The glutes (or butt) are among the largest and strongest muscles in the human body. They keep your body upright and are important for proper pelvic alignment, and for moving you forward during walking and running. They also support the lower back during lifting and help prevent knee injuries. This guide to squats will have your quads, hamstrings and glutes in shape in no time.
Squats are a well-known way to build up a pro athlete’s body, yet are simple enough that an absolute beginner can do them as well. Best of all, they can be done in your living room, a shady spot in your backyard, or at a local park. You don’t even need to put on workout clothes to bust out a set of squats throughout the day.
This intense leg-strengthener works many of the muscles in your lower body. Improve your golf game (or any sport, for that matter), lift heavier objects without hurting your back, and help keep your balance in check as you age.
Follow these simple steps to the perfect squat, adding a few more each day. Start with 1 set of 12, and build from there.
- Place feet shoulder-width apart and look straight ahead.
- Line up your knees directly above your feet.
- Lower your weight until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Imagine coming down to sit your butt on a bench.
- Focus on keeping your abs tight and a natural arch in your back.
- Stand back up until your knees and hips are straight, but don’t lock them.
Once you get the hang of these, try adding hand weights to increase the resistance or up your number of sets each day.
With a lack of gluteus muscle, you risk pinched nerves in your lower back and bad knees. You don’t want to be that guy—unable to move, and sweating for no reason other than excruciating pain, do you?
That being said, a strong butt is especially necessary if you spend much of your day sitting. Start your trek to a sweet hiney with Split Squats, the base exercise for almost all other glute and lower body workouts.
- Kneel on one knee like you’re about to propose. Smile because you don’t have to propose. Check your angles in the mirror.
- Keep your feet in the same position and rise to standing.
- Lower your body until your knee is an inch off the ground.
- Engage your glutes, keep your hips pointing forward and rise to stand.
Repeat 10 times on each side.
Too difficult? Try lowering your knee less.
Too easy? Add more reps or dumbbells for more weight.
Q: What kind of running shoes are made from banana skins?
If the thought of jogging makes you groan louder than you did after reading the punchline above, we’ve got some good news. Many simple jumping exercises deliver all the benefits of running, such as preventing heart disease and diabetes and improving your immune system.
Try it out every other day for a few minutes. You’ll see your fitness and strength improve surprisingly quickly. No running shoes required!
Regular squats work many muscles in your lower body, and building in a leap only adds to the leg-building benefits. Start with a set of 10 and see how high you can jump. If you have Van Halen’s “Jump” in your music collection, crank it up!
Easy 3-step method:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Slowly lower your body until your knees are at 90 degrees. Hold for 10 seconds.
- Quickly return to standing and use your upward momentum to jump into the air.
- When you land, use your downward momentum to return to the bent knee squat position.
Your hands are free, so wall squats are ideal for multitasking. Tear off a set while brushing your teeth at home, using your smartphone at the bus shelter, solving a Rubik’s Cube in the lunchroom at work—you get the idea. Aim to complete one set each day this week.
Your easy 3-step method:
- Stand straight with your back up against the wall.
- Slowly lower your body until your knees are at 90 degrees.
- Your goal should be to hold for 15 seconds. The longer you hold, the more intense the wall squat becomes.
Kick it up a notch
While squatting, hold an object with both hands right in front of you with your palms facing each other. Anything will do: a dumbbell, a phone book (a what?), a small dog or a child.
What’s your favourite way to keep in shape? Share in the comments below!