Whether you are trying to lose weight or build muscle, a squat is one of the best resistance training exercises for you.
However, it is also one exercise I see that people do incorrectly.
In this article, we shall be looking at how to do squats properly, variations of squats, the number of squats a beginner should do, and the benefits of doing squats.
What is a squat?
A squat is a strength exercise in which the trainee lowers his or her hips from a standing position and then stands back up. On the descent of a squat, the hip and knee joints flex while the ankle joint bend dorsally; conversely the hip and knee joints extend, and the ankle joint flex when standing up.
Squats generally work on muscles of the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, and calves; and have a lot of health benefits which we shall look at later on.
Squats have different variations but don’t totally differ from the basic squat. These different variations may target the body differently and also burn calories at a different rate.
Even though you aren’t using workout equipment, squats need good gear to be performed properly. The gear may include; comfortable workout clothes, an exercise mat, and nice training shoes.
How to do squats properly.
Start by standing tall, feet a little more than hip-width apart. Your feet should be pointing forward and parallel to each other
Your shoulders should be relaxed, chest lifted, and arms to the side.
Tighten the core for stability, thrust the chest upward, and start to shift your weight to the heels.
Push your hips behind as you lower yourself like you are going to sit on an invisible chair.
Continue to lower yourself until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. At this point, your thighs should be parallel to the floor.
Through all the process, your feet should remain on the ground. You should also keep your chest lifted throughout the workout.
Stand back to complete the rep. Do 12-15 reps per set. Don’t forget to inhale as you lower yourself down and exhale as you rise up.
What are the other variations of squats?
Besides the basic squats, there are different variations that target different muscle groups and are done a little differently from the basic squat.
This is a variation of squats that is similar to the basic squat but has an explosive rise in form of a jump.
Jump squat targets the glutes, thighs, hips, and legs.
The sumo squat targets more of the inner thighs and glutes. To perform the sumo squat, your feet should be pointed out wide with a huge step between them.
This is similar to the basic squat but is done while holding dumbbells. Dumbbells add resistance and increase strength.
While holding dumbbells, you also get to work your arms too.
What’s different about this squat is that instead of immediately raising up after you lower yourself, you instead pulse while in the squat position. You can pulse for about 10 seconds and then rise up to complete the rep.
With this variation, instead of stopping at a 90-degree squat, you go all the way down.
You can choose to hold a weight for more resistance.
There are very many other variations of squats and some of them are
- Side squat.
- wall squat.
- Pistol squat.
- Single leg squat.
- Pile squat.
And many more. You can see all variations of squats from the article by Healthline here.
How many squats should a beginner do?
For a beginner or starter, it is not recommended to push so hard and at the same time don’t do less. Just do what’s enough. you can always increase as you get stronger and experienced.
3 sets of 12-15 repetitions several times a week will be effective without causing muscle strain at the same time. 3 sets of 12-15 reps mean that you do squats 12 -15 times, take a rest, and then do another 12-15 repetitions of squats and another final set after a little rest.
What are the benefits of squats?
Since they target various muscle groups, squats have got a lot of health benefits. Among the muscles they target are butt muscles, inner and outer thighs, groin, hip flexors, and calves.
Let’s look at the benefit of doing squats.
- Strengthens the core: squats engage and strengthen the muscles of the core. A strong core can improve your balance, help relieve back pain, and correct your posture.
- Burns calories: squats are great aerobic exercises that can get you burning up to 223 calories in 30 minutes. The calories burned however depend on many factors such as a person’s body weight, and intensity of squats. This means that squats can help burn fat if done properly.
- Strengthen the lower body muscles: since squats target many lower body muscles, they can strengthen them.
- Increase athletic performance and strength: adding squats to your workout routines can help improve your athletic ability, endurance, and stamina.
- Stress relief: workouts generally can improve moods and help get rid of stress.
- Squats can also increase flexibility.
- They can also strengthen the bones and joints.
Can I just do squats to lose weight? And can they help me lose belly fat?
Before I answer the question, here is what you should know about weight loss.
In order to lose weight, one should be in a calorie deficit. This simply means that he or she burns more calories than they consume. To achieve this, some people choose to restrict calorie intake to that which their bodies can burn.
On the other side, workouts are effective calorie burners. Choosing the right exercise can help you reach a calorie deficit and lose weight.
Let’s get this straight, squats cannot be used as an exercise to selectively burn belly fat. Squats can burn general body fat and of which belly fat is inclusive.
To fully get how many calories you burn during squats, you will need to put into consideration your body weight, intensity, and time spent while doing squats in minutes.
Here are some of the calculations from Healthline. For a person who weighs 140 pounds (63.5 kilograms) working out at low intensity will burn 19 calories in 5 minutes, 58 calories in 15 minutes, and 97 calories in 25 minutes.
The same person doing squats at a high intensity will burn 44 calories in 5 minutes, 133 calories in 15 minutes, and 222 calories in 25 minutes.
This means that the more the body weight and intensity, the more calories burned. You will be able to lose weight as long as the squats are done properly and are challenging to your body.
Is it OK to do squats every day?
Doing squats regularly will not hurt you as long as you keep the sets and reps at a reasonable amount.
When you choose to use weights while doing squats, hold weights that don’t strain your hands and muscles to avoid injury.
However, if you happen to experience pain that doesn’t stop even after exercise, it is either you doing the exercise wrong or too much that you are straining your body.
If you happen to have a history of back pain or a medical condition that affects the back, first consult your doctor before doing squats.
When you do proper squats and keep your reps and sets at a reasonable amount, you will burn enough calories with out any injuries.
However, when you do the same exercises over and over again, you might reach a point when your body is used and therefore no longer challenged.
When you see that you are performing exercises with ease and they are no longer challenging, just know that you are then burning fewer calories. For exercises to be effective, they must be challenging and make you sweat.
At this stage, do different variations of squats or consider the use of weights. You can also choose to involve other cardio workouts in your routine for fun, effectiveness, and targeting other different muscle groups.
The bottom line.
When done properly, squats can help you lose weight, correct your posture and strengthen joints, and the core. However, squats are not the only calorie-burning exercises. Find out more from;
The ideal workout routine for weight loss (4 must do’s)