Squats are one of the most popular exercises out there, and rightly so! A squat is a functional movement that helps you build muscle, gain strength and burn fat all at once. What more could you ask for?
To perform a squat, your body recruits several major muscle groups. The regular variation of the squat targets your quadriceps, hips, glutes, hamstrings and core muscles. Each of these muscle groups are essential in aiding functional movement.
What is functional movement?
You might hear fitness professionals talk about “functional movement,” but what does it actually mean? Functional movement is the ability to move your body and carry out daily tasks in a way that is effortless and pain free for your joints and muscles. Squats resemble movements that we do daily: Sitting down, getting up and picking up heavy objects.
How to perform a perfect squat
Every year after 30, we will lose between 3-5 percent of precious muscle per decade. Unfortunately, inactive and sedentary lifestyles weaken our muscles (and bones) even more and cause a whole host of problems. Our bodies ache, our joints crack and we increase our risk for conditions like osteoporosis, arthritis and heart disease.
The good news is that the more active we are and the more exercise we do to stimulate our muscles (like the squat), the more likely we are to decrease the aging process and keep our bodies healthy and strong.
To perform the perfect squat:
Stand with your feet hips width apart (or slightly wider). Angle your toes so that they point forward (or slightly outwards). Note: There are a few things that contribute to your squat stance. If you have tight glutes, toes pointed slightly outwards might be more comfortable. This stance also allows you to take on more weight (i.e. weight lifting).
Engage the muscles in your core, legs and glutes as you lower your butt down and back (like you are sitting in a chair). Keep your weight in your heels and ensure your knees don’t track ahead of your toes.
Sit to your lowest point, without letting your pelvis round (what I like to call a “butt wink”). Maintain a straight spine and lifted chest. Note: Hip and ankle mobility might impact how low you can go.
Return to standing by driving down through your heels and squeezing your glutes as you come up.
Remember, everybody’s anatomy is different. Your squat depth or stance might be different than the next person’s. Do your best to follow these tips to prevent injuries and gain all the benefits of performing squats.