What is the single best strength-building exercise many of us could be incorporating into our exercise routine? Consult enough exercise scientists and the latest exercise research, and the answer would likely be a resounding: squats. For lower-body strength and flexibility, there is probably no better exercise. Some people worry that squats can imperil the knees and hips, but the exercise can actually help protect and improve the workings of these and other joints. The movement helps maintain the flexibility, stability, and function of the hips, knees, and ankles. There are many different ways to do squats, but the safest way is the most basic.
The Right Way to Do a Squat:
If you are new to squats, one of the safest, simplest ways to start is with a box squat. You can do these at home, in which case you’ll be using a chair, stool, bench, or bedside.
- Step 1: Find a chair or box high enough that, when you sit on it, your thighs are parallel with the ground. Keep your core tense and your chest up, with your back straight.
- Step 2: Set it a few feet from a wall. The wall’s straight lines can help align your body.
- Step 3: Stand facing the wall, chair behind you, feet about four inches from the wall. Place your hands on your hips or stretch them to the sides.
- Step 4: Keep your heels glued to the ground. Bend your knees slowly, through a count of five, lower yourself until your buttocks gently touch the box. Try not to actually sit. Rise from the box and straighten your legs through another count of five.
- Hold that form: When you feel your box squats dialed in, you can ditch the box or chair and move to a free-standing, bodyweight squat. But keep paying attention to your form.
Another way to perform adequate squats is:
- Step 1: Situate your feet about shoulder-width apart and facing slightly outward, which is the easiest, most stable stance. Keeping your feet considerably wider or closer together or angled too far in or out, places potentially worrisome loads on the knees or hips.
- Step 2: Your head and spine should be aligned, chest up, eyes gazing straight ahead. Do not round your back by hunching or arching it.
- Step 3: Knees should move approximately in line with your toes as you squat — not splayed outward or buckling in — and not extending too far past the ends of your toes.
- Step 4: Squat as low as comfortably possible. Aim eventually to get your thighs parallel with the ground. But at first, if you cannot get that low, that’s OK. It is still a squat.
Within these guidelines, experiment to find the movement that feels right for you. There is no absolute best form for everyone, you should determine what is most comfortable for you when doing an exercise like squats. With practice you can then progress to more challenging squats: you may want to pick up a dumbbell. Over time, you will need to add resistance if you want to keep growing stronger. Happy squatting!
Written by GUADS intern Sara with contributions from (https://indianexpress.com/) and edited by GUADS staff member Kate