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Don't know (how to) squat? You should

Squats may very well be the workout movement many love to hate, but the rewards are well worth the time invested in performing them. They have often been thought to be a no-no for knees, but when performed correctly, they actually improve knee stability and strengthen connective tissue. Squats are fundamental movements we perform every time we sit and stand, and for that reason alone, it is important to know how to do them safely and effectively. As squats strengthen your mobility and improve balance, everyday movements will become easier to perform. And improving your squats will improve most any sporting activity you choose to do.

We always say squats tone and strengthen every major muscle group in the lower body. While that is true, they do much more. Along with the thighs, hips, buttocks and calf muscles, squats build core strength and, when done properly, dynamically involve the lower and upper back. Because squats are compound exercises, which means you are working multiple muscle groups at one time, you will burn more calories than when you work the muscles in isolation.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at [email protected]

Five Body-weight Squat Mistakes

1 Rounding the chest and back. This places too much stress on the spine. Keep your shoulders back and chest out to maintain the natural curve of the lower back.

2 Letting knees move inward or bow outward. This puts too much pressure on the tendons and ligaments, potentially causing knee injuries.

3 Looking down toward the ground. This negatively affects the alignment of the spine. Look straight ahead or slightly upward, keeping head and neck in a neutral position.

4 Lifting heels off the floor. This places too much pressure on your knees.

5 Not using a hip-hinge pattern to initiate movement. Hip hinging occurs when you push hips to the back rather than pushing knees forward while lowering hips toward the floor.

Common Variations of Squats

• Body-weight squats (no equipment)

• Wall squats (using a stability ball)

• Weighted squats (using barbells or weights)

• Plyometric squats (jump squats)

Gradually build to two or three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions; beginners should start with one set of eight to 10 reps.

. Basic chair squat: Stand in front of a chair with feet slightly wider than hip width apart, toes pointed forward. Push hips to the back and bend your knees, lowering hips as if you were sitting in a chair, thighs parallel to floor. Avoid pushing knees forward beyond toes. Extending your arms to chest level as you lower your hips will act as a counterbalance. Press into heels when returning to a standing position, without locking knees.

, Wall squat: With back against the wall, place feet hip distance apart about 2 feet in front of you. As you bend your knees, slide down the wall until thighs are parallel to the floor, with knees over ankles. Slide feet a little farther out, if necessary, for proper alignment. Extend arms to the front, shoulder height, for balance. Hold 30 to 60 seconds, then return to a standing position. Adding a stability ball can help you get into the correct squat position while providing back support. Place ball against wall, positioning it behind your lower back.

n Plie squat: This squat offers a different placement of the feet, placing more emphasis on inner thigh muscles. With a wide stance, point toes at about a 45-degree angle. If holding weights, you may hold them at your sides or place them on hips. Keeping back straight, lower into a squat position, but only as far as you feel comfortable. Hold for desired time, then push into the heels to return to a standing position. Keeping abdominals contracted will help with balance.

Don't know (how to) squat? You should 10/26/15 [Last modified: Monday, October 26, 2015 4:28pm]
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