Health & Fitness
The power of squat
Saturday April 02 2022
- The squat is a compound exercise that works all major muscles groups in the body but specifically targets the muscles in the legs, lower back, and core.
- Despite its benefits in strengthening muscles and burning fats, it is a nightmare for many fitness enthusiasts who most of the time skips leg day in the gym to avoid squatting.
- Fitness trainer Jotham Kusienya says that people worry that squats can endanger their knees and hips, but he explains the exercise can do the reverse.
There are strength exercises then there are squats. Despite being arguably the best lower-body strength workouts, most people dread it for being hard and taxing to the body.
The squat is a compound exercise that works all major muscles groups in the body but specifically targets the muscles in the legs, lower back, and core.
But despite its benefits in strengthening muscles and burning fats, it is a nightmare for many fitness enthusiasts who most of the time skips leg day in the gym to avoid squatting.
Fitness trainer Jotham Kusienya says that people worry that squats can endanger their knees and hips, but he explains the exercise can do the reverse by helping maintain stability, function, and flexibility of the hips, knees, and ankles.
Squats are a critical workout necessary to improve one’s athleticism and reduce injury risk, supporting lifelong physical activity provided it is properly executed.
“Squat is a dynamic strength training exercise that requires several muscles in the lower and upper body to work together. Many of the muscles help in daily tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, bending carrying heavy loads, and performing athletic-related activities,” says Kusienya.
Squats are not just about getting a perky posterior and toned thighs but the compound exercise engages several large muscle groups.
To perform a squat, a person should stand with the feet shoulder-width apart and the toes pointing slightly outward with the arms straight out in front.
Then bend the knees to push the hips backward, keeping the back straight and the torso upright. Once the knees reach a 90-degree angle or lower, push back up through the feet to straighten the legs.
Kusienya advises that the knees should be in line with the feet while keeping the weight on the balls of the feet to avoid tilting forward with the heels on the floor throughout the movement, back straightened, and torso upright.
“Master the squat position by using your body weight well to avoid injuries. Squatting wrongly can cause injuries. Don’t go too low or too fast. Engage the core and use weights gradually,” he says.
Despite being a lower-body exercise, squats can also work the upper body depending on the variations one chooses to incorporate into their exercise regimen.
“Squats strengthen leg muscles including the quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings; strengthening the lower back, improving flexibility in the lower body while also burning fat and promoting weight loss.”
The variations include basic, wall, prisoner, sumo, squat jumps, split, walking, goblet, pistol, lateral and overhead squats.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Keep the chest up engaging the abs while shifting your weight onto the heels then push down and back into a sitting position.
This type of workout targets muscles in the backs of the legs, including the glutes and hamstrings.
To perform it, take a box or bench then stand in front of the box facing away from it. Squat down until the knees are at a 90-degree angle to sit on the box or bench then push back up slowly, keeping the heels on the floor.
It targets quads, glutes, and hamstrings helping to engage the core more while improving an individual’s balance.
Start with feet about shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and hands interlaced behind the head.
Keep the head up and chest forwards as well as arms behind your head then go down and up.
These squats involve having the feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out at about 45 degrees and hands-on-hips. Then bend the knees going down until they are about parallel to the floor then push up to the start position. It works inner thighs and glutes.
They target the quadriceps and glutes. In a basic squat position, take a few steps forwards then backward while keeping the torso upright and looking forwards. Jump squats
Squat jumps are used for adding explosiveness to the strength exercise. From a basic squat position, go to the bottom of the squat then power up from the toes into a jump before dropping straight back into the basic squat.
“It is recommended for athletes as it helps them develop explosive strength and speed which in turn helps improve athletic performance,” says Joseph Kisaka, a personal fitness trainer at Great Body Fitness Centre, Nairobi.
Split squats target the abs more as they work one leg at a time and are good for stability and balance.
With one foot in front of the other and hands on the hips, bend the front knee until it is parallel to the floor but not past the toe.
Drop the back knee down towards the floor. Switch to perform the exercise again on the other side.
This type of squat involves using weight, a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands, elbows bent and close to the centre of the chest with the feet slightly wider than shoulder-width and toes pointing out slightly.
Squat down keeping the torso upright, head looking forwards, and the weight close to your chest. This workout works the core, back, forearms, shoulders, and biceps
The overhead squat increases mobility, stability and strengthens the core, shoulders, and upper back. It involves holding a ball or barbell overhead with a wide grip then going through the motions of squatting.
Kisaka says that men do not like squats but prefer upper body exercise to show off forgetting that a compound workout gives the body a symmetric look.
“One should never miss doing squats. Do between 10 and 15 reps of three or four sets for four days a week. Give yourself three months to start seeing results and be consistent.”