Fitwirr

5 Squat Variations

If you look at all the current popular workouts including CrossFit, Yoga ballet barre and Pilates, they all have one thing in common: Squats!

Why are all these different workouts using squats?

Because not only will squats help us move better, but they also burn calories, tone the body by promoting lean muscle and as squats work multiple muscles they are a great fat burning workout.

This makes squats a great toning workout for women.

Why do we need to squats?

Squats are compound movement, meaning they’re a multi-joint and multi muscle exercise. Although they do primarily work the lower body, a simple body-weight squat uses nearly every muscle group in your body.

When you perform squat with added resistance like a dumbbell or barbell, kettlebell you are now recruiting and engaging every single major muscle group in your entire body.

In addition to your legs, you need your hips, back, abs, shoulders and arms to help stabilize the weights.

So there isn’t any body part left out of this squat exercise. 

Squat will not only strengthen legs, but will also strengthen your entire body from head to toes, both your bones and your muscles.

Many people are quick to believe that squats will hurt their knees, but the truth is that performed correctly squats will make your knees stronger.

So yes squatting will increase strength in your hips, knees, back, abs and your core strength drastically. 

Now you might not think of a squat as an ab exercise, but when you squat core has to work endlessly to provide support for both your spine and upper body.

So your abs and obliques are constantly working to isometrically stabilize the body while performing the up and down movement of a squat. So the squat is an abdominal exercise for sure. 

Squats will reduce your chance of injury while performing both athletic movements and everyday life activities. Such as getting down to tie your shoes, picking up your baby or toddler off the floor, or getting in and out of a chair.

Even going to the bathroom is a squat. Bodybuilders know the challenge of going to the bathroom after the infamous “leg day”.

Why squats are so great?

Squats are just  an amazing exercise however you put it and the benefits of squats for women are numerous.

They burn calories, tone up your glutes (butt), hamstrings, calves, hips, thighs and they work your abs. Talk about getting more bang for your buck!

Research by Robert Shaphoro PhD, from the University of Kentucky has shown that all the major core muscles are activated during a squat, including the rectus abdominus, and obliques.

His research also showed a greater abdominal activation on the upward phase of the squat so to really focus on the core and glutes take your time in the upwards phase of the squat.

The squat really does just do it all. The holy grail of fitness is to build muscle and burn fat and the squat can help do that!

In a recent study by William Kraemer PhD from the University of Connecticut, researchers found out that because the squat recruits the large muscle groups the good old squat increased testosterone and growth hormone levels in women, which is great news for losing body fat and increasing lean muscle tone.

Women have lower level of testosterone than men, so they need to do resistance training and specifically squats.

This won’t mean that women will get bulky however, as men have 10 times the total testosterone level women needed to build muscle.

Of course one of the huge benefits of squatting is that it’s resistance training which has a higher EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) than cardio.

This means you not only scorch calories during the exercise but long after. If there is one perfect exercise that truly does it all, squats are it!

5-Squat Variations

5-Squat Variations

When perform squatting exercises proper form is a must. As with all exercises, anything done incorrectly can lead to muscle imbalances or injury.

Before adding extra resistance to a squat it’s recommended that you first master the exercise using just your bodyweight. As you become more proficient in the exercise you can gradually increase the added resistance.

How to perform air squats

  1. Place feet shoulder width apart, with toes slightly turned out. Arms can be resting on the hips, out in front level with the shoulders, or with the hands behind the head (also called a prisoner squat).
  2. Looking straight ahead, engage the core and bend the knees as if you were sitting the butt back and down into a chair. When squatting ensure your knees track towards your middle toe, including the upwards portion of a squat, ensure your knees don’t buckle in towards each other.
  3. Ideally at the bottom of the squat you want your hips lower than your knees, and keep your heels on the floor. You should be able to wiggle your toes throughout the squat.

How to perform goblet squat

  1. The set up for goblet squats is exactly the same as for the body weight squat, with feet shoulder width apart, with toes slightly turned out, the only difference is you’ll be adding resistance in the form of a dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball.
  2. Hold the weight at the center of chest with elbows pointing downwards. Looking straight ahead, engage the core and bend the knees as if you were sitting the butt back and down into a chair. When squatting down the elbows should ideally fall to the inside of the knees as the knees track out towards the toes.

How to perform plié squats

  1. Start with the feet wider than the shoulders, feet turned out, and hands on the hips.
  2. With the knees tracking towards the toes sit down into a plié squat until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Ensure the back stays long and chest up. 

How to perform Barbell hack squat

  1. Place a barbell directly behind the legs, with feet shoulder distance apart and toes slightly turned out and arms by your sides.
  2. Bend knees into a body weight squat and grab the barbell with an overhand grip.
  3. Extend legs into a standing position and repeat the squat holding the bar behind the body. Each squat the thighs should be parallel to the floor
  4. Keep core engaged and spin lengthened throughout the movement,  with the chest lifted and push through the heels.

How to perform Barbell back squat

Using a squat rack set the weight on your barbell.

  1. Step under the bar, set your hands with an overhand grip and lift the bar onto the ‘meaty’ part of your shoulders/back. Step back behind the rack and place feet shoulder width apart, with toes slightly turned out. 
  2. Looking straight ahead, engage the core and bend the knees as if you were sitting the butt back and down into a chair.
  3. Return the bar to the rack by stepping forwards and placing the bar back onto the rack.

Tips:

  • When squatting ensure your knees track towards your middle toe, including the upwards portion of a squat, ensure your knees don’t buckle in towards each other.
  • Ideally at the bottom of the squat you want your hips lower than your knees, and keep your heels on the floor. You should be able to wiggle your toes throughout the squat.

Squat Challenge

100 Squat Challenge

 

How to perform a barbell front squat

Using a squat rack set the weight on your barbell.

  1. Step towards the bar, set your hands with an overhand grip and lift the bar onto the front part of your shoulders. 
  2. Step back behind the rack and place feet shoulder width apart, with toes slightly turned out. Push the elbows as high as possible in a front squat so that the barbell rests lightly in the hands with the shoulders bearing most of the weight.
  3. Looking straight ahead, engage the core and bend the knees as if you were sitting the butt back and down into a chair.
  4. You should be able to wiggle your toes throughout the squat. Return the bar to the rack by stepping forwards and placing the bar back onto the rack.

Tips:

  1. Ideally at the bottom of the squat you want your hips lower than your knees, and keep your heels on the floor. Remember to aim for at least thighs parallel to the floor.
  2. When squatting ensure your knees track towards your middle toe, including the upwards portion of a squat, ensure your knees don’t buckle in towards each other.

What if I can’t squat?

Some people may not be able to squat do to muscle imbalances, weak core musculature or weak hip extensors. For some it may simply be a lack of flexibility.?

If for some reason you’re not able to perform squat exercises, there are alternative exercises to start with in order to build up your lower body strength.

Whilst these aren’t a replacement for squats, they will allow you build the glutes, hamstrings, quads, core and inner/outer thighs so that you can work up to squatting like a pro.

Mini-band lateral walks 

These side steps with a mini-band are a great for firing up the medial glutes, whilst improving hip stabilization, core strength and muscle stability.

Even for seasoned squatters these are great as a warm up exercise to ensure the hip muscles are nice and warm before loading up the weight.

There are many different  exercise band, ensure you choose one suitable for your fitness level. Beginners should begin with 2 sets of 8-10 reps.

  1. Step into the mini-band, keeping the band flat place it just above the ankles. Step the feet shoulder width apart so that the band is taut. 
  2. Bend knees slightly into a slight squatted position. Maintaining the partial squat side step to the right for 8-10 repetitions. Then return to the left side.

Tips:

  • Ensure the body doesn’t bounce, and that torso remains upright with shoulders above the hips.
  • The idea for this exercise is that the lower body does the work with little to no movement in the upper body.

Glute bridge (also known as hip raise)

The glute bridge is a staple exercise in pilates, core training and yoga. This is a great exercise for the glutes and hamstrings which are the prime movers for hip extension coming up out of a squat.

Beginners should begin with 2 sets of 8-10 reps.

  1. Lie down with your back on the floor, knees bent, and feet shoulder width apart, with your arms down by your sides.
  2. Engage the core and glutes whilst pushing through the heels, lift your hips up off the floor. Then slowly return to the starting position.

This exercise has many variations. Beginners should start with the basic glute bridge above before moving onto advanced variations. Harder versions of this exercise include:

Arm position: Arms down by the sides is easiest, move the arms to provide more glute engagement. Try placing the arms out in a “T” or wrap them across the chest.

Single leg bridge: One leg on the floor with the resting leg lifted up for more resistance and stability training.

Weighted bridge: Either with a weighted plate held at the hips or a resistance band held across the hips

Weighted Hip Thrust

A progression from the glute bridge, this allows for more range of movement in the hips and is a great exercise for glutes and hamstrings. Hip thrusts are a great alternative or addition to any squat workout.

Beginners should begin with body weight hip thrusts 2 sets of 8-10 reps.

  1. Begin this exercise sitting on the floor with a bench directly behind you. Have a barbell or other weight across the hip crease. 
  2. Lean back against the bench so your upper back and shoulders rest on the bench, with hips slightly elevated.
  3. Drive through your heels to lift the hips, weight supported by shoulders and feet. Lift the hips as high as  possible, then control the movement to lower the hips back to the starting position.

Work Cited:

  • "Result Filters." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 18 July 2015.

 




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