Best exercises ever #2: squats

Hi guys

Thank you to everyone who got in touch with me about last week’s email about press-ups. I’m glad so many of you found it useful. Hopefully you’ve managed to incorporate it into your training routines and are getting good results.

This week, I want to focus on another amazing compound exercise: the squat.

If you remember, a compound exercise works several muscles all at the same time. And by doing so, you get the following benefits:  

  • you burn more calories - because you're engaging more muscle groups
  • your heart rate stays higher for longer - meaning you get a cardio workout too
  • you can build up your strength faster
  • your co-ordination and balance improve
  • you can exercise for longer - because you're spreading the effort around rather than exhausting one single muscle

When you think about the squat, some of you probably think of those big Olympic powerlifters with barbells straining under those enormous weights.

Well don’t.

The squat is another exercise you can do with any equipment. You can use barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, or even just use your own bodyweight. So you can do this exercise in a gym, your garage or even your living room - and still get tremendous results.

So why is the squat so good?

Firstly, it gives the largest muscles in the body a really tough workout. The squat works your quads, glutes, calves, lower back and your core muscles. It burns a huge amount of calories and helps turbo-charge your metabolism so that you can start shedding bodyfat fast.

Secondly, because it’s a really functional exercise. Think about it. Your legs are what keep you walking around and mobile, whilst your core keeps your body balanced. So many of us work in front of computers these days for long hours and these muscles get neglected. As a result, when we do have to squat down and pick something off the floor, we’re at much higher risk of injury – especially back pain. The squat reduces the risk of injury significantly.

Thirdly, because you look great when you train your lower body. Guys will get rock-solid legs (perfect for summertime) and girls will get a slim, toned torso and legs which they can show off in a bikini.

Anyway, here’s a few squat variations you can try:

  1. Barbell squat – with the barbell resting on the upper back and shoulders, squat in a slow controlled motion until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Exhale as you push up. Keep your core tight throughout to maximise the effects. 8 – 12 reps
  2. Dumbbell squat – as above, but with dumbbells held with arms straight down by your sides. 8 – 12 reps
  3. Bodyweight squat – not using any weights at all. Hold your arms straight out in front throughout the movement. Do a higher number of reps (start with 20) for this movement. And if you’re feeling really brave, do a set of press-ups while you’re resting your legs.
  4. Sumo squat – using a barbell or dumbbells, this targets the inner thigh muscles a bit more and is achieved by taking a wider stance than usual and turning your feet out slightly. 8 – 12 reps
  5. Kettlebell squat – hold a kettlebell at chest level with both hands and perform the squat. 8 – 12 reps

Watch out for some videos I’ll be posting of these soon. In the meantime, give them a try and give me a shout if you’ve got any questions.

Take it easy
Tony

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