Squats can be as hard or as easy as you want them to be. If you’re doing 100 a day, you may need to ease up to be able to get your quota in without making yourself too sore. And if you’re a total beginner, you may find the simplest squats to be more than enough of a challenge. Here are a few to try:
Get ready for strong legs and a poppin' butt, because July's fitness challenge is squats! This is the classic lower body exercise for a reason. Squats build pretty much every muscle below the waist, and there are a ton of variations for all fitness levels.
These are plain old squats, with no weight other than your own body. It’s worth paying attention to your form, because if you build bad habits here, you’ll be more prone to injury if you move to weighted squats or even if you do a ton of air squats. You also won’t get as good a workout.
This video from NerdFitness shows the key points to focus on:
In short, they are:
- Feet shoulder-width apart or a little wider
- Keep your chest forward (stick your arms out to help remember)
- Don’t let your knees cave in
- But it’s OK if your knees go a little forward of your toes
For a little guidance, try the Kaia Perfect Squat app for iOS. It uses your phone’s camera to coach you as you do some very shallow, gentle squats, and it nags you if your feet are over your toes.
It can help if you’re starting from scratch, but don’t rely on it too much; it has a very narrow idea of what a “perfect” squat is, and it isn't always right.
If regular squats are too tricky, try using a wall for support. You can slide your back down the wall and “sit” in an invisible chair for as long as you like - sort of like the squat version of holding a plank as long as possible.
Another great option is to put an exercise ball between your back and the wall. The ball helps you stay upright and keep good form, while making the job of balancing a bit easier. Your butt can angle back under the ball as you get to the bottom of the motion, giving you a very similar position to what you’d do in a regular air squat.
Yoga has its own answer to the squat: Utkatasana, the chair pose. (Or, if you don’t go quite as low, the “thunderbolt pose” because that’s the shape your body is making.)
In chair pose, you’ll typically stand with your feet touching, and slowly lower into a squat-like posture while keeping your back as tall as possible and your arms over your head. The video above, from Yoga With Adriene, gives an extensive breakdown of the pose, how to get into it, and how to achieve good form.
So that’s it for the first week of our squat challenge! How has it been going? What types of squats have you been doing, or do you intend to do? I’m doing air squats, going deep enough that my fingertips touch the floor, and aiming for 100 each day. (I break them up into a few sets, usually.) How about you?