The squat can transform your booty and thighs into a Nestie’s dream -- sleek and muscular without being bulky. If you want to involve your whole body -- shoulders and arms as well as hips, legs and back -- you can tweak this champion of leg and butt exercises to achieve equal tone in the upper body.
All Nesties know how to squat, in a sense. “The basic squat is sitting down and rising from a chair,” notes certified personal trainer Brandon Franklin of the Mac Harbor East health club in Baltimore, Maryland. “You engage your glutes and push through your heels.” You can work with an empty bar, a loaded barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells to add resistance. Repeat for multiple reps and sets to convert the basic movements involved in getting up from a chair into a potent exercise for the quads, hips, glutes and lower back.
To convert the squat into a whole-body exercise, you need to get your arms extended fully overhead, rather than merely holding a barbell against your shoulders for a back squat -- or collarbone for a front squat. You take a wide overhand grip, snatch the barbell from the floor to above your head in one move, and squat until your thighs are a little lower than parallel to the floor. In the overhead squat, the shoulder and clavicle get fully into the act. “Overhead squats are good for the entire body, including the core and shoulder stability,” Franklin notes. “It's just an awesome exercise. Overhead squats work for both men and women. The overhead squat not a natural movement -- it’s more natural to keep hands down. That's the only difference to a basic squat.”
This whole-body exercise can be a challenge if you don’t have the shoulder mobility to get a loaded bar directly over your head. “You have to be able to shrug your shoulders back,” Franklin notes. The best performers at the overhead squat are the Olympic lifters, used to the snatch and the clean and jerk, he adds. “As with everything else, you have to make sure have form correct and proper technique. If you have questions, ask a personal trainer or fitness specialist at your gym,” the trainer advises.
While the overhead squat is very good for the whole body, “it’s probably one of most dangerous squats,” Franklin adds. “I don't have any of my clients do it with a barbell. I have them hold a wooden dowel over their head instead.” You risk trying to get a too-heavy barbell over your head, losing your footing or having your knees buckle. If it's too heavy, you're going to have to bail -- drop the weight -- and get out of its way.
The front and back squats are safer, as is the overhead squat performed with just a dowel. You can also do what is essentially an overhead body-weight squat by borrowing the Chair pose -- utkatasana -- from yoga. As you sweep your arms upward and sit back as if in an invisible chair, you engage the quads, calves, lower back and the shoulder’s rhomboids.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.