It’s one of the most popular fitness moves around. The squat.
Love ’em or love to hate ’em, if your routine includes yoga, bootcamp, CrossFit, free weights, barre or otherwise, we bet squats are one of the exercises that are part of your program.
It’s a common move and for good reason…it works! The squat is a functional exercise, meaning it makes real life tasks easier, and it’s simple enough for most people to do.
Squats work multiple muscle groups at once making your effort well rewarded. Check out the impressive list of the benefits of squats below.
Then keep scrolling down to find out how a 50¢ dowel from Home Depot can be the key to improving your squat technique and tuning you in to better posture.
9 Reasons Why Squats Are Awesome
- Strength Building: Most people associate squats with strengthening their legs, and they certainly do. They also strengthen your core; your stabilization muscles, the muscles that connect your lower body to your torso. including your abs, glutes, hips and back. Hold your arms overhead and they strengthen your upper back and shoulders too! A great way to build muscle from head to toes.
- Great for Circulation & Cardiovascular Endurance: Your circulatory system relies on your body being in motion to function at its best. Exercise is one way to do that, and squats are a simple and efficient way to get your body moving and heart pumping. Go ahead…do a set of 15-20 and see for yourself.
- Improve Your Flexibility: Yes, squats build flexibility and range of motion! If you’ve thought of squats only as a strength building activity that’s just one part of the story. Squats help build mobility in your hips & ankles and stretch your hamstrings, calves, glutes and quads.
- Develop Better Posture: When you focus on maintaining proper form you’ll be training all your postural muscles – the ones that help you “stand up straight” – your upper back, lower back, shoulders and abdominals. A ‘good’ squat will engage all these guys and you can take that awareness right into your daily activities.
- Build Your Core Strength: As said above, squats strengthen the muscles that connect our lower body to our upper body. It’s super important to keep these muscles strong as we need them for everyday activities like lifting stuff, anytime we reach for something, bending down, standing up and twisting. Improving your core strength will benefit any activity, improve your performance and help you move with more ease.
- Tone Up Your Abs, Legs and Booty: If they build strength they are gonna tone! When you perform squats correctly they work several muscle groups at once so your effort has awesome rewards. There are tons of squat variations for lots of variety and different types of challenges.
- Super Effective Low-Impact Activity: If high impact activities wreak havoc on your back and knees, squats are a great option. They offer intensity, build stamina and can actually strengthen your back and muscles around your knees.
- Enhance Your Mobility and Balance: Our legs and hips are responsible for keeping us mobile and squats are a super way to keep you on the move as you get older. Plus, they build your core strength creating more stability and a stronger connection between your muscles & your brain (neuromuscular control) which helps prevent falling. Squats can help keep your body durable with strong legs, mobile hips and knees, plus core support.
- No Equipment Needed & You Can Do ‘Em Almost Anywhere: You don’t need any special equipment, clothing or a large space to get in a few sets. All you need is knowledge of good technique (we can help you with that). Now you have no excuse not to incorporate 5-10 minutes of squatting each day. If you struggle with motivation, stay focused on the benefits and how good you’ll feel when you are done!
Now…Here’s how to check your technique.
Go to the hardware store and grab a dowel. This one is about 48″.
Line the dowel up along your spine. Ideally 3 areas make contact with the dowel:
- The back of your head,
- the mid-thoracic spine (middle of your ribcage) and
- your tailbone.
The dowel is a great way to get feedback on how you place your hips/pelvis, your spine and head while you are standing.
As you squat you would like to feel all 3 points of contact stay on the dowel. You will feel your rear end reaching back and a little more weight settle in your heels as you reach the bottom of the squat. Sense the crown of your head and chest reaching up to keep your upper back and head on the dowel.
Perform 15-20 reps. Repeat 3x. Note: it may take you many repetitions to get the hang of it so be patient and persistent.
TIP: Once you get the hang of it, try changing your stance.
You can target your glutes by turning your feet out and widening your stance.
Wide Stance Squat: Widen out your feet to about shoulder distance apart, then turn your feet out slightly. If your feet were on a clock they’d point to approximately 11 o’clock with your left foot and 1 o’clock with your right.
When you squat apply all the same principles above and see if you can get your rear-end just below the height of the knee. Keep those thighs rolling out so your knees point in the direction of the center of the foot.
HERE ARE SOME COMMON PITFALLS:
#1) If your upper spine is flexed (rounded) it may be difficult to get the back of your head on the dowel. A common mistake is to tip the chin up to get your head to touch the dowel.
You are better off keeping the chin tighter toward the throat and continue to work on extending the upper spine until eventually the back of your head lands on the dowel as in the picture above.
#2) Excessive arching (hyper-extension) of the spine. Although his hips are reaching back, the dowel lost contact at the mid back and has further arched away from the dowel at the low spine. He has also tipped the chin up so now the top of his head is on the dowel rather than the back.
Tip: let your gaze travel toward the floor about 3-feet in front of you. This will help keep your chin down and the neck extended.
#3) Excessive flexion (rounding) of the spine. Here he has lost contact with the dowel on the tailbone. His hips are tucking under rather than reaching back as if you were going to sit into a chair. Again, the chin is up so the point of contact at the head has shifted more toward the top of the head rather than the back of the head.
SLOBODY yoga inspired fitness is known for it’s safe yoga that leaves you feeling stronger, more flexible & younger than you have in years.