November 17, 2016
When we think of resistance training exercises that keep us in good heart rate zones, the squat is probably one of the first to come to mind, right?
Squats are included in many fitness programs for a reason – they have been shown to be very effective at improving muscular fitness. The squat is a compound multi-joint exercise that primarily targets the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. It also requires involvement of the muscles of our back, lower legs, and abdominals.
In this Exercise Spotlight, we’ll talk about why we love squats, how to properly perform a squat, how to modify a squat, and squat variations.
Please keep in mind that the squat is a complex exercise; correct form, modifications, and progressions will vary person-to-person. As such, we cannot tell you how you should be squatting in this post; we will simply provide the basic information for you to build upon. This post is written for exercisers who do not have any lower extremity injuries and who have goals focused on general fitness, rather than sports performance. Please consult a personal trainer to find out if squats are appropriate to include in your workouts.
**Please consult a personal trainer to see if you are using any movement compensations during your squat.
Knees caving inward: If you notice your knees pointing inward of your feet as you ascend from your squat, think of pressing your knees outward. While your knees are unlikely to move wider than your feet, trying to press them out may achieve the goal of keeping them in line with your second and third toe.
Rounding or arching of low back: A proper squat maintains a slight, natural arch through the low back. Pressing your hips backward and keeping your chest lifted tall will help to facilitate this.
Excessive forward lean of torso: Some squatters must lean more forward than others due to their body’s unique dimensions. However, a general goal is to keep your chest lifted throughout the squat.
**Please consult a personal trainer to learn the best way to modify your squats to safely meet your individual needs.
You may progress your squats in the following ways:
Air squats are also known as bodyweight squats – you can perform them anywhere with no equipment required! It is important to perfect an air squat before moving onto other squat variations.
This type of squat is performed with a barbell typically placed on your upper trapezius (behind the top of your shoulders). Back squats are excellent for building lower body hypertrophy and strength.
This type of squat is performed with the barbell placed across the front of your shoulders. The positioning of the barbell tends to emphasize the quadriceps to a greater extent than back squats, but the glutes and hamstrings to a lesser extent.
You may perform a box squat using a plyo box, bench, or chair. At the lowest point of your squat, your glutes will touch the surface of the box, bench, or chair. You may sit all the way down or simply tap the surface and rise back up.
Hold a vertically positioned dumbbell in your hands, with your palms up and elbows tucked by your sides. When you lower down, keep your elbows inward of your knees.
These are tough, but they are great for identifying and evening out muscle imbalances! Bend your left knee and lift your left foot off the ground as you perform your squat. Repeat on the other side. We recommend starting out with just your bodyweight to perfect your single-leg squat form before adding any weight.
Unlike a traditional squat, a sumo squat requires you to step your feet wider apart and angle your toes away from the midline of your body (more of a turn out). Of course, always make sure your knees are aligned in the same direction as your feet. This variation gives your adductor muscles, or your inner thighs, a little extra challenge.
Begin with your feet parallel, hip-width apart. Step your left foot at a diagonal behind you and to your right, as though you are curtsying. Be sure to bend both knees and lift your chest. Press off your left foot to return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Get your heart rate zones up with the jump squat! At the top of your squat, jump into the air as high as you can. When you land, lower yourself into your next squat. These are great for earning lots of MEPs!
Squat Tuck Jumps
If you thought the jump squat was a challenge, brace yourself for squat tuck jumps! At the top of your squat, jump into the air and draw your knees up toward to your chest. Separate your feet to hip-width apart as you descend from the jump so you can get back into starting position for your next squat.
Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Separate your feet as you jump up, so that when you land your feet are parallel, about hip-width apart. Perform a squat, then jump back up to starting position with your feet together.
We want to see how you’re including squats in your workouts and staying in your heart rate zones! Be sure to post photos or videos of your workouts to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtags #myzonemoves and #effortrewarded so we can see how you’re doing!
For more exercises and tips on heart rate zones using MYZONE in your training, check out our #FitnessFriday Facebook Live broadcasts on the MYZONE Facebook page every Friday at 8 am PT, 11 am ET.
Keep Moving Forward!