Squats are a super effective exercise that simultaneously tones and strengthens several larger muscle groups in the hips, thighs, and butt. Squatting motion requires movement across multiple joints and engages core muscles as a result of maintaining balance.
Squats (as well as lunges) are often regarded as the “gold standard” in lower body exercises. They are portable- meaning they can be done anywhere without the need for special equipment. And because squats mimic real-life physical movement such as bending/lifting or standing up from a seated position, they are considered to be an important “functional” exercise designed to enhance the activities of daily life.
As with any exercise, proper form is crucial in helping minimize the likelihood of injury. When squats are performed incorrectly, excess pressure can be placed on the patellar tendon which may result in pain (McCall, 2011). Additionally, as pain and the risk of injury increase, so does recovery time between workouts. This can potentially create a barrier to maintaining a regular workout schedule and ultimately hamper your fitness goals.
The ACE Fit website offers a comprehensive exercise library with pictures and step-by-step instructions on how to correctly perform various movements- including the basic bodyweight squat. Proper squat form involves the following:
Begin by standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. While engaging your core, shift your weight back onto your heels as you begin hinging at the hips and lowering towards the floor. As you slowly lower, be aware of where your knees are in relation to your toes. If you find your bent knee is traveling beyond the line of your toes or if your weight shifts onto the balls of your feet, it’s likely that your knees are absorbing excess pressure. Keeping your weight shift on your heels while in the downward phase will help you maintain better form and avoid potential pain and injury. Return to the starting position by pushing your feet into the floor through your heels while exhaling on the way back to upright standing.
Maintaining proper form extends beyond the simple squat and serves as the basis for keeping exercises both safe and effective. You may consider visiting the ACE Fit website to find a trainer in your area. A certified fitness professional will help you develop proper form and appropriately progress your program over time to keep workouts challenging, fun, and above all- safe.