Squatting is a popular and common exercise that can have a variety of different results and benefits, depending on what you want to achieve.
Some will do it to build muscle, others to burn calories, and there are those who will do it as more of a stretch than a strength building exercise.
Whatever your reasons may be, your body will experience the many health benefits of a squat when you perform the exercise correctly.
Squats Build Muscle
While pretty much any exercise will build muscle in one way or another, squats do so in an extremely effective way. Many exercises, especially those done on a machine, will only target one area – such as hamstrings or biceps.
A squat is a full body movement and works to strengthen many areas at once as it uses almost every muscle in the lower body.
Hips and Glutes
Your hips and glutes are two very important muscles that are worked when performing a squat. The gluteus maximus muscles – also known as the muscles in your behind—are among the biggest muscles in your body. The glutes, along with the hips, are essential to performing everyday tasks, such as walking, running, and lifting.
Strengthening these muscles will give you more control over your lower body, and therefore reduce the risk of injury.
While the squat focuses on the lower body, the rest of your body is still at work – particularly your core! A weak core will cause all kinds of problems and limitations with your body, and especially your muscular system.
Doing a squat requires stability as much as it requires strength, and your core will be activated, which will build up the muscle. A strong core will allow you to perform many exercises, not just squatting, more effectively—thus creating more powerful and productive workouts.
Squats Improve Flexibility
The health benefits of squatting are not limited to simply building strength. Doing squats will also make you more flexible. Squats do not limit you to a machine or piece of equipment, and the movement brings your body through a full range of motion.
Deep squatting, in particular, will help greatly to increase the range of motion of your entire hip complex.
As you put your body through these movements and start boosting your flexibility, you will find that back pain is reduced. Performing everyday activities may also become easier.
Squats Improve Posture and Alignment
Also on the list of health benefits of the squatting position, is better posture and body alignment. A proper squat requires a specific positioning of the body, which includes very correct posture. If you don’t hold yourself in the right position, the squat could go terribly wrong and end up causing more harm than good.
Your body will grow accustomed to the position, and the muscles necessary to maintain the squat at all times will be used and strengthened.
If you make a habit of squatting regularly, it may help bring your body back into alignment as well. As you squat more and more, the joints will become used to stretching. As they are stretched more, they will limber up considerably, and the body can start bringing itself back into alignment with less hindrance.
Squatting Improves Internal Functions
While squatting is extremely effective in building muscle, improving posture, and increasing flexibility, it can also aid the rest of your body and its functions.
Because the squat is a movement of the entire body and not just an isolated area, it will cause your organs to move around as well. It will gently massage and stimulate them, as well as your glands. This movement is essential to proper blood circulation, as circulation doesn’t happen without bodily movement.
Squats utilize almost every muscle in the body – especially the large ones. This makes it an excellent stimulant for muscle-building hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone. Because so much of these hormones are released during this exercise, you will be building muscle all over the body.
When pathways are opened, blood is flowing, and glands are stimulated, your body’s electrical charge will also increase. This will provide energy as the nervous system is better able to send signals and electricity flows through the body more easily.
Cellulite is simply fat deposits under the skin. Maintaining a healthy diet is the most important part of cellulite management, but squats can help. Squats will tighten and tone the skin, which will help reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Squats Burn Calories
Calories are an important part of many fitness and/or weight loss programs. While counting calories does not work for everyone, for some, keeping track is essential to the success of their goal. This brings us to another one of the health benefits of the squatting exercise: the number of calories you can burn.
Because squatting uses so many muscles and requires so much strength and energy, it burns calories very quickly. If you are looking to do squats to burn lots of calories, it is best to do them in the form of circuit training.
This is where many reps are done in succession with you giving it your all. Short breaks and multiple exercises are generally worked into a circuit. Your body needs to use a lot of calories to do a squat, therefore doing multiple will burn a high number of calories quickly.
We’ve already seen that the health benefits of bodyweight squats are plentiful. If you are advancing in your fitness and are looking for a more intense workout, you may consider adding weights.
However, It is important that you completely master the bodyweight squat before adding any extra weight. Having the correct form and being comfortable with the movement is essential to avoiding injury when adding weights.
Builds More Muscle
Squatting builds muscle because the muscles are being used and pushed, which tears down the fibers. Muscle is built and gained when your body rebuilds these fibers, bigger and better than before.
If you find a way to add weight to your squats, the muscles will be getting used even harder and experiencing more resistance. This will create more damaged fibers for the body to rebuild, which will result in faster and more efficient muscle building.
Burns More Calories
As we already established, squatting uses a large percentage of the muscles in your whole body and will, therefore, burn quite a few calories. Adding weights will cause those calories to burn away even faster due to the added effort and energy requirements that come with carrying weights.
Improving Your Squat
The health benefits of squatting are undeniable, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with risks. The exercise uses so many parts of the body simultaneously, that an injury is quite possible if you are not performing it correctly. There are a few things you can keep in mind to ensure you are doing it in the best possible way for your body.
There are several common errors that people tend to make when attempting to do squats. One of these includes letting their toes go too far past their knees. Another is allowing your heels to lift off the floor—this compromises your stability.
Bending at the waist is another common mistake, this will cause you to lose the proper curve in your back. Lastly, allowing the head and chest to drop. You should always try to keep a straight and upright posture throughout your upper body when performing squats.
It is a good idea to keep these common mistakes in mind when doing your squats. Always pay attention to the different points in your body that need to stay in position. The more correct your position and movement are, the safer and more effective your squat will be.
In addition to being good for your health, squats are also versatile. The regular squat works for many, but there are ways you can customize it so it serves you better. You can try a jump squat, where you jump before lowering into the position. This adds some weight to the movement, while also getting in a little bit of cardio action.
You can also try the sumo squat, where you place your feet differently. Much like a sumo wrestler would in a fight, you position your toes so they are pointed outward.
Additionally, there are several ways you can use added weights. The barbell at the squat rack is, of course, the most common, but there are other variations as well. You can hold a dumbbell straight out in front of you as you perform the squat, or try holding it directly over your head. Each of these weight placements will work different muscles.
Whether you want to start adding squats to your weight training routine or want to try bodyweight squats, your entire body will benefit. From building muscle, to increasing flexibility and improving blood circulation, you really can’t go wrong with the squat. It is an essential part of successful fitness programs with a variety of goals.