If you had to choose 1 and only 1 exercise to do, which one would it be? The bench press, curls, shoulder presses? To get the most bang for your time, the one exercise that you can not ignore is the squat.
The squat is the one exercise that will work your entire body and by working your whole body at one time you can accomplish much more in a shorter time period. Also, the main muscles that the squats work, quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, are the largest in your body and release the most hormones that help you gain muscle in the other areas of your body.
The squat also helps you tone your body. One of the main benefits of the squat is that it is a compound full body movement which helps to engage just about every muscle group in your body. Squats help you to fully use the most muscles per exercise and is the # 1 exercise for toning and tightening your entire body.
Another benefit of the squat is that it aids in injury prevention. It strengthens the connective tissues, ligation, and the many stabilizing muscles.
When performing squats you have to know the proper technique. Using poor technique can be very dangerous because you are using such a heavy weight. Serious back and knee injuries can happen if you are using poor form.
The Squat Setup
• Approach the rack with the bar at approximately mid-chest height.
• Move under the bar and place it on your back. Hold the bar in place with your hands.
• Stand with and even stance. Your feet should be shoulder width apart with your feet facing out at a 30 degree angle.
• Lift the bar out of the rack and take ONLY one step back. Take a big breath. Tense your entire body. Squat.
• Start from the hips – Bend at your hips and sit back into the squat. Imagine you are sitting down on a seat. The hips joint should always bend before your knees.
• Check your knees – Keep your knees out. Your knee joints should be pointing in the same direction as your feet all the way down. If your knee buckle in it normally means that the weight is too heavy.
• Keep your weight back – Keep your weight distributed toward your heel.
• Go all the way down – You should always aim to squat to at least parallel. Meaning, your hip joint needs to be at least parallel with your hip joint. This is incredibly difficult to judge yourself, even with the aid of a mirror. Ask someone else to assess your depth either in the gym or by video taping.
• Think about squatting up – On the way down think about squatting up. This will help to prepare your brain and make the upward movement easier.
• Bounce off the bottom – At the bottom position of the squat your hip muscles should be tight – storing energy. Use this energy to help you bounce out of the bottom of the squat. Ensure that you are bouncing off the hips – not the knees.
• Focus on your glutes – When powering up out of the squat concentrate on squeezing your glutes together.
• Drive your hips up – Most of the power for the squat comes from the hips. Drive the hips in an upward motion.
Racking the bar
• Step forward. Ensure that your bar is over the pins before lowering the weight.