Muscle strengthening exercise Found in many workouts, the squat is a staple leg exercise if you want to build your glutes. Still have to do it well!
I answer all your questions.
What is the squat?
The squat (or bending on the legs) is a muscle strengthening exercise that allows you to solicit the different muscles of the legs, in particular the glutes and the thighs.
But to tone your muscles, you must first learn how to do it well. For this, you have to find the right position in order to enjoy a good movement that solicits the muscles effectively.
How to do a squat?
Doing squats seems pretty easy at first. So yes, but on condition of position yourself well. To help you, here are the steps to follow:
- Begin in the initial squat position, with your feet hip-width apart. Your toes should point slightly outward (about 10º).
- Raise yourself up, keep your back straight and your head in line with the spine, with your gaze forward.
- Tuck in your stomach and contract your abs.
- Go down by unlocking the knees and lower the buttocks as if you were sitting on a chair.
- Attention: here, your buttocks must be directed backwards and the knees turned outwards. They should point in the same direction as your toes (this helps to activate the glutes more).
- Bend the knees with an angle of 45 º or more (they must always be above the feet).
- Then, come back up by pushing on your heels. The weight of the body must be supported by them and not by your knees.
- Repeat the exercise according to your objectives.
For enjoy all the benefits of the squat, remember to breathe well and control each of your movements by focusing on your sensations.
What muscles will squats work?
With the squat, the muscles used mainly concern the lower body. Namely, the front of the thighs (quadriceps and hamstrings), glutes, calves, and ankles. But not only that, you will also strengthen the stability and strength of your trunk, your back and your abdominal strap.
That said, you will primarily feel the thighs and glutes.
This is a must-have exercise for the glutes, if you don’t feel the work in the buttocks at all, the posture is probably bad. I will explain to you a little later the mistakes to avoid for maximum efficiency. And if you really want to work your glutes, you must voluntarily contract them during the ascent.
Now that you’ve learned the beginner squat, it’s time to spice it up with a few variations.
Possible variants without hardware
Once you know how to do the squat well, you can opt for different variations to change your sports routine. I will start by explaining to you the bodyweight squats or air squats.
Here you don’t have no need to add resistance to strengthen the thighs and glutes. Your body weight alone is enough. I recommend these variants without weights if you do not want to take on a large muscle volume but just strengthen these muscles a little for another sporting practice. For example, if you are running or swimming.
This is one of the most popular variations of the squat that allows you to work the adductors (the muscles on the inside of your thighs).
Right here, your legs are more apart (about twice the width of the shoulders) than with the traditional version. But for the rest, the squat movements are identical.
The feet should always be turned outwards in order to keep the correct alignment between the knees and the toes. Then you need to lower the buttocks and come back up.
The widening of the legs makes it easier to keep your back straight. That said, keep thinking about your posture to do the sumo squat well.
Within this variant, you can change the intensity. For example, do small pulses once at the bottom, go down twice, hold the squat for a few seconds, etc.
Also called the Cossack squat, this exercise is different from the traditional squat. And this, from the initial position.
You must, in fact, spread the feet beyond the width of the hips (while turning them outwards).
Then it’s about lower the weight of the body on one side only (like making a slit). For this you need to bend the knee on the side to be worked and keep the other leg straight.
Here are some tips for doing this exercise well:
Given that all your weight is concentrated on one leg, she will work harder.
The idea being to focus your efforts on each side, I advise you to stay on the same side during your series of squats. Then repeat the movements on the other leg. This is an interesting exercise for the thighs that is similar to side lunges.
There is also another version of the side squat. Here you perform classic squats. But you move right to left and left to right by bringing your feet together.
This exercise is particularly interesting if you dance or run. And for good reason, you must be aerial and have good support on the ground.
Often used to work the heart more intensely, squat jumps will give a little more rhythm. It is also often used in combos or sessions focused on strengthening / cardio.
For this you need to do a classic squat to the descent. But at the time of going up, give an impulse so as to jump. Then, you go back down into a squat, and start the operation again.
Here again, I give you some tips for doing the squat jump well:
This is a very cardio squat exercise, which will allow you both to burn more energy, but also to strengthen your muscles. Also know that it is more intense for your calves.
Variants with weights
The idea of weighted squats is to use the weights to load your muscles and make them stronger. It is particularly useful if you want to gain muscle mass.
For example, if you practice judo, you need to gain muscle strength. Likewise, if you ski, surf or snowboard, anchoring to the ground will help you improve your performance in these disciplines.
If you want to increase mass for aesthetics in the glutes or legs, also favor squats with weights.
Squats with a kettlebell
The starting position is that of the sumo squat. In other words, your legs are further apart than with a classic squat.
The difference is that you now have a weight. It can be a kettlebell or small weights.
Regarding the load, it depends on your abilities. But if you are a beginner, I advise you to select weights of 2 times 1 kilo. If you have never done squats with weights, do not start with 10 or 15 kg weights.
When you perform your squat, you can put them on your shoulders or carry them at arm’s length. For this second option, remember to keep the shoulder blades tight towards the back with the back straight.
If you’re using a kettlebell, you can also lower down holding the weight with your arms straight between your legs. Or else, carry the kettlebell at chest level for descent and ascent. This position will prevent you from bending your back.
As with all squat options, you can vary the rhythms: very slow descent and rapid ascent, small pulses at the bottom, etc.
Squat with a barbell or a training bag
You have the choice between the bar and the training bag.
The advantage of the latter is that it helps you keep a very good posture.
For its part, the bar allows you to load more according to your objectives.
Whatever equipment you choose, you can then make the rear bar squat or back squat. Here you should lay the barbell or training bag on your upper back (the fleshy part of the trapezius muscles, not the back of your neck). Once you’re in position, all you have to do is do your squat reps.
If you have a bar, you can also opt for the front squat or the front squat. The principle remains the same as before, except that the bar is positioned in front. In this case, I advise you to position your elbows at a 90º angle with your torso.
This exercise focuses on your quadriceps, but also your abs. The latter are particularly stressed to stabilize the load and to keep the balance with the weight of the bar.
Back squats or front squats this is the workout to do if you want rock solid thighs.
As you can see, there are plenty of squat variations. I therefore invite you to explore these possibilities to work the different muscle fibers and joints.
But before that, I also want to warn you about common mistakes to avoid.
Mistakes to avoid
While squats are easy to perform, there are several common mistakes that can reduce the benefits of this exercise.
If you’re doing the wrong squat form, you’re not activating the right muscles at the right intensity. And above all, these different errors can also force you to strain your joints too much. And there, it is the risk of injury that multiplies.
So to avoid them, I advise you to look in a mirror or film yourself while you exercise.