Are you an exercise junkie? Or trying to lose weight? Are you strength training or working on building your stamina? Or are you just about to start your fitness journey and are looking for the perfect workout plan? Look no further because the answer to all your fitness questions is drum roll…Squats.
Yes, the all-encompassing squat is a full body exercise that can help you work your thighs, hips, and buttocks (glutes) muscles. Not only this, you can actually strengthen your core, hamstrings (upper back thighs), bones, ligaments, and even tendons all over your body with this single exercise.
Do not take our word for it. Danielle De Wildt, celebrity trainer at Champneys who also works with Lily Cole said while talking to Marie Claire, “Squatting is one exercise that should be part of virtually everyone’s routine, as it’s relatively simple to perform and can be done just about anywhere”.
She explains that squats can actually help you lose weight by burning calories when you are not even exercising. How great is that?
If you believe in the science of it; all squats can help you prevent knee injury, become a better runner due to increased lower body strength, and increase bone mass, in women, which helps prevent osteoporosis as the bones age.
So, to answer how to do this exercise. Remember! There are two ways you can do squats; using your own weight and using regular exercise weights you see at the gym.
To start; let’s go with the strength training squat you can do at any time without needing any equipment, in the ease of your own home. Here are some fun squats you can try using with your own weight.
The Basic Squat
The basic bodyweight squat is where you use your own (you guessed right) body’s weight. To do this squat
- Stand in a straight line with your feet a little apart (Position A)
- Extend your arms straight and parallel to the ground with palms down
- Take a deep breath
- Push your hips back slightly and bend your knees near 90 degrees (Position B)
- Remember to keep your shoulders upright and back straight.
Tip: Deepest squats are best. So try and go as far down as you can. To practice deep squats place a ball underneath. A slight tap on the butt will help you remember how low you should go in the future.
- Now push through the heels and come back to the start position A.
- Repeat 15-20 times, in 2-3 sets, for 2-3 times per week, says Danielle De Wildt.
This is the most important thing you will ever learn. All other kinds of squats build up on this basic version and once you get this routine down you are all set to go discover the world of “King of exercises” that are squats.
Doing basic squats can burn up to 0.096 calories per pound a minute. If you weigh 130 pounds and do these squats for half an hour, you can burn up to 350 calories in a single session.
If you weigh 154 pounds you can burn 444 calories in the same time.
Now for the people who enjoy a little twist in their workout, get bored easily, and like to experiment with movement, fret not my friend. You can do any of the following squat variations to get your kick on.
You can start with the squat you just learned here. Just stay in position B from the basic squat. In that knee bending position when your thighs are parallel to the ground, move up and down. Keep the movement small but fast and feel that burn in your legs, my friend.
Single Leg Squat
Do you have muscular imbalance? Meaning you prefer one leg over the other when you stand, move or exercise. No worries. Just do single leg squats to even out that imbalance. Stand in the Position A from the basic squat. Lift your right leg up by slightly bending the knee.
Now lower yourself towards the ground like you did in the basic squat. Hold the position for a few seconds. Return to the previous position. Now switch the legs. Do not worry, it’s not that hard and you can always use a wall as support.
Ok this one is where you can challenge yourself a little. This squat is exquisite but hard, though the results are beautiful. Once you have practiced some of the easier squats you can do this one.
Start at the beginning position of the basic squat. Stand straight and extend your arms with palms down.
Now extend one of your legs straight in front of you. Let’s say the right one. Remember! Your leg should be parallel to the ground. Now lower yourself by bending your other knee and pushing out your butt.
Hold position and return upright. For standing back up you can always use your extended leg, if you are new to this. Switch legs and repeat.
The Grand Pile
Who does not like Ballet? We certainly love it and all of those crazed Ballet fans would love to do this one. Start with standing straight with your feet (heels) together but your toes pointing outwards.
We can already feel you getting excited, we are too. Now bend your knees and lower yourself towards ground. Now hold your position and slightly lift your heels. Return upright.
Remember not to stick your butt out. Why? Well think poised thoughts and live out those childhood Ballerina fantasies. (Extending your arms out and pretending to perform is strictly optional)
Love the Victorian England. Let’s do the curtsy squat. Stand with your hands on your hips and legs slightly apart. Move one of your feet behind the other one.
For example, take your left foot and move it as far back behind the right one as you can. Using a curtsy motion, bend your knees like in a regular squat. Return upright after a few seconds.
Remember to put your weight on the front leg when you squat. Switch and repeat.
Cross Leg Squat
Stand like you did at the start of the curtsy squat with your feet slightly apart. Squat down. When you are returning back up, lift one leg up still bent at the knee.
Crunch forward and touch your lifted knee (let’s say left knee) with the opposite side’s elbow (right arm). This one takes stamina, so prepare yourself and keep a sturdy support nearby when you first try it.
Now for the people who are short in time, a bit of regular exercisers and want to pack the cardio and strength training all into one. You guys can try plyometric squats where you jump while doing squats.
Exciting, isn’t it? So, let’s get on with it…
Basic Squat Jump
In this exercise, you can just start with a basic squat. Stand straight.
Extend your arms with your palms down and squat. Just remember to squat halfway, jump upwards with both your feet and land on the ground with you standing straight. Congratulations you nailed it.
Squat Box Jump
Now this one is total fun but a total pain in your whole body. To do this squat you need a sturdy box or a wood panel, anything that can hold your weight.
Start with a basic squat but when you are getting back up, jump on to the box. Just when you land, be in a squat position. Start with a box not higher than a foot and work your way up. Start at a low pace and try to land firmly on the box each time.
Now this one is really interesting. Start with your hands clasping each other in front of your chest, with being bent at the elbow. Squat and hold your position.
Now staying in that posture jump your legs out like you would while doing a jumping jack. Now jump them back in, together! Stay in the squat position till you finish all the reps.
Ninja Tuck Jumps
Channel your inner ninja because this one is hard but nothing is too hard if you have the will to do it. Pace yourself and think happy thoughts while you do this one.
Relax and let the tension leave your body. Kneel with your feet flat behind you. Now concentrate on your lower body and thrust your body upwards.
Land in a firm squat position and fling your arms in front of you as you jump to maintain balance. Do not worry if you land on your ass.
Squats make you humble; wink! Try again my friend. Who said being a ninja is easy.
Squat Tuck Jumps
Well, we saved the fun one for last. This one is a personal favorite and will help you engage your inner child.
So, to start stand in a low squat position with your feet a little apart, hands extended parallel to ground and jump.
As you jump bring your bended knees towards your chest as far as you can.
Land back firmly in a squat position. Repeat and reminisce about your childhood days. Now isn’t this fun?
Issues That Can Arise During A Squat-Be Careful
Now for troubleshooting the mistakes people make while doing squats (do not worry, we are all human here) you can do the following.
Issue: You Are Getting Injured
Try and wear protective gear and work with some professional. However, if you are doing it alone in the comfort of your own home, remember not to descend too quickly into a squat position.
It is fine if you move quickly stand back up but always descend slowly into the squat. This helps prevent injuries or any muscle pulling, that can cause you pain.
Issue: Still Getting Injured
Did you warm up? Always remember to warm up before any kind of exercise. This helps your body to prepare for the physical assault you are about to unleash on to it, resulting in lesser soreness and injuries.
Issue: You Are Wobbly
Take a wide stance and firmly plant your feet in the ground. This allows you to be sturdier while you squat and you can perform deeper squats and engage more muscles.
Issue: Your Knees Fall In
Exercise physiologist Marta Montenegro CSCS, explains that when your knees fall in during the squat it can put pressure on your knees which can often result into injuries.
This is more pronounced in women mainly due to the reason that they have weak inner and outer thighs along with wider hips.
The only way to correct is to strengthen those thighs and lateral band walks can help with that.
Issue: You Are Not Working All Your Muscles
Different variation of the squats target different muscle groups says Montenegro.
Just switching the distance between your too feet can target different portions of the body.
If you stand with more distance between your feet than shoulder width, you will target your inner thighs.
With lesser distance, you will feel the burn in your glutes.
And now squat, squat away!!