One of the ultimate strength exercises that you can and should do are squats. This is a powerful exercise which requires a lot of effort so it burns a lot of calories. In addition, squats work nearly the entire lower body so they exercise multiple muscle groups, creating an even greater metabolic hike during the workout and for some times afterwards.
If you read my previous post about why leg exercises are great for fat loss, you know why I have such a thing for squats. They are simply awesome.
In this post I want to talk about squat variations, how to do them, and why you should experiment with a number of squat exercises to help you get a more complete and effective workout.
So, I hope that you’re ready for some lower body workout insanity courtesy of the squat exercise family. Here goes…
Standard Bodyweight Squat
The bodyweight squat may seem like a simple exercise but it is anything but. For one thing, you’re placing a great deal of strain on your knees and joints so you need to be careful when doing it.
All squats need to be done with caution so it’s good to explain how to do this variation first, as it’s the simplest one.
In this picture you see I have both arms stretched forward. This is good for balance but you may opt to keep your arms at your sides or place your hands on your waist.
As you can see, when I bend both knees to go down into a squat, I make sure to push my buttocks backward and to keep my knees at the line of my toes. This is the safe way to do squats. I choose not to bent my knees lower than 90 degrees to the ground to not place too much pressure on them.
The Y – Squat
The Y-Squat which I show in this picture is a great exercise that works the upper and lower body. By the way, I apologize for the squinting in this picture. Apparently the sun was in my eyes.
To do a Y- Squat you need to stand with your arms stretched in a diagonal line up and to the side. Basically, you’re trying to look like the letter Y. Your arms need to be fully stretched and tight toward the back. You should feel the tension in your upper back. You need to maintain this tension throughout the exercise.
Other than that, the Y-Squat is similar to the regular squat.
Squat and Dumbbell Raise
You can do this exercise with a single dumbbell held in both hands or one in each.
You can see the starting position on the left side of the picture above and the end position on the right. What you do is hold the dumbbells in front of you (you may rest them on your thighs). When you go into a squat, you need to swing both dumbbells with outstretched arms until they reach the height of your shoulder.
Keep the movement symmetrical and make sure to go back to the starting position slowly.
This exercise may not be so easy to do at first so you may need to use light weights in the first few tries and slowly build your stamina from there.
I like the side squat exercise because it works the lower body in a different way than other squats do. There is more emphasis on the inner thigh muscles. However, this also means that you need to do this exercise with caution to avoid straining your groin.
You begin this exercise as you do any normal squat: stand straight with your feet slightly apart. I like to do this squat variation with my hands at my waist.
Take a big step to the side, but not too big to avoid straining the groin. Bend both knees and push your butt backward. Feel the strain in your inner thighs. Rise. Go back to the starting position and take a step with the other leg to repeat the exercise on the other side.
The split squat is very similar to the lunge. In both cases, you have one foot forward and the other back and the end position is nearly identical. It is the movement which separates these two exercises.
While in a lunge you take a step forward (or backward) with one leg and then bend both knees, in the split squat both feet remain stationary. You begin the exercise by taking a step forward just as you would with a lunge. You bend both knees, making sure the front one stays behind your toes.
When you rise you don’t take a step back. You simply bend your knees again for another repetition. Only at the end of the set do you step back and switch legs.
Why Is All This Important?
The reason is that squats are simply an awesome exercise to get you warmed up at the beginning of a workout, to burn more calories, build stamina, and to build powerful legs. It tones your butt, your calves, and your thighs. I like all of these variations and I do them in my workouts. Each one trains the body in a slightly different way so you can get a complete workout experience.
I think that your workouts will also benefit from this kind of training so I hope that you will try some of these out. You should combine these with some calf exercises for an even better lower body workout.
If you’ve got any questions about squats, I’d love to answer them. Leave me a comment below.