The exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings and the glute muscles and helps to strengthen the lower body.
A squat is the act of crouching — of folding the knees with feet flat on the ground, glutes almost down to the floor. A squat can be performed to different depths, ranging from the deep (where your glutes are below your knees) to shallow (where you bend knees only slightly). It can either be done with our body weight or with added weights like a Kettlebell or a barbell.
“One can begin with the former and can move onto adding extra weights to increase the intensity. Doing three rounds of 15 squats each will work for a day. But it depends on the individual. It is always best to start it under supervision from a licensed fitness trainer,” says Reshma L, Centre Head of Pink Fitness, Coimbatore. The exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings and the glute muscles. “It not only strengthens the lower body but also helps burn calories, improves posture and increases flexibility, mobility and balance,” she adds.
To get these results, the right technique is crucial. “Wrong methods can put excess pressure on the joints, causing pain, even injury,” she explains. The amount of time required to get the technique right varies from person to person. “Our mobility, endurance and muscle strength are all different. Some people need only a week to perfect it, while others might need more time,” says Arvind Ashok, co-founder, The Quad, Chennai. While it is a safe exercise for everyone, people with back or knee issues and pregnant women are advised to do it only after consultation with a doctor.
Position feet shoulder width, at a 20 degree angle, knees in line with the toes. Keep your back straight. Squat down by bending your hips backwards while allowing your knees to bend forward, though they should not come more than a little over the toes. Distribute your weight through your entire body. Descend until the thighs are parallel to the floor. To come up, extend the knees and hips to straighten your legs. Use assistance for upper body support if necessary. “It can be a doorknob, a pole or a chair. This is helpful especially for the elderly,” says Arvind.
Keep your hands either at the back of the head or extended in front. “This helps to open up the chest,” explains Arvind. Make sure that your heel is touching the floor through the entire process. Aravind suggests doing this exercise barefooted. “The best is to work on a flat surface. The heels of the shoes tend to be higher than the rest of the sole and so it won’t give a flat area to work out on,” he adds.
Variations of squats
Stand with your hands on your hips, feet shoulder width apart. Position one foot forward and the other behind. Squat down by flexing the knee and hip of the front leg. Allow the heel of the rear foot to rise while its knee bends until it almost touches the floor. Return to the standing position by extending the hip and knee of the forward leg. Repeat and continue with the other leg.
Single leg split squat
Stand facing away from a raised platform like a bench, feet shoulder width apart. Extend one leg back and place it on the bench. Squat down by flexing the knee and hip of your front leg until the knee of your rear leg almost touches the floor. Return to the original standing position by extending the hip and knee of the forward leg and repeat. Continue with the other leg.
Weighted Front Squat
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Hold a weight plate close to your chest with both hands. Squat down until thighs are parallel to the floor and ascend. Return to position and repeat.