Muscle group: The leg muscles, the back muscles, the butt muscles, complex exercises
Trained muscle: Thigh front, thigh backside, lower back muscles, butt muscles
Focused muscle: Thigh front, lower back muscles
Fitness level: Beginners, advanced, experienced
Type of training: Own body weight exercises, free weight exercises, machine exercises
Squats represent one of the basic exercises in the weight training area (together with bench press, deadlifts and pull-ups). It mainly works out the front side of the thigh and the lower back – and this quite intensely. The thigh backside and the butt muscles are trained on a reduced level performing squats.
Performing squats we start standing with our legs in shoulder width from each other. Our feet point straight toward the front or slightly toward the outside. Hip, knee, and ankle joint are in one line and the knee sits exactly above the forefoot. The body weight rests balanced above our feet. Our heel always remains on the ground. Please keep your back straight at any time by erecting the pelvis and tensing the abdominal muscles. Also keep your leg muscles tensed throughout the entire movement to spare your ligaments.
When we squat down our knees remain above our feet. Our butt is moving backwards as we wanted to sit down. As a beginner please stop the down movement at a knee angle of 90°. With respect to their physical conditions advanced and experienced sportsmen and -women can go further down. Please always perform smooth motions in both ways (up and down) and do not press breathe (exhale against closed airways).
Beginners could stretch their arms to the front during the exercise or use a chair or similar for stabilization purposes. The ability to work out in different variations depends on our physical conditions. The length of the thighs and upper body as well as the mobility of the ankle joints determine how deep we can go.
Squats with extra weights
Squats with extra weights can be performed on the multi press rack or using a barbell. Here, the weight usually sits on our upper back what can stress the cervical spine significantly. When you use higher weights it is recommended to use a cushion or towel in your neck. The increased weight also puts much pressure on our lumbar spine. Only advanced and experienced athletes should perform squats with extra weights keeping a very clean execution.
Hack squats are performed on the machine or with the barbell. With the barbell we would hold the weights behind our legs. This execution is quite difficult and can cause complaints and injuries. The version on the machine is much more comfortable. We stand shoulder wide with the cushions resting on our shoulders. Grab the handles. Our complete back rests on the back cushion. Keep it straight. Knee and foot are in one line.
The abdominal muscles are tensed and we start to bend our knees in a controlled movement. Do not stretch your knees completely when you come up again. The soles of your feet remain on the ground (also the heels).
One-legged squats are also very effective. Their intensity can be increased by working out with extra weights, like dumbbells in your hands or on a belt, or going very deep, like standing on a bench, step, or similar. One-legged squats become easier by not going that deep, holding on to the wall bars, or similar with the hands, or choosing a wider step to the front and distributing our weight more on both legs.
Starting position of the one-legged squat is the lunge. Almost the entire weight will be carried by the front leg. Its foot sole remains on the ground during the entire exercise (pressure on your heel). The back foot slightly rotates toward the inside standing on the tip in hip-width to the front foot. From that position we bend and stretch the front leg alternatingly.
One-legged squat short
One-legged squat wide
One-legged squats – elevated
Elevated one-legged squats (on a bench, step, etc.) are more intense. During the entire exercise it is important to actively tense the leg muscles, keep the entire foot sole of the training leg touching down, and to not move the knee to the side or too far to the front (knee remains above the foot).
One-legged squats on the step
For one-legged squats on the bench it is recommendable to perform them with our hands holding on to the wall bars, or similar. In the upward movement the back leg remains as long as possible on the floor and touches the floor as early as possible again in the downward movement.
One-legged squats on the bench
Lunges represent a version of the one-legged squat.
Antagonist: Thigh backside, rectus abdominis
Stretching: Front thigh stretches, lower back stretches