Personal trainers agree that squats are one of the most beneficial exercises you can include in your exercise routine. When they’re done properly they give your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core a killer workout. “And they expend a ton of energy, so they’re a staple exercise for weight loss,” says Mark Vendramini, a Toronto-based personal trainer and co-owner of Bootcamp University.
People often stay too upright when squatting, says Vendramini. “Instead of just bending your knees, reach back with your bum and keep your weight in your heels rather than in the front of your feet.” To avoid knee and back issues, don’t let your knees roll inward or outward and keep your chest lifted even at the bottom of the movement, he adds.
Though squats look like a simple movement, Vendramini finds it can sometimes take several sessions with a client to perfect the form.
Here are step-by-step instructions for the perfect squat:
Standard version: Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead or very slightly turned out. Shift your weight back into your heels and tighten your core. Keeping your chest lifted and looking straight ahead, lower your hips down and back aiming them for an invisible chair that’s set back just a little too far. Keep your knees over your toes, and go no lower than thighs parallel to the ground. Press down into your heels to return to a standing position.
Easier version: Place a pillow (or two) on a chair, and squat down until your hips lightly touch it. Return to the start position. Or stand with your back about one foot length away from a wall, and squat until your hips lightly touch the wall.
Easiest version: Sit on a large exercise ball with your feet hip-width apart. Bounce up and down, and lift your hips a few inches off the ball by shifting your weight forward into a squat position on every third or fourth bounce.
Harder version: Hold dumbbells in each hand as you squat. If you like, add a biceps curl or a lateral raise after each repetition.
Choose the version that best suits your fitness level. Try two or three sets of 10 repetitions on alternating days, gradually increasing the number of repetitions.
Barb Gormley is a certified personal trainer and a freelance health and fitness writer. You can contact her at www.barbgormley.com.