Monday, May 27, 2013

The Importance of Squats

Anyone who's trained with me for more than 5 minutes knows that I like to squat. In fact, whether you realize it or not, we do some squat variation almost daily. If you've ever wondered why I program so many squats (deadlifts can be considered a variation, in this context), then allow me to explain.

First, squats work. No matter what your goal is, squats help you reach it. I'll expand on this point later.

Second, I want you to picture your daily activities. Waking up, daily morning routines, going up & down stairs, getting in / out of your car, moving in and out of your chair, carrying grocery bags around, you get the point. If you're physically active in sports or exercise, we go even further than that. Running, jumping, etc. More often than not, you're doing something that involves hip and knee mobility. Your body mass is being supported by your hips and lower extremities. The bio-mechanics of these movements would take weeks to study and analyze. It's safe to say, we're constantly squatting in some form or another. Unfortunately, most of us do it WRONG.

I'll save you the kinesiology and spare you the biomechanics, but I encourage anyone who's scientifically minded to allocate reading time into how your body moves.

Try to remember our first training session together. I probably made you adjust your foot and leg position while you were standing and sitting on a box. It felt weird, didn't it? This is because I was forcing you to change the FUNDAMENTAL way your body moves. Usually we try to find the easiest way in and out of positions. As a result, we get used to using knees and backs to do our work for us, rather than the hip joint. By shifting that weight into the hip, we are able to better support our body, and utilize the muscles that we have. Not to mention when we do this with additional weight, we strengthen the leg and core muscles.

Here's a quick breakdown of a good squat:

  • Start the movement with your hips - push your butt back.
  • Keep your head and shoulders up - don't allow yourself to lean forward.
  • Keep your weight in your heels / midfoot as you shift backward.
  • Push your knees OUT as you move - don't let them come together  like this > <
  • Keep your knees in line with your ankles as you move down and up.
Rather than re-invent the wheel, here's a quick video of somebody I don't know illustrating a good squat.

Okay, so we're working basic biomechanics and proper body movements. Now how do squats directly influence your fitness goals? Several reasons:

  • Heavy weighted squats utilize most major muscles in the body. Great for stimulating muscle building and burning calories.
  • Squats improve basic kinesthetic awareness in yourself. You get immediate feedback into what muscles are working and how hard. This improves your own body/mind connection and makes you more aware during other exercises (not to mention it tells me where you're weak link is).
  • Squats require much core strength and coordination. There's a fine balance between the front and back of the body that is suddenly thrown into chaos when we move with weight. Again, this will highlight weak areas that we need to improve.
Depending on your goals, we may squat high reps with moderate weight, or low reps with very heavy weight. Sometimes we may do heavy weights for high reps (yeah, you remember that workout). The point is, we challenge your body utilizing a basic functional movement that is inherent in our day-to-day activities. 

Speaking of challenge, try this: 50 body-weight squats in less than 2 minutes. Ready? Go.

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