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Squats - Muscles Worked & Benefits

Exercise Type: Multi-joint
Primary Muscles Worked: Quads
Secondary Muscles Worked: Glutes, Calves, Hamstrings and Lower Back

Full squats are designed to build strength and mass in the legs. All areas of the legs including the quads, calves, glutes and hamstrings are targeted as well as the lower back. Squats are one of the best exercises for your entire thighs, designed to build mass and power by emphasising all four heads of the quads simultaneously. Squats should be a mainstay in any of your thigh workouts.

Squats - Exercise Workout & Technique

  • Position yourself under a barbell on a squat rack.
  • Align your feet so that they are shoulder-width apart, with your toes turned slightly outward.
  • Rest the barbell across the back of your shoulders. If there is no padding on the bar, you may find that you need to use a towel as a substitute.
  • Brace your core and lift the bar off the rack and take a step back.
  • Squats can be completed with your feet flat on the floor or with your heels on a small weight plate.
  • Maintain a strong upright posture throughout the exercise, with your back straight, maintaining the natural curve of the lower spine.
  • Inhale and lower the weight by bending at the knees to the point that your thigh is about parallel to the floor.
  • Exhale and drive the weight up until you reach the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired rep range, rest, then repeat.

Squats - Tips & Safety

  • Use collars on the weights for safety reasons.
  • Do not overload on weight when beginning to learn the exercise.
  • If you are having difficulty with the motion of this exercise, imagine you are preparing to sit down. Your glutes should push out while you bend your knees to ensure less strain on your back.
  • It is important to go slightly below parallel in this excersise in order to develop your strength along the entire movement. If you don't go below parallel in the beginning you risk injuring yourself later on when you decide to use heavier during training.
  • Keep your spine straight, your lower back curved and your head up at all times. Do not bend your torso forward in order to avoid back injury.
  • Ensure that your hands are equally distant from the centre of the barbell and maintain a firm grip.
  • Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up.

Squats - Alternatives

  • Change your foot placement for varying emphasis on the quads. For greatest power in the lift, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes turned slightly out.
  • Squat technique will depend upon your body type. If you have a taller build you may be forced to lean further forward in order to complete each motion correctly.
  • Dumbbell squats are a great alternative especially if you have back issues.
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