The exercise may have a funny-sounding name, but squats are a great way to build muscle in your quadriceps, calves and hamstrings. They can also help prepare your body for childbirth, improve your sexual health and help you have better bowel movements. When you perform a deep squat, you're stretching and strengthening your "pelvic floor," the group of muscles that act as the "hammock" that holds your lower organs in place. If you're not already doing squats as part of your exercise and stretching routine, start doing them now.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed outward. Throughout the movement, your knees should be in line with your toes, so you may want to look down the first few times to make sure you're not twisting those knees out of whack.
Brace your abdominals to maintain a strong posture throughout the movement.
Bend your knees and lower your butt down toward the ground, keeping your heels planted on the floor. Lower your body down until the legs form approximately a 90-degree angle. To perform leg-strengthening squats, stand back up and repeat the motion 12 to 15 times.
If you want to get more of a stretch from your squat, incorporate a yoga-type action. From the regular squat position, lower your butt toward the floor as low as you can, and then rest your elbows on the insides of your thighs. Seriously limber yogis get their butts within inches of the floor, but don't strain yourself beyond a comfortable position. If you're able, press your hands together in a prayer pose, known as the "Garland" pose. Hold the pose for several breaths, or count to 30 seconds, and then slowly stand back up.
- If you're not able to get into the deep Garland pose without raising your heels off the ground, place a folded blanket under your heels to give them some support.
- To make the Garland pose even more difficult, wrap your arms around your legs and clasp your hands together.
- Take care when doing squats during your third trimester of pregnancy, advises the health site Women to Women. The relaxing hormone, relaxin, is coursing through your body at this stage, and over-squatting could cause injury.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.