Squats are a great exercise for strengthening your legs, hips and buttocks. These exercises target the quadriceps muscle along the front of your thigh and the gluteal muscles -- located in your buttocks -- that extend your hip and bring you back up to standing from a squat position. Squats build muscle definition and improve jumping ability. However, progressing your squats too quickly can lead to pain and injury. Begin with partial chair squats and advance your routine as your strength improves.
Partial Chair Squat
Place two pillows on the seat of a sturdy chair and stand with your back toward the chair.
Spread your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly squat down. Reach forward with your hands as you squat to help maintain your balance.
Squat down until your buttocks just barely touch the pillows on the seat of the chair. Hold this position for two to three seconds, then return to standing. Repeat 10 times.
Progress to a wall squat as strength improves. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lean against a wall.
Step your feet forward 12 to 18 inches from the wall. Slowly slide down the wall as far as you comfortably can, without allowing your thighs to lower past parallel to the ground.
Hold the squat for two to three seconds and slide back up into standing. Repeat 10 times. Increase the difficulty of this exercise by placing a 55 cm exercise ball between your back and the wall as you squat.
Single-Leg Wall Squats
Advance your wall squats as you become stronger. Stand in the position for a wall squat, but keep your feet approximately 6 inches from the wall.
Bend your right knee and hold your right foot off the ground as you begin to squat.
Lower yourself down until your left knee is bent to approximately 45 degrees. Hold for two to three seconds and return to standing. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
Perform barbell squats when you have mastered the proper squatting technique. Hold a barbell across your shoulders, behind your head.
Grasp the barbell with your palms facing forward with your fingers and thumbs wrapped around the bar to prevent it from slipping out of your hands. Place your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
Keeping your back straight, squat down as far as you comfortably can -- do not allow your thighs to drop past parallel to the floor. Hold the squat for two to three seconds, then return to standing. Increase repetitions and add weight to the barbell as your abilities improve.
Items you will need
- Two pillows
- Exercise ball - 55 cm
- Weighted barbell
- Do not allow your knees to bend past your toes -- particularly if you have knee pain. This position puts added pressure on your knee joints.
- Use a spotter for barbell squats.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Safety of the Squat Exercise
- Kaiser Permanente: Strengthening and Stability Exercises for Your Hips, Knees, and Ankles in Standing
- NSCA's Performance Training Journal: Basic Principles of Strength Training and Conditioning
- Massachusetts General Hospital: Sports Physical Therapy: Strength Training for the Knee
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images