Essential Exercises for Health: Squats

Squats are an essential part of a strength training routine. The benefits of squatting are the development strength and power, alleviating joint pain in the lower body, improving muscular endurance, and increasing muscle tone in the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. One of the reasons why it is an essential exercise is because of the way it can be progressed. It can start as simple as using the assistance of a TRX and it can progress into maximal strength training with the barbell. Squats can also be to used to improve balance depending on what variation you’re using, like squatting on a bosu ball or balance disc. Depending on your goal, squats can be progressed slowly and methodically to improve your strength, power, and muscular tone. The squat should be one of the foundations of your training to use your whole life.

How to Perform

  • The general rule is to start with your heels at shoulder width (this can vary slightly depending on the individuals anthropometry).
  • After the heels are set, point the toes out at 30 degrees. This will put you in a position where you can more easily drive your knees out to the sides while you squat, therefore, making a full squat easier to perform. It also allows your adductor muscles (inner thighs), and external rotators (sides of the glutes) to be involved in the movement.
  • When you’re ready to squat, start by shoving your knees out to the sides while driving your hips backward. Drop into the squat with your back flat and stop once your hips pass just below the knees. This will assure that you are doing a full squat.
  • Once you reach a full squat drive your hips upward as your knees and hips extend until you reach an upright position.

How to Start

Your current fitness level will determine how you start using the squat in your routine. If you are inexperienced and new to working out you will start with lower volume (sets x reps x weight). Typically the more experienced you become with weight training the more volume is completed in your workouts. Here’s a general guideline.

Inexperienced

Times performed per week: 1
Sets: 1-3
Reps: 10-20
Weight: Bodyweight / Light

Some Experience

Times performed per week: 1-2
Sets: 3-4
Reps: 10-15
Weight: Light / Moderate

Experienced

Times performed per week: 1-3
Sets: 5-7
Reps: 8-12
Weight: Moderate / Heavy

Things to Know

  • Sets can increase to 7-20 sets depending on experience, fitness level, and goal.
  • Max effort squats will be used as you gain experience with the lift. Where reps will decrease to 1-5 reps.
  • Techniques like drop sets, strip sets, rest-pause sets, and isometric holds can and should be used to increase intensity as your body adapts to your normal routine.