The squat exercise has long been touted as the best, of not just all leg exercises, but the king of all exercises, bar none. This total body-weight bearing exercise has perhaps the most number of muscles coming into play to accomplish the entire move. It is a most revered of compound movements. Hard gainers would be well advised to adopt a strict squat regimen if they wish to pack on some weight. Strong legs have also been known to predetermine longetivity, which all the more should encourage all fitness conscious individuals to take up this exercise. There are many variations to the squat, ranging from plate loaded barbell versions to body weight and even really challenging single leg squat exercise variants, which we will get into later. First, mensfitness.com offers some words of wisdom on why you should be doing the squat and enumerates several benefits.
1. Increased hormone release
“Total body exercises are potent stimulators for muscle-building hormones like testosterone and growth hormone. Because they involve almost every muscle in the body, the cause a great stimulus for growth. Load up a challenging weight to reap the anabolic hormonal benefits that will help you build muscle everywhere – not just your lower half.”
2. Enhanced core strength
“Since squats are typically loaded from top to bottom, either in the form of a barbell or a dumbbell, your core has to work double-time to prevent injury and maintain an upright posture.“
3. Improved flexibility
“By moving your body through a full range of motion, you’ll not only build strength; you’ll boost flexibility as well. Deep squatting helps to increase range of motion in the entire hip complex.”
4. Reduced chance of injury
“Boosting the muscles surrounding your knees and hips is a quick method to reduce your chance of injury when jumping, running, and doing almost any activity. Squats build your glutes, hamstrings, and quad muscles – primary stabilizers when you’re cutting and moving on the playing field. Include both single and double leg varieties to help bullet-proof your lower body.”
5. Stronger lower body
“This may seem like common sense, but squatting varieties are key for developing lower body strength. Although machine exercises like leg curl and leg extension may target the quads and hamstrings, squats use almost every lower body muscle in unison building real-world strength.”
6. Increased vertical jump
“Having hops on the court isn’t only correlated with genetics. The ability to extend your hips powerfully is a key factor in increasing your vertical. Luckily, squats build hip extension strength.”
7. Improved workout efficiency
“Forget spending a few hours in the gym hopping from machine to machine in search of a good workout. Introduce a few sets of heavy squats into your routine, and you’ll see what you’ve been missing. This total-body move will jack your heart rate and leave your legs burning in no time.”
Now let’s have a look at some variations of the squat beginning ofcourse with its most basic form. This squat does not involve any barbells or dumbbells, but rather uses your own bodyweight for resistance. This tutorial is provided to us by exercise.about.com.
1. Stand with feet hip distance apart with your toes, knees and hips in a straight line.
2. Pull your belly button towards your spine and contract your abdominal muscles.
3. Slowly lower your body, as though you are sitting in a chair.
4. If you can, go down until your butt is in line with your knees (knees at 90 degree angles). If you can’t go down that low, go as low as you can.
5. Take a moment and look down make sure your knees are BEHIND your toes.
6. Keeping the weight in your heels, slowly push your body back to starting position.
7. At the top of the movement, do NOT lock your knees. Keep a slight bend in them.
8. Repeat the movement 10 to 15 times, performing 1 to 3 sets. For each repetion, count to 3 on the way up and on the way down to ensure you’re not going too fast.
As you groove your muscles and gain strength and stability doing this, you can start performing the exercise with a barbell from a squat rack, or by holding two dumbbells on each hand.
Back Squat Exercise
Now let us try to do the back squat where more than just your bodyweight will be involved. You can start with just a bar to learn the movement first, or perhaps maybe some really light weights. Follow the pictures as well as a thorough checklist to get the perfect movement right for the back squat over at the BrianMAC website.
Jump Squat Exercise
Most exercises that are highly effective are surprisingly simple to do and require little or no equipment at all. The jump squat exercise builds on the basic squat movement. Fitsugar.com guides us thru this squat variation.
“Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides.
Start by doing a regular squat and then jump up as explosively as you can when you rise up reaching for the ceiling.
When you land, lower your body back into the squat position to complete one rep.
Do two sets of 10 reps.”
Squat Thrust Exercise
You will remember this as one of those calisthenics moves we used to perform for physical education class during elementary school. It works the entire body and is also great at elevating your heart rate. Here is a video detailing the flow of the movement.
One Leg Squat Exercise
No matter how conditioned you may be, the one legged squat is always a test. It is physically challenging in the strength it requires while it is also very difficult just stabilizing your body as you go up and down. Try not going to deep at first. Here is a video of the one leg squat.
There are still even more variations of the squat that can be explored to vary the extent of your leg and lower body development. Keep the squat as one of your basic, but one the most important exercises in your routine. There are many versions to choose from that can match both your health and fitness levels and goals.