By Gina Redican
In an unrealistic scenario where you could only perform one exercise for the rest of your life, it should be “The Squat.” The squat is considered one of the best exercises due to its ability to work the most variety of muscles in one simple movement. Squats work the quadriceps, glutes, abductor magnus (inner thigh), hamstrings, erector spinae (muscles that runs along spine), abdominals and obliques, all the muscles of the calves, and in some variations even upper back and shoulders. I used the word “simple,” but in fact it is important to take careful consideration of one’s form whilst performing a squat. Improper form could lead to serious injuries, particularly of the spine and knees.
To perform a basic body weight squat:
Stand proud with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward or very slightly turned outward and arms by your side.
Keeping your core engaged and your chest lifted, push your hips slightly back and begin bending your knees as if you’re trying to sit in a chair.
As you lower yourself, raise your arms to shoulder height, keep your eyes forward, and be sure your knees do not buckle towards each other by keeping your glutes activated.
Once your thighs are parallel with the floor, push through your heels to raise yourself into a standing position.
Practice this form in front of a mirror - an incredible tool - to help you make adjustments to your form. Here are some cues to look for and how to fix them.
Are you looking at the floor? You may be bending at the waist instead of the knees. Also, keep your chest lifted as you lower.
Is your back rounded out OR are your knees in front of your toes? Try turning your hips back and really reach that booty backwards and be sure to engage the core by pulling your bellybutton in towards your spine.
Heels lifting up? Try lifting your big toes and concentrate on keeping your weight on your heels throughout the entire motion.
Take your time practicing the perfect squat. You may not be able to get parallel with the ground at first, but as you become stronger, you will find your range of motion will increase, and you can venture into the many variations to further engage even more muscles.