Because I am so stoked that I squatted 100 lbs for the first time since college last night, here is a post about why squats are really rad.
Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. Squats are a staple of team lifting programs in just about every sport. Why? Because squats are the most efficient exercise you can do to work your legs. Much like PF Flyers, they’ll make you run faster and jump higher (unless you’re like me and have a mean case of white-girl hops). Not to mention that they WILL, in fact, give you a “butt that defies gravity,” as my female-fitness magazine so artfully put it.
Seriously though, think about it. When you do a squat, you engage your quads, hamstrings, and glutes (those are the muscles in your soon-to-be-gravity-defying butt). You’re also using your core to stabilize yourself and keep your back straight. That’s the entire middle section of your body. I know people are scared of having KILLER QUADS, but, honestly, you won’t get that unless that’s your actual goal and you go lift crazy amounts of weight… and take steroids. These days, I always want to get stronger, but I need the endurance as well–and, my super-soccer days behind me, I don’t really need those legs anymore (they served me well!). I’ve been doing 3 sets of 10 reps so I’m never purely in “strength” mode.
First, how to correctly do a squat:
1. Back straight
2. Weight on heels
3. Knees over (not in front of!) toes
4. Get your knees to or past a 90-degree angle
You can increase strength, endurance, or both, depending on what kind of squat you do. And there are plenty of variations. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Squat hold/wall sit. Exactly like it sounds: lower yourself into the squat position and hold it. Great for muscle endurance.
2. Squat jumps. Explosive exercises provide great strength benefits by requiring that your muscles push as hard as they can, even for a short time. You can also get that muscle endurance if you do a bunch in a row!
3. Good ol’ body weight squats. Like all other lifting exercises, more weight + less reps = endurance; less weight + more reps = strength.
4. Step-ups. I guess these technically aren’t squats, but they work the same way. Step up onto something. To make it harder, add weight and/or reps.
“But,” you say, “what about my arms? Squats won’t help me with my bingo wings.” And you’d be right. But another great thing about squats is that they’re easy to add to. Whether you have a med ball, a barbell, a kettlebell, some dumbbells, or just some weight plates, you can incorporate arms.
1. Do squat press. Do a squat, and as you come up, push the weight over your head.
2. How about some woodchoppers? hold your med ball, kettlebell, single dumbbell, or plate with both hands. Do a squat. As you come up out of the squat, keep your arms straight and swing the weight above your head.
3. Getting more advanced, you can also do a hang clean to a squat (basically a high pull to a squat. You can even add that press in at the end! A good tutorial can be found here thanks to Men’s Health UK).
What are your favorites? Did I miss any?
I’ll leave you today with the most brutal squat leg workout I know. Props to Middlebury Soccer for continuing to kill my quads 4 years later. By the way, this is only WEEK 1.
Lactate Leg Circuit