Why would you want to squat? Strength, mobility and balance are all key to having a healthy body to use in your healthy lifestyle. As your fitness dreamer, it took a little while for me to become a believer in squats.
One of the top reasons to squat is for long term mobility. I had the amazing opportunity to care for my grandmother in her later years and witnessed the struggles of a sedentary lifestyle. It takes no time in our lives to lose muscle mass, and the long term implications of keeping that muscle working for you is so beneficial.
I spend 10-14 hours a day sitting and working on a computer. Every time I get up from my chair I feel the effort happening in those big muscle groups to get my butt up and in a standing position. Squatting is a functional movement we do naturally every day.
Starting out – work on your form and keep it tall.
Just like any exercise, the benefit comes if you are doing the movement right. Plant both feet shoulder width apart, wight on your heels. Pop your booty back, and bend at the knees. The goal is to try and sit in an invisible chair behind you until your thighs are as close to parallel to the floor as you can get. Stand back up and squeeze your glutes at the top of the move.
When you are first trying to work on your squats the number one mistake I see when coaching is the focus on moving down by bending the knees. When you are performing squats this way you will feel the effort more in your quads, the big muscles in the front of your legs.
The goal while building up your strength is to feel like you are sitting in an invisible chair behind you.
Top 10 Reasons to Squat
1. Improve knee stability
Keep those knees happy by building up and strengthening the connective tissue around your knees. Using your body weight in the right way is a better alternative than the machines at the gym. And you can do them anywhere.
2. Best total body strength movement
This move builds the most muscle growth across your whole body than any other movement. Gaining muscle means more calories burned day in, day out.
3. Plan for moving well into old age
Leg strength is a critical element to keeping up your mobility as we age. Getting in and out of chairs, on and off a toilet, are key to keeping out of assisted living.
4. Improve endurance
Strength training for endurance sports can impact injury preventing and correcting imbalances. The muscle groups involved with running, biking and swimming are all based in the squat. Improving a stronger base of muscle can make a run more efficient, a swim kick stronger and your cycle stroke gain power.
5. Balance gets better
Squats engage your stabilizing muscles that keep you balanced. Keeping core muscles engaged helps your brain communicate with the muscle groups that you from falling.
6. Posture is perfect
Posture is one of the best reasons to squat. The squat is a primary leg exercise but there are a lot of muscles involved in that movement. Your abs, lower back, upper back and obliques all get involved in good posture.
7. Build healthy bone
Lifting ourselves up and moving around builds mineral density to help avoid osteoporosis.
8. Pain relief
Endorphins kick in with exercise have a wonderful side effect. They are the body’s natural way to relieve pain!
9. Increase mobility
There are days when something drops on the floor and there is a moment where you consider how you will pick it back up. Getting down in a squat position adds to the mobility your body needs everyday.
10. Increase flexibility
Lack of flexibility in your hips and ankles is the most common issue that keeps you from squatting properly. You know your ankles are tight if it’s difficult to keep your heels on the ground during a squat. If you feel like you can’t take sit lower as you bend into the squat, your hip flexibility is tight. Stretching between workouts is key to adding more movement throughout your day.
Do you need a reason to squat today?
Start out slow and work up to what your body can manage. You won’t start with the most difficult option, and I don’t want you to. Keeping good form and learning the basics builds up the strength in the way you need.
Go get your fit on,
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Heather Montgomery is a fitness writer, triathlete, and blogger who is devoted to sharing what she has learned about becoming a triathlete after age 40. She uses her Metabolic Training Certification to help other women struggling to get fit in mid-life. She lives and trains in Santa Rosa, California, the new home of the Ironman triathlon. You can find her biking the Sonoma County wine trails.