The on-going craze for weight loss has aggravated curiosity towards squat exercises with regards to fitness and weight loss. Squat is a full body exercise with the general objective of strengthening the bones, ligaments and tendons of the lower body. Squats when done in proper form, trains the abs, the thigh muscles, the hips and buttocks.
Squats are known to promote mobility and balance. They are most effective in weight loss programs because as more muscles are developed, the body continually burns more calories. The amazing part is that you burn calories during training and while at rest.
PROPER SQUAT FORM:
Most people don’t get results after tons and tons of squats due to their inability to nail the proper squat form. There is also a high risk of injury if one is not doing squats the correct way.
Here is a guide to perfect a proper squat form:
From a standing position, keep your feet shoulder-width apart, move your hips backwards, bending the knees and hips, lower your torso until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor, pause and slowly push your body back to a standing position. It is important to breathe in as you lower down and breathe out as you come back up. Squats can be done with weights, dumbbells or with no weights at all.
NOTE: the knee must be aligned with the direction of the toe. To achieve this, slightly point the toes out.
Most people often rush through the motions resulting in excruciatingly painful injuries. This is why most gym instructors or fitness trainers stress on the importance of ‘form over speed’. In simpler terms, get your form right first, and then worry about the speed.
Common errors include:
- Hasty descent: it’s common for people especially beginners to descend hastily while squatting. Hasty descent (while squatting with weights or dumbbells) may hinder the participant from completing the lift. It may also cause injury.
- Bending too forward: bending the torso too far forward increases the forces exerted on the lower back. This in itself risks a spinal disc herniation. Spinal disc herniation is a medical condition also known as slipped disc.
- Arched back: arching your back while squatting may cause injuries. In order to prevent this, it’s best to keep your head straight and your abs tight while you squat.
There are quite a number of variants for the squatting exercise, most of which can be combined for a more effective result. These variants include; barbell, sumo squat, hack squat, overhead squat, lunge, split squat etc.
A few controversies have arisen in recent times regarding squats and their after effects. It has been speculated that squats are a major contributing factor to injuries related to the lumbar spine and knees. Not true! A review held in 2013 concluded that deep squats performed in the correct form do not in fact lead to knee injuries. It rather concluded that squats are an effective exercise.
It is advised that you do a couple of stretch exercises before you start squatting. This will make the muscles lax and avoid strain on the muscles. Also, a beginner should pick an easy pace. Remember ‘form over speed’. A beginner should do at least 20 squats of 2-3 sets until their body fully adjusts.
Squats are highly recommended as they can be done anywhere and in as little time as possible. In essence, no excuses are needed. You can take a few minutes in the morning before work to do some squats. They aren’t time consuming rather, they are very effective in weight loss. On one hand, you’ll be building your muscles, enhancing mobility and stability; on the other hand you’ll be losing weight fast. In addition, you’ll be getting trim hips and a toned butt. Who doesn’t like that, right?
Some people have categorized squats to be for the female population mostly because of its butt toning effect. Now, the question is, what do squats do for men? Squats build muscle and strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Additionally, squats release testosterone and growth hormone providing an anabolic environment for all other areas to grow when trained.
The contending bone now though, seems to be whether squats without weights are as effective as squats with weights. However, it’s universally agreed that beginners should pace themselves. A beginner should start without the weights and eventually progress to using dumbbells before progressing to weights. The added weight should only come when the participant has properly nailed the form. None of these should be done though without the consent or approval of a doctor.
When it comes to fitness and weight loss, squat exercises are effective.