Written by R. S Jacobs
Like many others, I am always on the look out for the ultimate exercise that would not only kick my butt but also has tons of all-round benefits. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all forms of exercise and firmly believe that any movement is beneficial towards maintaining overall health. However, just like we all have a favourite colour, I have one exercise that I do everyday without fail – Squats!
People would mistake this exercise as a basic warm up technique, however what is often overlooked is the fact that squats are one of the most compound movements you can do. As babies, we naturally learn how to walk by mastering a basic squatting technique which impels us to learn how to balance our body weight using the lower body. As adults we squat daily in one way or another. You squat when you have to sit down, getting in and out of bed or even picking up something from the ground.
Undoubtedly, squatting is a fundamental motion used in our day-to-day lives, something that we do without even thinking about. To me, it seems like a no-brainer to introduce squat exercises to make your legs, thighs, and core muscles stronger and in turn, increase strength, mobility and balance. Squatting exercise works your entire body from head to toe, by engaging almost all muscle groups including your neck, back, stomach, hips, thighs, and feet. Due to this mass engagement of muscles, your body’s circulatory system gets fired up which revs up your metabolism. High metabolism means your body uses more calories, which will result in fat loss. The combination of all these functions working in unison has significant benefits.
In addition to the benefits, the beauty of squats is that it is quite a simple workout routine, and is low impact on the joints particularly for older people (It goes without saying that squatting with heavy weights will add significant strain on your body). It seems that there is a common stigma associated with squats, that suggests that it might be harming the knees or ankles but this is not the case when you take care to perform squats with good technique.
In fact, squats actually help to restore bad knees by conditioning them to become stronger, and inevitably prevent future damage. I know of people who had major knee surgery, and then gone on to re-condition their knee strength using a variety of squat techniques. Therefore, it is advisable to start using just your body weight and then slowly build yourself up by adding in weights such as dumbbells, kettle bells, or perhaps weighted bars. Try to aim for 4 sets of 10 reps and do it at least 3-4 times a week. Not only will these movements improve leg strength and promote definition, you also begin to see changes to your body.
Advantages of squats:
* Builds a strong back. We all know how important the back is, back injuries can put you out of a job, often significantly limiting your mobility, and it makes bending down feel like torture. Squats help to build your back muscles and in addition, every squat causes an increase in the flow of blood carrying extra oxygen which is very helpful in preventing inflammation or pain.
* Builds stronger bones. When you squat, your bodyweight stimulates your bones to increase density. It releases materials needed for the bones to become bigger and stronger in order to handle the force. Squatting will help towards preventing degenerative conditions, deficiencies or diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis.
* Increases flexibility. Due to the level of stretching required when squatting, all your connecting tissues, tendons, ligaments and muscles will begin to become more flexible. The trick is to practice this routine regularly to maintain flexibility, which will be highly salubrious as you age. Older people could benefit immensely from squats as it will help to maintain balance whilst also loosening stiff joints and muscles.
* Increase body muscle. Squats trigger natural human growth hormones within your body, which is a vital function for restoration of muscles and growth. As you incorporate squatting into your exercise routine, it will help to increase muscle mass in those areas you worked on. It also helps to balance out all-round body muscle, so you can avoid the dreaded ‘Forgot leg day?’ jokes!
* Burns fats. Due to the compound engagement of many muscle groups, your body automatically requires more energy to fuel itself. This activates the fat burning process, which leads to a reduction in excess fat storage. With the added benefit of building muscles, you will keep burning fat even after squatting.
* Improves body posture. People who sit a lot tend to have a much weaker core, demonstrated by a constant slouched appearance. Doing squats develop your core and back muscles to give you a taller, more upright, stronger and confident appearance.
* Booty gains. This is something that is very popular with women who are interested in fitness. Squat for that booty! The concept of strengthening your glutes is not something that is solely beneficial for women, as nobody likes a flat pancake butt! When you squat, you tighten the glutes which gives the butt a lift. Apart from the aesthetic benefit, toned glutes helps to maintain your balance and increase lower-back strength.
In conclusion, squats is an exercise that would not only help you achieve a lean and toned physique, but is also extremely beneficial in helping to prevent and reduce injuries as you aim to increase efficient body movements. Remember, squatting is something that you can do from the comfort of your own home, you don’t have to go to the gym, and all you need is your own bodyweight. Always aim to challenge yourself by adding more light weights and increasing repetitions as you start to see progress, and focus on excellent technique over high volume of weights or reps.
Stay strong, warriors !
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