The squat is one of the best lower body exercises there is.
What the squat does:
· Targets and develops the thighs, butt, and core muscles.
· Increases your overall athletic performance; jump higher, run faster.
· Increases growth hormone and testosterone release; increase fat
burning, build more muscle.
· Increases bone density; combats osteoporosis.
Squatting is a basic functional movement that every person learns to perform as a baby. Before you could walk, you could squat with good form. Yet as we age, our bodies somehow lose the ability to perform a good squat. Very seldom do I walk into a gym and see the power racks filled with people squatting full range of motion with good technique. More often the racks are empty or occupied by someone doing barbell curls. If you’re serious about developing strong, athletic legs, then I highly suggest that you learn to squat and get strong in this movement. Here are three tips that will instantly improve your squat technique and lead to better gains in strength and performance.
Wear the right type of shoes. Great squats start at your feet. If your shoes aren’t up to the task, your technique and strength will suffer. A good squat shoe should have a flat, wide, and supportive sole, a strong supportive upper that locks the foot in place, and a slight offset in height from heel to toe. The best shoe in my opinion to squat in is an Olympic weightlifting shoe. It meets all the criteria mentioned above. Another good choice is high-top basketball shoes that meet the criteria listed above. Avoid squatting in shoes that have a lot of cushioning and deep arches. Running shoes and flimsy shoes should be avoided.
Drive your knees apart. Imagine there is a band around your knees and your trying to spread the band apart during the down and up portion of the movement. Driving the knees apart during the descent of the squat creates space in the hips, allowing you to hit proper depth while keeping a more upright position in the torso. Driving the knees apart during the ascent recruits the most powerful muscles in the body, your glutes. If you’re not recruiting your glutes to their full potential while you squat, you’re missing out on major strength potential.
Brace and set your core. Before you take the bar out of the rack, contract your core to brace your spine for the load. The golden rule is, the heavier the weight the harder you must contract your core. Practice bracing your core with light loads and being able to maintain good position for multiple repetitions. If you don’t brace and set your core during a squat, the weight will push you forward into a bad position. This robs you of being able to produce force in a mechanically efficient position of leverage, and will put you at a high risk of injury to your back.
If you want to develop strong, athletic legs you need to master and get stronger in the squat. Make sure to wear the right type of shoes, drive the knees apart during the down and up portion of the movement, and to brace and set your core before you take the bar out of the rack and maintain that brace until you put it back in the rack.
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