Squats have become a very popular exercise for anyone looking to lose weight and/or build muscle because they are extremely effective. Squats work out both your upper and lower body, especially when you do squats with weights. This means it can get you to your exercise goals faster since you are getting double the benefits from just one exercise.
The squat is a multi-joint body weight exercise that works out many different muscles. Squats primarily work out your lower body muscles.
The gluteus maximus is one of the main lower body muscles that gets worked from squats. Your glutes aid in controlling your speed as you go down and extending your thighs as you stand back up.
The three muscles that make up the hamstrings also get a great workout. They aid in a similar manner as the gluteus maximus.
The quadriceps are another muscle group that gets worked out from doing squats. They are largely responsible for the bending and flexing your your knees.
When it comes to upper body muscles, squats indirectly help to work those out. By adding weights to your squats (for example using a barbell across your shoulders), you make squats a full-body exercise.
You'll work out your back muscles, rhomboids, and even muscles in your hands. As long as you use proper form and do squats correctly, you'll gain a lot of benefit from performing the exercise. The next section will tell you how to do squats correctly.
Even though squats do work out your upper body, it's almost like a catch-22 because you will need some upper body strength to do the squat with the correct form. Having the correct form is crucial in order to prevent injury.
First, keep in mind that there are different types of barbell squats, with the difference being where you position the barbell. However, all of them use the same basic form. There are some home gyms which will let you do squats, but we're going to mainly focus on how to do squats using a barbell.
As you prepare to do a barbell squat, the placement of the barbell and your hands is important. The barbell should be at a height that is around your collarbone. Make sure it isn't higher than that. Step under the bar with a split stance and grip it without wrapping your thumb. This keeps your wrists aligned. It should rest comfortably on the top of your shoulder blades.
Jeff Cavaliere from Athlean-X has some great tips for setting up for squats in this video here:
Your hands should have a narrow width, but this will depend on your flexibility. Try to make the width as narrow as you comfortably can. Make sure you have the proper stance before lifting so you can avoid injury and get the maximum benefit of the exercise. Once you have your grip right and you're ready to unrack the barbell, stand up and step back. Make sure you tighten your core.
Start the squat with the proper stance. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Your toes should be pointed outward by a few degrees. Be sure to keep your head up. You can do this by looking at a spot in front of you and focusing on this spot the whole time you are performing the exercise.
As you are going down, keep your weight on your heels, not the ball of your feet. Push your hips back as you are going down as if you are going to sit in an imaginary chair. Your back will tilt forward a little, but be sure not to curve it. Make sure you control the movement and go down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, which means that your hips will be slightly lower than your knees.
The guys from Buff Dudes have some awesome tips for doing this part of the exercise. Check out there video here:
As you are going back up, push yourself up through your heels. The movement should be controlled. Make sure you keep your head straight as you return to the starting position. Congratulations! You've just performed a squat.
Once you have done your desired number of reps, it is time to rack the barbell. Step forward, again in a split stance. Make sure your barbell is on the rack. Step back from under it.
Remember that squats are a very beneficial workout. When you're learning how to do squats, remember that if you use the right form and keep your core tight, you will reap the full benefits of this exercise. Good luck with your squats!
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