Squat in style
If there was one exercise I would choose as a must have in everyone’s routine, it would be the squat (unless specific injury prevents it).
- It trains a large number of muscles simultaneously thus helping burn more calories in a shorter time (if weight loss is a goal) and keeps the work out short.
- It exercises muscles essential to everyday life that are often lost due to our sedentary lifestyle.
- It helps keep joints healthy by keeping the supporting muscles in your legs strong.
- You can perform a squat anywhere.
As trainers, we face two major problems with the squat.
1. People don’t do them.
2. People do them incorrectly.
Hopefully after reading this, problem 1 will be solved. Now coming to problem 2.
A good squat should comprise the following basics:
- Weight should be on the heels and the heel should remain in contact with the floor all the time even at the very bottom of the squat.
- Knees should remain in line with the feet and not fall inwards towards each other.
- Knees should not go past your toes when fully bent. This is achieved by sitting inclined backwards on the heels.
- Squat depth should be low enough that the thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Chest and head should be upright and looking forward.
Often, in exercise videos as well as in the gym, you will see people squat to insufficient depth. Occasionally this is due to physiological issues but more often, it’s just poor technique. The reason we encourage a full depth squat is to work a greater range of muscles as it works muscles in both the front and back of the leg and minimises the risk of muscle imbalance which can cause knee pain.
Another common squat issue we face is poor flexibility in the ankles and hip areas that restrict the body’s motion and cause people to lean with their chest and head forward while lowering into the squat. Ask your trainer for a few hip mobility exercises to correct this. Form and technique are critical in staying healthy and preventing injury.
If you are planning on introducing a squat into your programme for the first time then bodyweight is completely adequate. In time you may wish to add weight. Ask your trainer on the best way to achieve this. Due to the large muscles at work in the squat there is a good response with your resting metabolism as well as a large amount of work done during the exercise itself. Try and introduce the squat to your workout at least once a week. If untrained start with just 10 full depth unweighted squats, progressively increase this as you feel confident.
If you rarely make it to the gym why not introduce the squat into your daily lifestyle? A couple of ideas to achieve this:
- At work if you need to pick up some paper for the printer or something you dropped collect it with a deep squat.
- As you lower yourself down towards the chair at your desk or the sofa in front to the TV, pause for 30 seconds before you settle, keeping your behind just above the surface of the chair supported by your muscles. This is called an isometric squat.
- When you decide to stand up from your desk or sofa instead of rolling forward onto the toes reverse the process from number 2. Raise yourself up slowly until you are just above the surface of the chair and you are supporting all your bodyweight. Keep the weight through the heels and pause there for 30s, or as long as feels comfortable, before fully extending the legs and standing up.
This article is by Tim Nunan – a personal trainer at Fitness Qatar. You can schedule a free, no obligation meeting with one of the trainers at Fitness Qatar to set up a programme, incorporating the squat, that you can use safely and effectively to achieve your fitness goals.