Squats work your thighs and glutes better than any other exercise. The result: strong legs and a firm bottom. Your core muscles also have to work.
But squats can do even more. They train the stabilizing muscles, improve your balance and mobility and prepare you perfectly for lifting beer – or, better, water – and everything else that you want or have to carry around in everyday life.
In addition, squats are active preparation for old age. After all, your thigh muscles carry your entire weight and stabilize, together with your buttocks and core muscles, your hips and knees. The better you train these muscles and their interaction early on, the more fitness you can hope for in old age.
In this article, we’ll show you how to improve your squat technique and coordination.
Squats are deep squats in which you lower your buttocks from standing further than your hips and then use the strength of your legs to get up again.
In contrast to the half squat, in which you go up again as soon as your knee has reached a right angle, you lower your buttocks significantly lower when doing squats. This not only trains your legs, but also your glutes particularly effectively.
Squats are one of the basic exercises in strength training and are an essential part of any good functional training. Even in health sports, squats are an integral part of most workouts. The deep squat is the all-round exercise for (almost) all core-down muscles.
In addition to the strengthening effect, squats are also perfect if you want to lose a few pounds and get in shape before summer – or for your next vacation. The muscles that you train when you squat tone your legs and buttocks, but also increase your total calorie expenditure.
This is because these muscles make up a large proportion of the total muscle volume in relation to the rest of your body. Put simply, this means that you train a lot of muscles with squats. And the more muscles, the higher your calorie expenditure.
Your calorie expenditure is essential to lose weight or build muscle. To know how much you should be eating to achieve your goal, it is best to first calculate your individual calorie needs.
Squats train :
- the entire gluteal muscles
- Leg extension on the front of the thighs
- Hamstrings on the back of the thighs
- Abdominal, core, hip and calf muscles
To be able to perform squats properly, you need – in addition to strength:
- Basic mobility in the back of the legs
- Flexibility in the ankle
- Stability in the core muscles
To get started, you need motivation above all else. Lack of mobility in the ankles is common. With light aids, you can still squat. We explain to you how in the basics.
Squats - the right technique
The squat is exhausting, but technically it looks simple at first. Especially the air squat, i.e. a squat without additional weight, is an integral part of almost every workout. Nevertheless: There are also a few basics with squats that you should observe in order to avoid injuries and to get the most out of the exercise.
Knees don't fall inward
Your feet are a little wider than hip width. Turn the tips of your toes outwards slightly. When you go into the squat, your knees point in the exact same direction as your toes. That is, your lower legs and thighs are straight and your knees are automatically in line with your ankles. The knees do not fall inward.
Depending on your anatomy and mobility, a parallel foot position may also work better for you.
Tip: Stand in front of a mirror and check the line of your knees while squat. Both while you go deep and at the lowest point. Do you notice that your knees are falling inward? Then place your hands on the outside of your thighs and build up slight tension by actively pressing your thighs against your hands. Make the movement slowly and check the line of your knees in the mirror again.
Keep knees behind your toes
At the lowest point of the squat you can barely see your toes or the beginning of the shoe. It does not work? Then make the step a little more prepared and find a position in which it works.
Heels stay on the ground
The weight of your body is distributed over your entire foot. The focus is on your heels: while you could move your toes with ease, the heel is firmly on the ground. In this way the buttocks work the most and the knees are relieved. Good for the beach body. And your health.
Lower back stays straight
Before you squat: activate your core muscles. Imagine someone wants to punch you in the stomach and tighten the stomach completely. This will tilt your pelvis forward and straighten your lower back. Look at this length in the mirror. And hold it to the lowest point of your squat and on the way up. As soon as your lower back becomes rounded, you run the risk of injuring yourself. Especially when doing weight squats.
That just doesn’t work for you? Then work on strengthening your core muscles and on the flexibility of your entire body. Until then, only go as deep as you can keep your back straight.
The overall back is long and straight
What is especially true for the lower back is also important for the rest of the back. The upper back is also straight and stable, the shoulder blades pull together slightly. At the latest when you are working with weight, you will notice that you need this stability. You stay upright as much as possible instead of falling forward with your upper body. Bring the weight on your heels for this.
Keep the butt low
To really work your buttocks, you need to lower it lower than your hips. Before that, most of the strength comes from the legs. Only when it gets deep do your glutes have to work.
The best way to learn how to squat properly is to train in front of a mirror or have an experienced athlete or trainer correct you. If you have knee problems, you should definitely seek advice from your physio or doctor as to whether squats are suitable for you and what you should pay particular attention to.
Exercises for the perfect squat
With these squat variants, you set accents in your strength training and promote inter- and intramuscular coordination. Intramuscular coordination describes the efficient interaction of the individual muscle fibers within a muscle. The better the intramuscular coordination, the more force the muscle can release.
Means: You train your muscles and their function holistically. This can help you move more elegantly, achieve higher squat strength values, and avoid injury.
Correct execution is the focus of every exercise. Check our 6 basics one by one. Do 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. Gradually incorporate more exercises into your training.
- Level: Beginner
- This is how it works: Each time you briefly touch the medicine ball with your buttocks before you push yourself up again.
- Note: straighten your hips while standing
One legged Squat
- Level: Athlete
- This is how it works: Put your right ankle on your left knee, the foot could theoretically rotate freely. Maintain stability in the leg. The knee of the supporting leg does not wiggle left or right. The buttocks stay higher than the hips here.
- Note: the ankles and knees are roughly in line with the tip of the upper foot. This type of squat requires a certain mobility in the hips. Don’t bring your ankle to your knee. If it doesn’t work, first work on your mobility.
- Level: Beginner
- Here’s how it works: Hold a kettlebell at chest height while you squat.
- Note: Hold the kettlebell firmly with both hands. Upper body remains upright.
- Level: Athlete
- This is how it works: Grab the bar a little over shoulder width, pull your shoulder blades back slightly.
- Note: Stay upright instead of letting the weight push you forward. Neck stays long.
- Level: Expert
- This is how it works: Hold the knee of your standing leg stable and lower yourself down in a controlled manner.
- Note: This exercise is only suitable if you have mastered the simple squat confidently and have no problems with strength or mobility. Pistols with support can be a first step towards pistol squats.
Supported Pistol Squat
- Level: Athlete
- This is how it works: Attach a resistance band to the rack and use it as a support.
- Note: Choose a strap that is so light that it doesn’t pull you up by itself and only use the strap’s support if you really can’t get up. Is that easy for you? Then switch to a thinner band.
- You can also work on this:
- Balancing without a strap in the lowest position of the pistol squat.
- Sit on a bench with one leg outstretched and then stand up again. If it becomes easy, on something lower. And so on – until you get into the pistol squat.
- Squats are the ultimate exercise for legs and buttocks.
- Regular squat training will help you increase your calorie needs.
- Squats make you fit for training and everyday life.
- It pays to learn the correct squat technique.
- Squat variations improve your squats.