Squats are a functional exercise - ones that help your body perform real life activities - and are one of the best and most natural ways of toning your body.
Contrary to what some may think, squats aren’t just for body builders or weight lifters; they’re for everyone wanting to tone up at any age and they can be done anywhere, at any time, without the need for specific equipment. Some people even say that squatting is the best exercise you can do.
When you bend to tie your shoelaces or to pick up something from the floor, you are actually squatting. It’s a natural form of exercise. The only difference between those actions and squatting workouts is that while doing squat exercises, you deliberately maintain a correct posture to gain some intended benefit.
Squat exercises can be done with or without weights. Either way will benefit you, and by adding weights will lead to improvements to overall muscle mass. However, if you do use weights be sure to squat correctly to avoid injury.
Twelve Major Benefits of Doing Squats
1. Squats Help Build Muscle.
They don’t just help you achieve wonderful, toned legs; they promote body-wide muscle building by creating an anabolic (muscle building) environment in the body. They work up your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abdominal muscles, lower back and your butt too. Not many exercises can claim to recruit so many muscles at the same time!
2. Squats Burn Calories Fast.
Because they help you build muscle, you’ll become more efficient at burning calories so you can get to that slimmer physique faster. Add weights to your squats and you’ll burn the calories even quicker.
3. Squats Help Improve Flexibility.
Improving your flexibility should be part of any well-rounded workout trainingplan. Our muscles, tendons and ligaments become less elastic with age so doing all we can to slow down this process is a good idea. Squatting regularly will see you limber up and become more flexible as the exercise involves bending and stretching of the leg muscles.
4. Squats Help with Mobility and Balance.
Strong legs are essential for staying mobile as you get older, and that’s where squats come in. Not only do they develop leg strength, they also work out your core, stabilising muscles. These muscles help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls.
5. Squats Help Strengthen Your Lungs and Heart.
The effort required to squat helps strengthen your cardiac muscles and improve your lung capacity, especially once you start adding weights.
6. Squats Can Help Prevent Injuries.
Most athletic and workout injuries involve weak ligaments, connective tissues and stabiliser muscles (muscles that aren't directly involved in a movement, but work to keep you steady so that your primary muscles can do their job). Squats actually help to strengthen these supportive tissues, which can mean the difference between an injury or not. Remember, though, technique is paramount when performing any exercise – including squats – in order to avoid injury.
7. Squats Can Maintain & Improve Your Joints.
As squatting engages your hips, knees and ankles at the same time, the load not only helps build muscle, but also improves joint health and joint strength.
8. Squatting Keeps Bones Strong.
As squatting is a load bearing exercise, it helps with overall strength which is great for younger people, and also older people who may have a low bone density. The strengthening will therefore help with injury prevention.
9. Improves Your Speed and your Ability to Jump.
Due to improved strength in your body’s lower extremities, the ability to produce power is improved. As a result, your acceleration and jumping ability is improved. Great for your tennis game!
10. Postural Improvements.
With improved core strength and leg strength, your posture will also benefit. This is because posture is influenced by muscles in your front back, which work together. However, be sure to combine squatting with stretching and mobilising!
11. Squats Improve Digestion and Circulation.
An overlooked benefit of doing squats relates to circulation and digestion. The speed in which fluids travel through your body is improved when exercising your leg muscles, which allows more oxygen and nutrients to travel through your body’s organs. This includes improvements to small intestine efficiency.
12. Improve Your Daily Life & Physical Abilities.
Naturally, with all of these improvements, daily tasks such as getting up from a seated position or lifting objects will become easier which is especially important for later in life.
In addition, squats are perfect for cardio and sports that involve the lower body. They’ll help you move and play longer.
How to Do Squats Properly
Similar to other exercises, squatting properly is critical to ensure you maximise the benefits and prevent injury.
Here are some guidelines to consider:
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your feet parallel.
Put your hands on your thighs, look up and lift your chest.
Bend your knees, put weight on your heels, and slightly sit back.
Slide your hands down your thighs, so that your elbows reach your knees. Ensure your knees don’t go beyond your toes and keep your head and chest upright.
Hold that position for 3-5 seconds.
Rise back upwards, press through your heels, and straighten out your hips until you reach the starting position.
Repeat this process 10 to 20 times. To start with, do this two to three times a week.