Whether you’re looking to build muscle, lean up, improve mobility or simply increase your general level of fitness, there’s one exercise that covers it all: Squats.
Squat is an awkward sounding word for an exercise, but results can be amazing.
Squats focus primarily on your thighs, your body’s largest and strongest muscles, but they don’t stop there. The quads, hamstrings and glutes may be the prime muscles utilized, but you’re also doing a phenomenal core exercise that requires tremendous stabilization from your torso, lower back, abdominals and just about everything else you want to look good when you’re naked.
There’s an old saying in the gym: if you want bigger arms, don’t forget to do your squats. But… you don’t use your arms to squat, right?
Well, here’s the thing – when you do an exercise like a squat, your entire body becomes a muscle building machine. You may be pushing with your quads, but your entire body is utilized and turns into a factory of ass-kicking hard-bodied optimal muscle production. Squats work your body as a whole unit so EVERYTHING grows when you squat – and more muscle equals a faster resting metabolism, which equals a leaner you. Bigger AND stronger AND leaner. Not bad!
So.. what IS a squat, and how do you do it?
In its most common form, a squat is placing a weighted barbell over your shoulders and using your legs to lower and raise your body, in a motion that greatly resembles sitting in and standing from a chair. Squats can also be done with dumbbells, exercise bands, or even no weights at all.
Possibly more than any exercise, using good form when squatting is extremely important to prevent injury and promote effective muscle growth.
Here’s how to perform a weighted dumbbell squat correctly:
- Always keep your head upright, gazing just slightly upward and facing forward.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes angled out just slightly. Make sure the position is comfortable for YOU, and adjust a little wider if needed.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing towards you, with the dumbbells against your legs when standing.
- Keep your chest and torso upright, push your hips back and bend at the knees. Do NOT lean forward – doing so places strain on the lower back. Instead, focus on moving your hips back, or ‘sticking your butt out.’
- When doing a squat, always keep your weight on your heels – lift your toes up just slightly to double check this, every few squats.
- Lower your body until your knees make a 90 degree angle, with your knees remaining behind your toes. Allow the dumbbells to hang straight down in line with your knees.
- Pushing from your heels (remember, raise your toes just slightly if you need to check) drive upwards to the starting position – but stop just short of locking your knees, both to prevent injury and to keep stress on the desired muscles.
Eight to twelve repetitions of this exercise is ideal, so find a dumbbell weight that results in significant muscle fatigue or near muscle failure, but ensure to maintain perfect form.
If you find yourself doing twelve reps easily, it’s time to up the weight.
After each set, rest one to two minutes and stay loose. If desired, increase the weight of the dumbbells slightly after each set, and reduce the reps accordingly.
Doing squats as a regular part of your workout can pay dividends far beyond simply making your legs look good in a pair of shorts. Many athletes and fitness experts site squats as the number one muscle building exercise, hands down. Squats work the body as a whole unit, and strengthen the lower back and support muscles tremendously as well as hitting the big muscles.
So don’t leave them out of YOUR workout.
After all, you don’t know much if you don’t know Squat.