hold here for 30 seconds to five minutes. Activating your breath and channeling your inner strength and determination will help you get through isometric holds. Mind over matter!
- Refer back to the basic squat to start.
- From the low position, engage your thighs and press through the balls of your feet to jump up! Use energy and vigor to shoot high, either reaching up and out towards the sky, or holding your hands behind your head.
- Keep a tight core, navel to spine and repeat for a cardio burst up to one full minute. You’ll be huffing and puffing after, but you’ll feel great!
- The lateral squat is a side-to-side squat motion and is good for improving hip mobility and lateral movement strength.
- Step out 2-3 feet as if you’re moving into a lunge and squat down. This will tone your inner and outer thighs.
- Repeat ten times on each side.
- If you’ve ever taken a ballet class this one will be familiar to you! Toes out, heels in.
- You can either keep your feet at hip distance, or slightly widen your stance.
- Hold each squat for 5 to 10 seconds before standing back up. You can also add in tiny pulses at the bottom of your squat for more of a challenge.
Split Leg Squats or Bulgarian Squats
- Begin with one leg forward and one leg back.
- You can also use a prop, chair, park bench, etc. for an extra challenge.
- Try to shorten the range of motion in the front leg and use your back leg as the main bending leg. This will target your lower glutes and hamstrings.
- Frog squats can either be done as repetitions, or you can begin by holding your frog squat as a hip opener and stretch at the start of your exercise.
- Keep your spine long and straight, heart lifted.
- Lengthen through the crown of your head and use your elbows to press into the inside of your knees to open up your inner thighs and hips.
- Try to hold for 1-10 minutes.
Once you feel like you have the bodyweight squats down and have a consistent practice, you can start integrating weights for an extra push. Barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells are all useful tools for squats. Wherever you are in your exercise routine, consistency and repetition is the most important part of improving your overall physical health. Start small, start basic and try to integrate a few sets of squats in your current routine on a weekly, and eventually daily basis. You’ll not only notice a difference in your leg muscles, but your glutes will start looking firmer as well. Not a bad result to gain from sweating and hard work! Now, get to squatting.