Welcome to the first in a series of health and fitness blogs. Prepared by our team of fitness instructors at Sequoia spa here at The Grove, each post will focus on one particular theme offering a step-by-step guide, hints, tips and advice on ways to improve and maintain fitness and how to stay healthy.
Focussing on the squat, for strength definition and fat burning…
Squatting is a highly functional and fundamental movement pattern that helps improve both strength and muscle definition. It’s a big fat burner too and very effective in burning calories! Squatting can give you protection from injury and makes daily tasks a lot easier to perform.
You engage many important muscles of your body during a squat. The primary muscles used in squats are the Quadriceps, Hamstrings and the Gluteus Maximus. Secondary muscles used are Erector spinae, transverse abdominus, the gluteus medius/minimus (abductors), adductors, soleus and gastrocnemius.
We call this a multi- joint exercise because both the core and upper body are utilized mainly in stabilization, whilst performing the movement. If performed correctly, it will also strengthen your bones, tendons and ligaments. It will enable you to access power from your posterior chain and achieve proper hip and ankle function.
From a performance point of view, due to the increase in improved mechanics, your hips will be a lot stronger and glutes will be activated. This means if you’re a runner, regular gym user or an avid sportsman you will notice improvements in these areas.
There are numerous variations of the squat. We have identified a few which we feel are the most effective…
For all types of squat, take the following steps to ensure you’re getting the most from the exercise and preventing injuries:
- Place feet shoulder’s width apart.
- Activate your glutes and posterior chain (hamstrings, lower back, butt)
- Position your feet straight and turn on the muscles of your posterior chain by pretending that you’re screwing two dinner plates into the ground with your feet.
Rotate your left foot in a counterclockwise direction and right foot in a clockwise direction.
- Push hips back and down. The depth you’re looking for is the crease of your hip to be below the crease of your knee.
- Keep your heels on the ground and drive your knees outward – to avoid what’s called a Valgus knee fault which can cause common knee injuries – as you extend back to an upright position.
IMPORTANT TIPS: To avoid your knees driving over your feet keep your shins vertical. You will notice that the weight will be loaded from the hips and hamstrings and not through the knees. Maintain a neutral spine by engaging your core. Tighten your abs and glutes and maintain this position for the entire squat
Body Weighted (air Squat) Squat
– Unrack the barbell at upper chest height, then position bar high on the back of the shoulders and grasp the barbell to the sides.
– Dismount the bar from rack and stand with shoulder width-apart stance.
– You can perform this exercise either with a dumbbell or a kettle bell.
– Holding the horns or the top of the dumbbell, squat down with your elbows on the inside of your knees, with the DB/KB positioned onto your chest.
Assisted mobility exercises
Ehance your squat with the following stretches…
The Couch Stretch
This is a great stretch to help open up the hip and alleviate common types of knee pain. If you’re too tight to get into a full couch stretch, position a box next to you for support.
Lower and Upper Back Roll Out
For this exercise you will need a foam roller. If you don’t have one, a mobility ball is a good alternative. Firstly, you need to lie onto a roller, relaxing into it with your hips up, slowly applying pressure onto the lower part of your back. For foam rolling, you want to spend about a minute rolling out each muscle group, pressing and holding on particularly tender parts of the muscle.