Benefits of Squats

The Benefits of Squats

The benefits of squats are numerous. Of course, the most obvious benefit is to build the tight butt we all secretly want. However, having a healthy lower body and core is extremely important to long-term health. Keeping your lower back, core, and legs strong (all of which are benefits of squats) will greatly decrease your chance of developing back and hip problems as your body inevitably ages.

Developing core strength is something you will be grateful for the rest of your life. One of the main reasons so many people have back problems as they age is because our upright walking position is a little unnatural. As gravity compresses the spine over time, our muscles are forced to compensate more and more. (This is one of the reasons stretching is so important. I highly recommend working out with Yoga.)

Another benefit of squats, is the natural workout of your lower back muscles. Having strong muscles around your abdomen and lower back is crucial for supporting your spine.

The obvious purpose of squats is strong quads and glutes. Having a strong lower body will help you naturally rely on your legs and gluteus muscles instead of your weaker back muscles for general day-to-day lifting and moving things.

Squats will benefit your abs as well. Almost all squatting exercises indirectly work your abdominal muscles and lower back, especially if you focus on maintaining good posture and bend from the waist and knees. This (in combination with clean eating) can produce a toned stomach and lower back.

Finally, squats work all of your muscles together as they are meant to, helping prevent long-term injury.

Strengthening your base muscles (gluteus, hip flexors, and quads) is a great help during and after pregnancy, which can be one of the greatest causes of chronic back pain for women. However, it is important to note that some of the benefits of squats can be lost during certain stages of pregnancy. Always be sure to exercise with caution, and follow a doctor's guidelines. 

Suggestions for Sets
and Reps

To bulk up, do higher weights and fewer reps. I personally never recommend this method for women, and rarely for men.

To build strength and natural muscle tone, do lower weights and higher reps. I highly recommend this method to everyone, because its easier on your body and is less likely to lead to injury.

My Personal Sets of Repetitions Method

  1. I start with a weight that is easy for me. I’ll do 4 sets of 10 reps. 
  2. The next week, using the same weight, I’ll do 4 sets of 12 reps.
  3. The next week, using the same weight, I’ll do 4 sets of 15 reps.
  4. The next week, I increase my weight by 5lbs, and return to 4 sets of 10 reps.

So on and so forth…

This method is very easy on your body, and helps ensure you are constantly strengthening your muscles without injuring them. Long recovery times between workouts should not be necessary if you are caring for your body correctly.

Squat Exercises

Quadricep, Gluteus Maximus, Abductors (Hip Flexors), and Adductors (Inner Thigh)

It's pretty much impossible to work your quads or gluteus without working these other muscles. All of these types squats are meant to very directly benefit your quadriceps and gluteus. They indirectly benefit your abductors (hips), adductors (inner thighs), low back, abdominal muscles, and calves. I've also added some squat modifications that more directly exercise your hip flexor and inner thigh muscles. 

Quadricep Exercises

Although these squats are meant to primarily benefit your quads, you'll probably notice a lot of focus on your gluteus as well. Pretty much all squats work those muscles.

Keeping your muscles engaged and moving slowly, help you control the motion and get a deeper workout. Even though this ultimately works the muscle harder, the extra control actually makes it feel easier during the exercise.

You will find you are able to squat deeper, and stand up easier from that squat when you are keeping your quads and gluteus engaged.

You will get the most benefit from all of these squats, if you squeeze the muscle you are focusing on for the entire rep.

Front Squat | Squat Workout | Front Squats
  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart and your toes pointing straight forward. 
  2. Sit down as if sitting in an invisible chair.
  3. Hold for a moment, then slowly stand back up. 
  • Don't let your knees extend past your toes. 
  • For maximal benefit, keeping your gluteus clenched, hold in the seated position for at least five seconds.
  • To increase difficulty, you can hold a dumbbell or kettlebell while you squat.

Squat Jump

A jump squat is ideal for extra glute and calf strengthening. However, since you are jumping it is very important to pay attention to your form, in order to prevent injury.

  1. Be certain your feet are facing fully forward, your legs are spread hip-width, and your weight is distributed evenly.
  2. Sit down as far as you can (farther is better for launching), making sure your knees do not protrude past your toes
  3. Launch yourself up into a jump. It often helps to lean forward on your toes a bit. You should feel the motion in your calves the most. 
  4. Land in a standing position and start over.

I do not recommend trying this with any kind of weight, because it increases your chances of a faulty landing causing an injury. If you are absolutely determined to hold extra weight during this one, I would try it with ankle weights and then make the effort to jump higher with the weights on.

Smith Machine Squats

  • I recommend the smith machine over a barbell squat, because it is much safer. The rack makes an instant spotter.
  • However, I recommend using kettlebells over bar weights for legs, because the extra weight on your top end can over-exert your lower back muscles. It is really best to use a brace around your lower back for all of these kind of exercises.
  • With a kettlebell or a dumbbell, all of the weight is controlled by your stronger arm and leg muscles, and your back is only responsible for holding you upright. (As it should be)
  • That said, this is how you do a smith machine squat.
  1. Stand with your feet straight, and hip-width apart.
  2. Grip the bar where your hand feel like they are comfortable
  3. The bar should rest in the middle of your shoulder blades.
  4. You should stand slightly in front of the bar, and lean back on it a little bit.
  5. DO NOT set the bar on top of your shoulders, your arms are responsible for holding the bar to your body.
  6. Sit down as far as you can.
  7. Don't let your knees extend past your toes

Seated Squat Machine (Leg Presses)

This is another machine that I love. 100% of the weight is put on your lower body, and none of it is on your spine. Thus making it a bit harder on your strong thighs and gluteus and not hurting your weaker low-back muscles in the process.

  1. Start with your feet hip-width apart on the platform. (Adjust the machine to seat you as close to the bottom as you can for the hardest workout)
  2. Push straight out like you're trying to stand up.
  3. Hold for a moment, and slowly set the weight back down.

There are further benefits to the laying down version of this squat. You lie on your back and push the weight straight in the air. This is just as good. The lying down version is actually a little harder and will give you a better workout with less weight.

Hip Exercises (Abductors)

These squats are modified to more directly benefit your hip flexors, however they are still squats and as such still very directly work out your gluteus and quads. 

You will get the most benefit from these squats, by squeezing your muscles during the motion of the exercise. Keeping your hips and gluteus engaged during the exercise will give the most control.

Closed-Toe Squats

Squatting with your knees together redirects some of the pressure from your quads to your hip flexors. This intensifies the workout for your abductors, while giving your thighs a little break.

You can apply this to any kind of squat; smith machine, dumbbell, kettlebell, etc...

I really don't recommend jumping for this kind of squat because the position of your feet can complicate the landing.

  1. Stand with your feet and knees together.
  2. Clench your buttocks, and sit down.
  3. Hold in a seated position for a moment, then stand up.
  4. Keep your muscles clenched to control the movement.

Adductor (Inner Thigh) Muscles

These squats are modified to more directly exercise your inner thigh muscles. Exercising your adductors will also strengthen your pelvic floor, which is beneficial to long term health.

Because most people's inner thigh muscles are small, weaker muscles, it's important not to overexert them and cause a strain or injury early on. If you're new to exercising these muscles, I'd recommend starting without any weight.

The adductor modifier increases pressure on your quads and inner thighs and reduces the effort of your gluteus and hips. 

Keeping your inner thighs and quads engaged during these exercises will still yield the most benefit.

I prefer strengthening smaller muscles with less weight more frequently, this helps avoid getting injured early on.

  1. Stand with your toes pointed outward about 45 degrees, and your legs slightly spread. 
  2. Clenching your quads to control the motion, sit down, dropping your knees directly over your toes without protruding past them.
  3. Hold for a moment and stand back up, keeping your muscles clenched and controlled.

Side Lunges

Remember the lunges from our glute page? This modification will target your inner thighs instead.

  • Step wide to the side, squatting down on the one leg while keeping the other leg straight. 
  • You could repeat on the one leg, or alternate between right and left.
  • Stand back up slowly and repeat. See the textbox above for suggestions on how many reps and sets you should do.

Why wait to receive the benefits of squats? It’s healthy, it’s fun, and it makes you feel more confident in your healthy, strong body!

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