If you want to get sculpted legs and create a toned butt, then squats are one of the best exercises that you can do. They’ll help you build more strength in your lower body which makes them valuable as part of almost any training programme for sports. When you do them well, you’ll be working one of the largest muscle groups in your body, so they’re also a great exercise for burning calories during your work out. There are a lot of components that contribute to how to do the perfect squat, despite being a fairly straightforward exercise, but if you want to really benefit from them, its a good idea to master the various parts.
Weighted vs Bodyweight Squats
It you want to build strength, then you’ll definitely want to be including some kind of weight as part of your squat regime, and over time you’ll almost certainly start using weights – it’s important to build increasing difficulty into a workout – however, there are plenty of toning benefits that you’ll get from squats even if you’re only using the weight of your own body.
Why Are Squats good exercise?
When you start on any fitness programme it’s important to have a set of improvements as a goal. Typically these might be any of the following:
- Improve strength
- Improve flexibility
- Improve endurance
- Lose weight
- Improve appearance
Squats will help you with all of these goals. Loading muscles with weight during the exercise will help to build more mass and strength; this applies to both the muscles you’re exercising directly in your legs and butt, and also yoiur overall core strength. The range of movement that you include in a squat will help to improve flexibility through your knees and hips. The number of reps and long load time in a routine will help improve muscular endurance in your legs (great for runners and cyclists). As mentioned above, the large muscles that you exercise will help calorie burn and aid in weight loss, while the toning benefits of exercise will really help you get a toned and more perky bum!
Focus on Form
The key to getting the best possible results from any type of exercise is to maintain great form. Form is hugely important with any exercise, but more so with squats. Whenever you’re doing an exercise that involves sensitive joints or puts load on your back you need to be super careful. When you’re thinking about how to do the perfect squats, its worth using a mirror to practise form so that you don’t extend the movement too far or lose shape during your exercise.
That helps you keep the effort in the right areas to focus the intensity in your muscles wihtout risking injury. As with any exercise with weights, if you struggle with a weight to the point where you can’t move in a steady and controlled way, it’s essential to work with a lower weight. I’d always recommend that people work on their form and develop the ranged of movements for the squat with no weight before moving onto any load phase. Weight free (or low weight) squats to warm up before loading are useful in getting the joints and muscles ready for higher levels of effort.
Muscles Exercised by Squats
Of you do them correctly, squats will exercise almost all the muscles in your lower body. The main groups worked though are your thighs, hamstrings, quadriceps, and buttocks.
How to do squats
There are four stages in a squat:
- Standing start
- Controlled descent
- Squat position
- Controlled upward thrust
The key throughout the movement parts of the exercise are control. This is what helps to build strength. You’ll feel the tension in both stages because your muscles will be exerted in holding the weight up and pushing the weight up. The upward movement does not need to be explosive in nature, especially if you’re working on toning rather than building ultimate strength, but it is the power phase of the exercise.
You’ll want to keep your back straight throughout the range of movement.
Knee movement during squats.
When you’re doing squats, the knee is the joint that has the most strain and has a large range of movement. You shouldn’t bend it so far that your thighs are more than horizontal, and you shouldn’t lock out your knees when your legs are straight. Going too far can strain the tendons in your knee, while locking the joint at the top of the movement will also put your joints under too much strain.
How to do Squats Properly
Whether you’re using weights or not the process is the same.
Start the exercise standing up straight with your stomach held in, your back straight, your feet about shoulder width apart and your toes pointing forward. Look straight forward to avoid bending your neck as this will help keep your back straight.
Keeping your hips in line with your shoulders dip downwards bending your knees and keeping them pointing forwards. Avoid splaying your legs apart and keep the movement steady and controlled. Breathe in as you descend.
When your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor come to a stop, and hold for a second or two to avoid using momentum and focus on working against the weight. You should feel a tension across the top of your thighs.
Push straight up using the muscles in your legs. Breathe out as you push. Keep your back straight and come back to the starting position with your knees minimally bent. You should feel the effort in your buttocks and thighs.
If you’re working on building strength aim for either 3 sets of 10 reps with an weight that’s tests you, or a pyramid set with increasing resistance. For toning or to build endurance do a smaller weight and more repetitions.