Squats – different variations and 4 main benefits of squats done correctly

Squats are an exercise that practically everyone has done at some stage in their lives, whether during gym workouts, fitness classes, or school PE lessons. There’re as many squat techniques as there are trainers, but one thing is certain. There’re good reasons why this versatile multi-joint exercise has gained such widespread popularity. Learn the correct technique and discover the benefits of doing squats regularly.

Agata Brama

What muscles do squats target?

If there’s a single exercise that can work your entire body, it’s the squat. While the leg muscles do most of the work, anybody who has performed squats – especially weighted squats – knows that they engage many other muscle groups, which is why they’re great for building an athletic body.

To do a proper squat, you need more than just strong leg muscles; well-developed core muscles are also essential. To perform squats, you have to stabilize your body position and hold the weight appropriately, which makes squatting a global exercise. Not surprisingly, then, on gym machines that isolate the leg muscles, such as the leg bench press, you’d able to lift much heavier weights than when squatting with a barbell.

What’s the correct squat technique?

To do squats properly, you need to engage the whole body in the exercise.

  1. Starting position: place your feet hip-width apart, parallel to each other. Pull your shoulders and shoulder blades down, and tighten your abdominals and glutes.
  2. Begin the squat by moving your hips back. Next, lower your body at the knees.
  3. In the lower phase of the squat, your knees may go beyond the toes, but make sure not to turn your knees inwards to form an ‘X’ shape. Check that your knees are pointing outwards the entire time.
  4. Keep your heels on the floor and your back straight. Maintain an upright position throughout the exercise – don’t bend your back.

Preparing for squats

Squatting is an exercise that requires good mobility in the hip and ankle joints, and even... in the shoulder joints if you perform weighted squats. Before squats, it’s a good idea to have a dynamic warm-up routine, focusing on:

  • the range of motion in the hip joints – hip opening exercises will help you move your knees outwards safely,
  • the range of motion in the ankle joints – if you have difficulty keeping your heels on the floor or your back straight in the lower phase of the squat,
  • the range of motion in the shoulder joints – if you perform squats with a barbell on your back, in front of your body or overhead.

Also check out these resources: “Pre-workout warm-up – a sample set of exercises from a trainer”.