Squats are one of the most common exercises that one can do on a daily basis. In strength training, Squat is a compound, power movement, in which the full body gets exercised. Squat primarily trains the muscles of the thighs, buttocks and hips.
The following muscles are mainly engaged while doing a squat:-
- Quadriceps (Vastus lateralis, Vastus medialis and vastus intermedius and rectus femoris)
- Gluteus maximus (the largest muscle in the buttock region)
- Hamstrings (semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris). Hamstrings do not work mainly but, assist in the squat movement.
The secondary muscles, which stabilize the body while performing squats are:-
- Erector spinae (it is the name of a muscle group in the back )
- Transverse abdominus
- The gluteal group muscles (gluteus medius and gluteus minimus); abductor muscles
- The adductor group of muscles
Squat not only helps in developing musculoskeletal strength and size of the legs and buttocks but, also helps in developing core strength (strengthening the abdominal and paraspinal muscles). For power generation in the body, it is vital for the core muscles to be strong.
When performed with proper form and technique, squat not only trains the legs, buttocks and core muscles but, also muscles of the back, arms, trunk coastal and shoulder muscles.
In the strength sports of power-lifting, Squats is one of the three lifts which include dead-lift and bench press.
Proper form and technique of doing a squat:
First of all, a good warm up is essential before starting with any exercise for better blood circulation to the joints and muscles. This reduces the risk of injuries.
The stance: Feet slightly wider than the shoulder (heel slightly wider than the shoulder) with toes facing slightly outwards. The knee must be aligned with the toes to avoid any injury.
Range of motion: You must squat to a level where the femur (thigh) is parallel to the floor. You can also go a little below than this range provided, the tension on the muscle is maintained; i.e. you must not completely sit down.
Breathing technique: Before starting the downward movement, exhale from your mouth and breathe in through your nose. Fill your lungs and abdominal cavity with air. While squatting, withhold the air. This is called as the ‘Valsalva Manoeuvre’. This compressed air in the abdominal cavity will make the body tight and rigid and will give good stability to the spine. Keeping your body rigid during power movements is very crucial.
Squat exercises are versatile. They can be done almost anywhere, with or without external weights. Squat exercises are movements that we perform in our daily life. The greatest benefit of doing squat exercises is that, they help in improving our functionality i.e. improves our performance in our day to day activities.
Squat exercises can be done using weights and equipments. Also, they can be done using your own body weight.
Listed below are certain squat variations that can be done anywhere, using your own body weight.
- Regular Squat: This is the basic form of squat. Here, you stand with your feet slightly wider than the shoulders, with toes pointing slightly out. Hold your arms straight out, with palms facing downwards or put your hands straight up or you can cross your hands. Do not rest the hands on your thighs. Tighten your body, maintain a neutral spine (try to keep your back as straight as possible), jutt your buttocks out (as if trying to sit on a chair) and then squat. See to it that your knees must not cross your toes. However, this will depend upon many factors like flexibility and length of the limbs. The knees must be aligned to the direction of the toes. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.
- Sumo Squat: The technique here is the same as back squats. Only here, you take the Sumo stance, i.e. the legs are wide apart with toes pointing slightly outward. Direction of the knees aligned with the toes. In Sumo Squat, the inner thigh muscles (adductor muscles) are also trained effectively. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.
- Pulse Squat: Here, the stance and technique is the same as back squat. The only difference is that, instead of the rhythmic up and down, you go down till your femur is parallel to the floor. Then, in this position, move up and down, maintaining the tension on the thigh muscles. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.
- Wall Squat: Here, you stand against a wall with legs extended outward. Stretch your arms out, palms facing down. The chest out, back straight and then you squat. Go down till your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep holding this position and feel the burn. When it starts getting unbearable, get back to relax position. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.
- Chair Squat: Here, you keep your legs together, keep your arms outstretched or raised up and squat. Keep in mind to jutt your hip out from behind and keep your chest out. Maintain the rigidity of the body. This variation of squat, mimics the action of sitting on the chair. This type of squat can be given to beginners who are learning the form and technique to squat. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.
- Single-leg Squat: This one is a little difficult to do but, it will help in correcting muscular imbalances, if you have one leg dominant over the other. You can raise one leg in front or at the back; whatever you feel easier to balance. Then perform the squat. Try not to touch the raised leg to the ground. You can also take the support of the wall or chair if needed. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.
- Jump Squat: This is a plyometric movement. This technique of squat will not only train your muscles but will also add some cardio-vascular training. Here, the stance and technique is the same; only when you reach halfway down, then jump and land softly on your feet. Swing your arms for the momentum. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/
- Squat Jacks: This is also a plyometric movement. A combination of squat and jumping jacks. Take the squat position. Then perform jumping jacks (jump spread your legs apart and bring them together) in this halfway squat position. Do not come out of the squat position till finish all the repetitions. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/
- Squat Hold: This exercise isometrically contracts the muscles. You can do a Basic Squat hold and a Sumo Squat hold. Go halfway down and hold the position for some time. Feel the burn. When it gets unbearable, then relax. Static Squat helps in improving the flexibility of the hip flexor muscles. This helps us to improve in running and other activities. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/
- Burpee Squat: It is a combination of burpee and squat. Here, you start with sitting down with the knees tucked to your chest, between your arms. Then, you hop your legs out and go into a plank position and then again jump your legs in and get into a low squat position. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/