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Fundamental Exercises: Squats October 22, 2007

Posted by Matt Brown in Strength.
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   The lower body exercise.  If your not doing them, you might as well turn in you gym membership and walk away.  Seriously, get moving.  Squats work every major muscle in your lower body; quads, hamstings, glutes and calves, in addition to your lower back and some upper body muscles.  According to some, squats can even improve your upper body strength, due to the fact that heavy squats can increase the levels of muscle building hormones in the body. 

   Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about squats out there, mostly concerning the safety of the lift.  Many people still believe that performing heavy squats will lead to knee problems and joint pain and should be avoided.  In actuality, the tendons and ligaments of your body respond to stress in the same way as muscles, by getting stronger and thicker, so heavy squats will actually strengthen the joints.  That being said, when you have a few hundred pounds of weight on your back, it goes without saying that there exists a potential for injury if you have poor technique.  There are many variations of the squat, so for this instruction, I will be using the basic back squat.

Squat Technique 

1) Balance the bar along the trapezius muscles of the shoulders, hands spread as far as is comfortable.  Feet should be about shoulder width apart, with the toes pointed slightly outward (30 degrees or less.)  To help keep your back straight, pick a spot on the wall in front of you about a foot higher than you and keep staring at it throughout the lift.  DO NOT look down, as this will cause the back to round out.

2) The first motion of the squat is a backwards motion with the butt, as if you were going to sit down in a chair.  Follow with a bending of the knees, keeping the knees over the toes the whole time.  Don’t allow the knees to bend inwards.  That’s a sure fire way to get hurt.  Keep bending until your thighs are parallel to the ground.  Remember to keep your back straight (but not upright) and your abdominals tight.

3) Push through your heels and begin to raise up.  Keep the upward motion controlled and don’t allow yourself to sway.  Return to the starting position.

 Well, know you know how to perform a basic back squat.  What are you waiting for?  Get out there and start lifting.

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