04:41PM, Thursday 24 October 2019
Every women’s magazine that you might read, or any fitness piece on the TV will usually feature squats. They seem to be the mainstay of every fitness related article or trend. This is rightly so, but why are squats so good?
Squats are great for weight loss. They help you lose weight by increasing the size and activity of the large leg muscles and so increase our metabolic rate. This is the amount of energy we use in everyday tasks. This means we expend more energy - even at rest. This makes the creation of a calorific deficit much easier than restricting calories alone. Yes, cardio will burn energy – and fat – but only for the amount of time that we do it (with a little bit of afterburn if you worked hard). But strength training, in particular squats, makes us burn more energy all the time.
They use hundreds of muscles at once – squats use over 300 muscles – many of them large ones that will give the metabolic rate a boost. Not only do we work the quads (thigh), hamstrings (back of the leg) and glutes, squats also work the muscles of the back, core, feet and lower leg. Using all these muscles at once is great for weight loss, co-ordination and strength. This makes them much better value than other exercises that just work one or two small muscles (like crunches).
Squats are functional. Wikipedia says this about functional training – “Functional training attempts to adapt or develop exercises which allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries”. The squat, almost more than any other exercise is a movement that we use over and over in daily life, from sitting down to lifting heavy objects.
Squats prevent injury. Because they are so functional, squats make us strong in all the right places. Thus they decrease the likelihood of injury when picking up bags, twisting awkwardly, lifting objects and playing sport.
Squats increase bone density. As we age, part of the ageing process in loss of bone density. Because they are weight bearing and working across many joints, squats are great for maintaining strong bones.
Squats can prevent a bad back. By strengthening the pelvis, and in particular the glutes, squats make sure that we are using our muscles in the correct way and in the correct order. A strong pelvis provides a good foundation for a healthy back.
How to do a squat – some tips
Make sure that you are warmed up.
Keep a neutral spine, don’t round the back.
Lower yourself down until the back of your legs are parallel with the floor.
Ensure that the knees stay behind the toes.
Keep a controlled tempo – 2 seconds up and 2 down.
Aim to do around 14 repetitions – if you can do more then consider adding weight. It should be getting physically challenging after 12 repetitions, so add weight accordingly.
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