The leg squat is one exercise that should be part of everyone’s workout routine — regardless of age, gender or fitness goals. It is one of the simplest and most efficient exercises to boost your overall fitness without the need for expensive workout gears.
Squats are so easy to perform that they can be done while you are engaged in another activity, such as talking on your cell phone or having a conversation with your children. While they are mostly known as a leg exercise, squats benefit the whole body in a multitude of ways. Whether you are looking to shed pounds, maintain mobility or run faster, the mighty squat is for you.
Benefits of Squats
The parallel squat exercise has become an important resistance-training exercise in sports workouts, general weight training and physical rehabilitation, and for good reason. Here’s why:
1. Increases Strength
While squats are an obvious core exercise for building strong legs, they also promote body-wide muscle building. When performed correctly with proper form, the intensity of the leg squat will trigger your body to release testosterone and the human growth hormone, both of which are crucial for building muscle and increasing muscle mass. And ladies, fear not, you will not morph into the next Ronnie Coleman, if you squat. In fact, you do not even need to squat with heavy Olympic weights to attain the desired body effects — studies have shown that deeper squats with lighter weights are more effective at improving bodily strength than are parallel squats with heavy weights.
2. Excellent Fat Burner
For anyone who would like to shed that extra few pounds, the leg squat can come in very handy. Squats facilitate the rapid burning of body fat and they complement dieting and aerobic exercises. Squats exert your entire posterior chain, activating both your upper and lower body and burning tons of calories in the process. Those who perform it regularly with the proper technique are able to burn fat more efficiently than those following other workouts, like cardio, jogging or even dieting. Oh, and did you know that one of the most time-efficient ways to burn more calories is by actually gaining MORE muscle? For every pound of additional muscle you gain, your body will burn an additional 50–70 calories per day. So, if you gain 10 pounds of solid muscle through squats, you will automatically burn 500-700 more calories per day than you did before!
3. Eliminates Cellulite
That awful dimpled skin on the backs of your legs and butt that some charmingly describe as “cottage cheese” or “orange peel” can be beaten! Cellulite can be caused by a variety of factors, and poor circulation is one of them. Poor circulation can seriously impact and accelerate cellulite formation. The circulatory system relies heavily on bodily movement to function properly, which is why exercises such as the leg squats are one of the best preventative or remedial steps you can take for poor circulation. Squatting boosts your blood flow with every explosive repetition. A few sets of squats every day will see your heart pounding and your blood pumping, reducing your cellulite over time and may even cause it to disappear altogether.
4. Group Muscle Workout
The leg squat is one of the few exercises capable of forcing you to work several muscle groups simultaneously, making it an excellent multipurpose activity for toning and tightening your bum, abs, as well as your legs. Furthermore, squats build your muscles, and these muscles participate in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, helping to protect you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
5. Improves Posture
Not only do they strengthen the stabiliser muscles and supporting ligaments, which help your main leg muscles work more efficiently, squats are also an excellent exercise that indirectly improves your posture and stance, as you will need to master its proper form before executing the movement effectively. Squats engage all the major upper body muscles — chest, shoulders, stomach, and upper and lower back. Once you become aware of your form during exercise, you will strut like a supermodel off it. Literally!
5 Critical Steps to a Successful Squat
- Firstly, stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Remember, your shoulders are key to the proper width of your leg placement. Loosen up your body with stretches and bends.
- Focus on your breathing. Breathing deeply during each set should be done from the stomach instead of the chest area.
- Relax and concentrate on the way your body feels. This will gauge how well your body is able to take the exercise.
- When beginning the leg squat, gradually lower your body while gently bending down at your knees. Remember to exhale when you are going down and inhale when you are going up.
- When your knees form a 90-degree angle and your hips are parallel to the ground, stop and hold this stance for a few seconds. Thereafter, inhale when you raise your body from the squat position.
Be mindful not to start with a large number of repetitions (or reps), if you are new to this exercise as it could lead to injuries due to shock and overworked muscles. Slowly increase the number of reps as you progress and introduce light weights as a form of resistance when you gain strength and endurance over time.
As you start building up the reps and weights, you will start to notice fast and positive changes in your body. Having said that, maintaining a well-balanced fitness regimen and good eating habits are also key. So, squatting to reach out and finish what is left of your daughter’s chocolate mud pie certainly does not count as a successful rep!