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Monday, 17 September 2012

An introduction to squatting

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Whether you are training to lose weight, increase size and strength or for sports - you should be squatting! Squats are a compound exercise, this means that they use more than one set of muscles. In fact squats are the most important compound exercise you can do. The main muscles used are the quads, glutes and hamstrings, but squats do a lot more than build lower body strength. Squatting correctly uses muscles over the whole of your body.

The Body Weight Squat
  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Bend your knees and lower your upper body until your thighs are parallell to the floor (you can go down further into a deeper squat but make sure you go to at least parallell.)
  • Ensure that your knees do not extend past the end of your toes.
  • Look straight ahead. This will help keep the correct form and stop your back from arching.
  • Push up through your heels to a standing position.
  • Breathe in as you go down and out as you push up.
  • Repeat!
It is a good idea to practice body weight squats for a while before adding weight. This ensures you are using the correct form and will help prevent any injuries.

Once you are comfortable with the body weight squat and can perform 20 reps quite easily - try it with an empty bar across your back.
  • Place the empty bar (no weight plates) across the top of your back (not your neck!).
  • Grip the bar with wide grip, palms facing forward.
  • Squat! (remembering the flat back, knees not past the end of your toes and to push up through your heels.)

Adding Some Iron!

Once you are happy with your form with the empty bar it's time to add some weight. You will need to use a squat rack. If you don't have access to a squat rack, you can squat with dumbbells (see below).
  • Step into the squat rack and set the bar a few inches below shoulder height.
  • Check that the safety bars are low enough so that you can squat deeply.
  • Duck under the bar and grab it with a wide grip, palms facing outwards.
  • Rest the bar across the top of your back.
  • Unrack the bar by standing up, whilst breathing out and then take a step back.
  • Squat!
  • When you have finished put the bar back onto the rack by stepping forwards and dropping it back down.

The Dumbbell Squat

If you don't have access to a squat rack you can still perform squats using dumbbells. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down by your sides and perform the squat using the same technique as above.

Following this guide and squatting correctly won't just help you sculpt those Olympian legs - you will find that more iron on the squat bar will put a few extra kilos on your bench press, deadlift and other exercises too.

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