FITNESS: Squat Overview

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Idris Aura, Fitness-spalten.

The fitness column is written by personal trainer, Idris Aura.

We have all seen men who walks around in the gyms with massive chests, arms and underdeveloped (weak) legs due to lack of focusing on lower body training.

Consider this your wakeup call: A good workout program must include some type of squat, which is considered physiological challenging. This isn’t just about your legs, even though squats are the best way to build stronger quads, hamstrings and glutes. From a functional training standpoint, you can’t do better in general body performance by engaging in this exercise.

Squatting is a fundamental pattern that is basic to human movement. Regularly performing squats keeps your body moving the way it was designed to move, while helping to protect you from injuries related to a sedentary lifestyle. Squats are also heart healthy. Forget the butt-numbing stationary bike or elliptical machine; sets of higher rep squats will jack up your heart rate to near sprint-like levels.

Finally, squatting is just plain fun. It’s good old-fashioned hard work that requires every ounce of focus you got, and almost makes you feel like an athlete at the same time. What’s not to love?

If you have picked something up off the ground, sat in a chair, or straddled a toilet seat today, you’ve performed a squat.

Some people assume that squatting is beyond their current capabilities. But, guess what? If you have picked something up off the ground, sat in a chair, or straddled a toilet seat today, you’ve performed a squat.

The most important is to get an ideal squat variation like these examples:
• Kettlebell goblet squat
• Dumbbell squat
• Medicine ball squat
• Air (body) squats
• Pistol squats – one legged squats
• Bulgarian /sandbag squat
This will enhance the learning and build up of proper technique before attempting the traditional barbell squat.

Common squat mistakes and solutions: Knees collapse inward: Reduce the weight on the bar/dumbbell /Kettlebell for subsequent sets. Also, perform bodyweight squats with a mini-band wrapped around thighs just above knees to strengthen the muscles that maintain alignment of the knees with the hips and ankles. Knees travel forward beyond toes: Reduce the weight on subsequent sets. Focus on sitting your hips back and keeping your chest up.

Bar resting on neck: Causes discomfort on the neck and can lead to back pain. Instead, rest the bar on your upper back, which will provide a firmer base of support.
Leaning forward: Places excessive strain on the lower back. If you find yourself leaning, focus on sitting your hips back and keeping your chest up. In addition, perform Bodyweight Squats to improve mobility.

Rounded back: Reduce the weight on the bar for subsequent sets. Strengthen the core with exercises like hypers and planks before adding additional resistance to your Squat.
This will enhance the learning and build up of proper technique before attempting the traditional barbell squat.

Improved Performance: Whether your goal is to increase strength, power, endurance or lose weight, squats target the «go» muscles of the legs, namely the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, which all play an important role in serious athletic endeavours like sprinting, jumping, landing, and change of direction. Specifically, squats improve your power. Power is the ability to apply a lot of force in a minimum amount of time, making it important in both athletics and many everyday activities.

Squats also build strength, which is the foundation for everything lower body demands and depends on for easy mobility of hip, pelvis and lumbar complex that supports and facilitate limbs movements.

The beauty of squats versus for example leg extension or leg curl, is that squats force a lot of big muscles to work together to perform the movement. Because of this, it’s common for trainees to see serious improvements in strength within a shorter time compared to other exercises.

Improved Muscle Gains: Since squats make you stronger and more powerful, it’s not surprising that they can also increase muscle size. This is due in part to the squat recruiting so many muscles simultaneously, but there may also be a hormonal explanation. Squats are so demanding that they trigger the release of hormones like testosterone. Once those hormones enter the bloodstream, they support the growth of your whole body. Squatting is a full body exercise and requires lots of muscles groups to produce the movement hence one burn a ton of calories when you performing it.

“We move so little as a society, spending most of our days sitting and staring at computers and televisions like zombies, that we’ve seemingly forgotten how to move as well”

How can a leg exercise be a full body? When you place a loaded barbell on your back or a kettle bell goblet, every muscle in the body has to fire to be able to execute it.
• Your upper back muscles hold the weight and help keep the body upright throughout the set.
• Your core must fire to prevent the body from tipping over.
• And of course, every muscle group in the lower body plays a part in the movement.
So, even if your goal isn’t to add a lot of muscle mass, although, to be fair, the more lean mass you have, the more calories you burn at rest, squats will help burn body-fat by the mere fact that hundreds of muscles are pitching in to get the job done.

Posture, movement, bone density and more: Finally, and arguably most important of all, squats help offset many of the muscular imbalances and weaknesses that we accumulate in our daily lives. We move so little as a society, spending most of our days sitting and staring at computers and televisions like zombies, that we’ve seemingly forgotten how to move as well.

We didn’t start out this way. Ever watch a two-year old bend down to pick something up off the floor? It’s a picture perfect squat every time. Squatting helps relearn this essential pattern and alleviate many of the issues related to being sedentary. When you strengthen the glutes, the hip flexors (muscles in the front of your thighs and hips), which are normally stiff or short, will become less tonic or active. Also, by forcing you to engage your upper back, squatting helps reinforce proper posture, something your nine to five desk job, or long hours studying, can slowly rob from you proper body structural alignment.

This is a movement that will help you stand taller, feel stronger, and stay lean. It’s no wonder that no workout plan is complete without squats, nature’s perfect full-body exercise.

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