There’s no doubt about it; If strong legs are the goal, squats are the answer. Not only are they a common movement we utilize every day, they are also an efficient movement and almost endlessly customizable to your specific requirements.
You would be quite hard pressed to find a movement that strengthens your legs more succinctly and easily.
Though they should be approached with proper care and technique to ensure knee health, a squat is a straightforward movement that can easily be incorporated into your strength training program, regardless of your age, weight, or access to gym equipment.
An Everyday Movement
There are many people in the fitness world who harp in the dangers of squats, particularly about how the movement can damage the knee joint if not performed with care.
While this is certainly true, it is important to remember that squats are not some scary monster lurking in the back of the gym. In fact, you’re already doing them and have been doing them all your life.
A healthy, able bodied person will do at least a couple of squats, or squat like movements, every single day. Any time you sit down in a chair, or when you lower your body while maintaining a straight back, you’re performing the essential movement of a squat.
Picking Stuff Up
You will also do so when you stand up from the chair. A squat is also present each time we go to pick something up off the floor. From babies to boxes, proper lifting technique demands proper squatting form to avoid injury to the back and knees.
What this means is that when you begin squatting in the gym, the effects will become immediately present in your daily life. You will feel stronger and be able to lift things with more ease, both in your workout and at home.
Consistent squatting, and strength training in general, will lead to greater mobility throughout your life. It is also worth mentioning that stronger, sexier legs will leave you feeling more confident, especially during the summer months spent in shorts and bathing suits.
A Compound Exercise
While there are some people who enjoy spending hours in the gym pumping iron, most would prefer to get in and out quickly and spend their free time elsewhere. In these moments, efficiency is the name of the game.
When choosing your strength training strategy it is important to remember that the more muscles you can work at the same time, the fewer exercises you need to perform. You want to look for compound exercises and this is where squats come in.
Engages Multiple Muscle Groups
The squat is a compound or multi-joint exercise, meaning that it is one movement that engages multiple muscle groups at once.These muscle groups include the hamstrings, located on the underside of your thighs, the quadriceps, the tops of your thighs, and the gluteus maximus, your rear, as well as smaller muscles in your hips, calves and ankles.
When you first start squatting, you may end up with sore muscles you never knew you had to begin with.
While squats are primarily a lower body exercise, you will also be working several surprising muscles, like the erector spinae group. These muscles span the length of your back along the spine and do not contract during the squat movement in the same way your thighs do.
Instead, the erector spinae assist in stabilizing your spine and will get stronger every time you squat. This leads to better posture and balance and, ultimately, less back pain.
What really sets the squat out from the seemingly endless ocean of leg movements and machines is the fact that it is an exercise that is almost infinitely customizable. It doesn’t matter how strong, weak, old or young you are there’s a squat variation you can do today.
You do not even need a gym membership or any equipment to start squatting. Doing a few sets of simple, well-executed body weight squats every day can help you set the groundwork for a stronger lower body.
Switching Things Up
When these become too easy, or too boring, you can use the same movement but with a couple of slight changes. There are a few different ways to vary your squats, and each of theses variations can be done alone or in tandem with another variation.
You can add weights, like the goblet squat or the barbell squat, to improve your overall strength and muscle tone. You can also alter your leg positioning, like the pistol or sumo squat, to help zero in on different muscle groups.
There’s also the jump squat and squat jacks that can add a cardio element to your lifting sessions to help burn more calories. Finally, there’s the front-facing wall squat which will put your balance skills to the test.
Whatever squat you choose, you can be sure that you will be performing the best movement possible to improve your lower body strength.
Make sure to incorporate properly executed squats in your exercise routine to reap the benefits.