Jackie Wright: Sensational Squats
February 16, 2012
Squats are an excellent lower body exercise (i.e. quadriceps/hamstrings/glutes, etc.) which also requires significant engagement of the core musculature to ensure stability of the spine. And, while there are certainly situations when squats, regardless of variation, may be contraindicated for the few, in general, when properly executed, the squat is a functional exercise which packs a tremendous punch (i.e. squats simulate sitting down and standing up-it does not get much more functional than that!).
Variations, however, keep it interesting for the mind/body connection, help to prevent overuse injuries, challenges the body and enables you to continue improving lower body strength throughout your life time. Therefore, check out the featured 20 different squat variations (five this week; fourteen next week) performing one to three of the variations each month for the remainder of 2012. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
20 Great Squat Variations
When performing any squat variation, please follow these guidelines to ensure safety and effectiveness:
• In general, stand erect with the legs approximately shoulder distance apart, head/neck/shoulders are a natural extension of the spine, shoulders rotated back/down, shoulders/hips/knees and toes all facing the same direction, knees relaxed and the body weight in the heels.
• Rib cage is lifted, navel pulled toward the spine and the pelvic floor pulled up fully engaging the core muscles.
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• Hinge from the hips, aim your tailbone toward the wall behind you, never dropping the torso as you lower the body toward the floor. The deepest flexion recommended is 90 degrees at the knee and hip joints.
• Avoid permitting knees shooting over toes-you should always be able to see your shoes laces.
• Then, drive your heels into the floor as you press up into extension-avoid locking the knees.
#1 – The Chair Squat – if you are new to squats beginning with a chair squat is an ideal variation. Choose a stable/firm chair that will enable you to sit down into the chair and stand up securely.
#2 -The Supported Squat – a fantastic option for those with knee, back or balance limitations. Stand in front of a stable Smith Machine bar and squat back/stand up while holding the bar at shoulder height. *Tip: Avoid pulling yourself up with the bar.
#3 – Partner Squats – a fun option and actually a teaching tool for trainers to provide the client with the “feel” of a squat without poor execution issues. Facing one another, hold hands lightly with your partner; make certain you are both stable, then you both squat back/stand up.
#4 – The Wall Squat – a great variation for those who have progressed from the chair and supported squats. Facing away from a stable wall put a stability ball against the wall placing and keeping, the “small” of the back into the ball. Then, just sit down and stand up keeping the knees directly in alignment with the heels.
#5 – The Free-Standing Squat w/no external resistance – once you have mastered the wall squat, it may be time to attempt a free-standing squat. You may wish to have a stable support next to you just in case you feel your stability waning; however, the same rule applies, squat back/stand up.
Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Never Summer Fitness, LLC located in Grand Lake, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at http://www.neversummerfitness.com, her email at NSFGL@comcast.net, her blog at http://www.skyhidailynews.com and her Facebook page at Never Summer Fitness.