Fitness 101: How To Get The Best From Your Squats
By Michelle October
Been eyeing out the squat rack but don’t want to look like an idiot walking up? Fear not — we show you how to squat like a boss.
Squats are responsible for some of the best real butts (think Beyoncé, Jessica Alba and Eva Longoria) – they tone a bunch of other muscles too. Unfortunately, says Mark Kramer, lecturer in biomechanics and exercise physiology at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, you’re probably doing it wrong. “What makes the squat complicated is that many people can’t even access their glutes – they can do the movement without using their bum muscles and it ends up becoming very quad-dominant,” he explains.
Do this test: stand up straight, feet shoulder-width apart (the inside of your feet should be in line with your armpits), then squeeze your butt cheeks together like you’re trying to crack a walnut. Now try lower yourself down to a seated position – still trying to crack the nut. Most people can’t keep squeezing past the first few centimetres, which means the muscles in your thighs are doing all the work instead of your bottom. If this is you, stick to squatting only as low as you can while squeezing. For your first foray into the form, aim for one to two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions with a 60-second break in between sets, says Kramer.
“It’s not about how deep you squat, but about the position of your knee,” says Ria Sandenbergh, chair of Sports Physiotherapy Group South Africa. Your knee should be in line with your middle toe and shouldn’t cross over your foot. Your butt should be pushed out and down. “Few people have the control to be able to hold this position and go down further than 100 degrees,” says Sandenbergh. Get your form right before you go any lower.
Squat For Your Goal
Toning: two to three times a week (light to moderate weight). Strength: one to two times a week (heavy to very heavy). Hypertrophy (bulking up): two to three times a week (moderate to heavy).
Maintenance: one to two times a week (moderate to heavy).
– You have a severe knee or lowerback injury.
– You’re pregnant