There are many variations to the squat that will target your muscles in various ways, but before you try any of those you must first master the art of the basic squat.
Why should we do squats? This is one exercise that should be a part of virtually everyone’s routine. For starters they are a functional exercise which means that they improve your ability to do day to day tasks like getting out of the car or chair, picking items up, and walking up stairs. Squats work more than just your legs and they are considered a compound exercise, strengthening your legs (both quads & hamstrings), glutes and back. Squats not only help in the ability to perform your daily tasks they can also help improve lower back pain. Squats work the erector spinae muscles, which run the length of your spine. Keeping these muscles strong makes many day-to-day activities easier. Your back muscles help with balance during squats and help push your body up and down during the exercise.
Now let’s get to the correct technique of the squat.
Start with your feet hip to shoulder width apart, back is straight and head is in neutral position. Inhale as you begin to descend into the squat, keep the chest vertical and back straight, shift your hips back and your weight transfers back into your heels, thighs should end parallel to the floor with the knees behind the toes and in line with the ankles. When you are ready to begin your ascent out of the squat exhale and engage your core while driving up through the heels, activate your glutes by squeezing them to return you back to your starting position.
If you are having difficulty keeping your knees back behind your toes stand facing a wall no more than an inch or two away and descend into your squat. This will prevent you from letting your knees go over your toes. If your head or knees hit the wall you know that you need to adjust by shifting your hips back, sit in your heels and keep your chest up. Continue to perform your squats like this until you no longer bump the wall.
Women have a tendency to let their knees tilt in towards the center of our body, so make sure that everything is lined up – hips / knees / ankles. You can do this by slightly pushing your knees outward as you squat.
Start with just your body weight and then once you have mastered the proper form of the basic squat you are ready to add weight. When using heavier weight, it’s more difficult to squat deeper. But deeper squats with less weight trumps shallow ones with heavy weight.