Squats are one exercise which should be part of everyone’s workout routine, regardless of age, gender or fitness goals. They are not just for legs – they benefit the entire body in a multitude of ways. Whether you are looking to shed pounds, maintain mobility, or run faster, the squat is for you. Check out these 18 ways that squats can improve your life.
- INCREASE ENTIRE BODY STRENGTH & MUSCLE – Obviously, squats build strong legs which help support the entire body but they also promote body-wide muscle building. If you are squatting correctly, you will be causing your body to release testosterone and the human growth hormone, both of which are imperative for building muscle and increasing muscle mass, especially when you work out other areas of the body. These muscles help regulate glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, playing a role in preventing obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. You don’t even need to squat with heavy weights to achieve these effects – research has shown that deep squats with a lighter weight are more effective at improving bodily strength than are parallel squats with heavy weights.
- BURN FAT – You may not think that squats can burn as much fat as, say, a five mile run can – and you’re probably right. But squats may be a more efficient way of burning fat – as this process occurs even after you’ve stopped exercising…something that does not happen with cardiovascular activity. After all, one of the most time efficient ways to burn more calories is to gain more muscle! It is said that for every pound of muscle you gain, your body burns around 35-50 calories per day. So, if you gain 10 pounds of muscle, you can burn up to 500 more calories per day than you did when you were weaker!
- IMPROVE CIRCULATION – If you ever experience a “dead leg”, numbness, tingling, or a feeling of coldness in your extremities, if could be caused by poor circulation. The circulatory system relies heavily on bodily movement to function properly, which is why exercise – including squats – is one of the best preventative or remedial steps you can take for poor circulation. A few sets of squats per day will see your heart pounding, your blood pumping, and those irritating sensations soon disappear.
- GET RID OF CELLULITE – That horrible dimpled skin on the backs of your legs and butt – delightfully described as being like “cottage cheese” or “orange peel” – can be beaten! Cellulite can be caused by a variety of factors, one of which is poor circulation. In fact, it is one of the main causes of cellulite and can seriously impact and accelerate cellulite formation. When you boost your blood flow through squats, your cellulite will soon start to reduce and may even disappear altogether.
- INCREASE FLEXIBILTY & PREVENT INJURIES – Flexibility is an important aspect of injury prevention and should be a consideration in any well-rounded workout plan. Our muscles, tendons, and ligaments become less elastic with age so doing all we can to slow down this process is a good idea. If you work at a desk all day, or are pretty sedentary, then you should be especially diligent about maintaining flexibility. Doing squats regularly will see you limber up and become more flexible as they involve bending and stretching of the leg muscles including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
- ENJOY BETTER POSTURE – Walk like a supermodel with squats! No, really – they will improve your posture as you will need to learn how to hold proper form when carrying out the movement. Upper body posture is of the utmost importance – your upper back, lower back, chest, shoulder, and stomach all play a role in successful squatting. When you become aware of your form during exercise, this awareness will carry through to your day-to-day activities.
- BUILD CORE STRENGTH – The muscles, bones, and joints that link your upper and lower body are know as the core. This is probably the most important muscle group in the body and should be the top area to work on when embarking on an exercise plan. During our normal, everyday life we engage our core constantly – during lifting, twisting, reaching, and bending. Squats are one of the best exercises for a strong core as we must engage the stomach muscles and lower back when performing them. Once you have a stronger core, you will notice your overall athletic ability improve, everyday tasks become easier, and that feeling of general weakness will disappear.
- TONE YOUR ABS, LEGS, & BUTT – From just one simple exercise you can get a washboard stomach, Beyoncé booty, and toned pins. In fact, when performed properly, there are few other movements that work so may muscle groups at once. For added toning, try a deep squat over a parallel one as one study discovered that the gluteus maximus is over 25% more engaged during deep squats!
- A LOW IMPACT EXERCISE – Many exercises can play havoc with your back, ankles, and knees as thy are so high impact but squats are the total opposite. They have been shown to cause no damage to the knees if done correctly, with some studies showing that they can even strengthen the knees. This is true regardless of whether you are engaging in deep or parallel squats.
- REMOVE BODILY WASTE – Another surprising benefit of squats is that they help in the removal of waste from the body, while delivering nutrition to all tissues, including organs and glands.
- BUILD HEALTHY BONES & JOINTS – Physical activity is vital for strong bones and supple joints. And, of all exercises, strength training is key here. Try squatting with dumbbells, a barbell, or kettle bell for extra bone-building ability.
- MAINTAIN MOBILTY & BALANCE – Because strong legs are so important for keeping mobile, squats are a fantastic way to ensure you stay on the move as you age. They build leg strength and muscles, support the core, and help the bones and joints.
- MAKE DAILY TASKS EASIER – Squats are known as a functional exercise thanks to their ability to make real life tasks easier. After all, think of how many times a day people squat – to sit, to lift, to pick up fallen items, and even to pet a dog! Performing squats means that you build muscle and improve flexibility, core strength, bone and joint health, mobility and balance – all of which lead to a more efficient body for real world tasks like shopping, cleaning, decorating, and gardening.
- RUN LIKE THE WIND – You may be able to increase your sprint times through squatting according to a 2005 paper published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The researchers looked at the physical characteristics of the world’s fastest 45 runners at eight distances, who took part in international competitions between 1990 and 2003. They found that those who excelled at shorter distances tended to have bigger muscles than those who ran farther, as sprinting requires being able to apply more force into the ground.
- YOU CAN SQUAT ANYWHERE – Not only do you not need special equipment or clothing to enjoy the benefits of squats, but they can be done anywhere…meaning there’s no excuse not to fit 5 or 10 minutes of squatting into your day. Try squatting in the break room at work, while making your dinner or even when out gardening. And any funny looks you get will be worth it for all the rewards and benefits that squats will bring to your life!
HOW TO SQUAT CORRECTLY
As with many exercises, improper form means you will not achieve the benefit of the exercise and, in some cases, it can be downright damaging to the joints. To perform a basic squat you should:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes facing forward.
- Place your hands on your thighs, gaze upwards and lift your chest high.
- Bend your knees, placing weight on the heels, and sit back.
- Keeping your head and chest upright, slide your hands down your thighs, ending where your elbows reach your knees (your knees should not go beyond your toes!)
- Hold for five seconds.
- Rise up, pressing through the heels, and straighten out the hips until you are in the starting position.
- Repeat 15 to 20 times, for 2 or 3 sets for beginners, and at least 2 or 3 times a week.
Remember, if you have any health issues or physical ailments like joint problems or back trouble, always speak with your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine.