You probably either love or hate the squat. It's not an exercise that gets a neutral response. The squat works well to strengthen the muscles of your legs, which makes it a lovable exercise, but it's not easy and requires proper form, which makes it a dreaded exercise. The muscles in your thighs, which are the quadriceps and hamstrings, in addition to your inner and outer thighs and the muscles in your lower legs, work together as you sink and stand in the squat. If you have healthy knees and hips and can perform the squat without discomfort, you'll find this exercise a perfect addition to your strength-training routine.
Stand in an area free of clutter. Position your feet parallel with each other and at a hip-distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand for extra resistance. Bend your elbows and rest the dumbbells near your shoulders. Extend your arms straight out from your shoulders if you are not holding onto weights.
Keep your spine straight and tighten your stomach by pulling in your belly button. Look straight ahead to keep your neck and spine aligned. Lift your chest for good posture.
Inhale, bend your knees and lower your hips. Lower into the squat until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Only lower for as long as you can keep your heels on the floor and your knees over the top of your heels. Stop the squat if your knees move forward past your toes.
Exhale, straighten your knees and hips as you keep your posture and return to a standing position. Don't lock your knees at the top of the squat.
Complete one to three sets of eight to 12 squats. Rest for 60 seconds in between sets.
Perform squats every other day to work out the muscles in your lower body.
- Your last two repetitions should be a challenge. Use a weight that is tough toward the end of your set and gradually increase the weight as your fitness level improves. If you don't have access to dumbbells, increase the number of sets to three to five and increase your repetitions to between 12 and 20.
- Check with your doctor before you begin strength training. If you experience any discomfort in your ankles, knees or hips, check your alignment and start again. You may want to use a slightly wider than hip-distance stance to bring comfort to your knees.
A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.