How to Squat
Let’s start with squats are my all time FAVORITE exercise! =) Some people think squats are just an easy natural movement yet what if you’re new to exercise and actually don’t know where to begin. I find a lot of people when asked to just squat will stand with narrow feet and bend down trying to keep their body totally upright causing severe pressure on the knees and lower back as well as the dreaded knee-knock. I might add this isn’t just people new to exercise, I’ve even seen “regular gym goers” squat with terrible technique, but unless you’ve been taught properly how are you actually expected to know. If you are NEW to squats start with no weights and stand next to a bench or even a chair at home. Stand facing away from the bench fairly close with feet slightly wider than hip width apart, toes can be slightly turned out. From here sit down to tap the bench leading with your backside then stand back up. Ok, that’s the first step, now next time do the same action again but think about pushing your knees out away from each other so your knees are over the same direction as your toes with weight further on your heals, toes relaxed. For the first few times you can even sit down on the bench then stand back up, this is a squat! When looking at a squat from the side your chest is held up proud with shoulders back yet you do come forward quite a lot. In a perfect squat the angle of your back and your shins will be exactly the same! Once you’ve got you body weight squat technique down pact then you can work on a slightly lower squat and start to add the weights!
Squat Form 101
Your build determines how proper squat form looks like for you. The wider your shoulders are, the wider your grip should be. If you have a short torso with long thighs, you’ll lean more forward than people with a long torso and short thighs. Don’t try to squat like someone else does unless you have the same build. Follow these general squat form guidelines instead and individualize them as you gain experience….
- Stance. Squat with your heels shoulder-width apart. Put your heels under your shoulders.
- Feet. Turn your feet out 30°. Keep your whole foot flat on the floor. Don’t raise your toes or heels.
- Knees. Push your knees to the side, in the direction of your feet. Lock your knees at the top of each rep.
- Hips. Bend your hips and knees at the same time. Move your hips back and down while pushing your knees out.
- Lower Back. Squat with a natural arch like when you stand. No rounding or excess arching. Keep your back neutral.
- Grip. Squeeze the bar hard. But don’t try to support heavy weight with your hands. Let your upper-back carry the bar.
- Grip Width. Use a medium grip, narrower than when you Bench Press. Your hands should be outside your shoulders.
- Bar Position. Put the bar between your traps and rear shoulders (low bar) or on your traps (high bar). Center the bar.
- Wrists. Your wrists will bend and hurt if you try to support the bar with your hands. Carry it with your upper-back.
- Elbows. Behind your torso at the top, not vertical or horizontal. Inline with your torso at the bottom of your Squat.
- Upper-back. Arch your upper-back to create support for the bar. Squeeze your shoulder-blades and raise your chest.
- Chest. Raise your chest before you un-rack the bar. Keep it up and tight by taking a big breath before you Squat down.
- Head. Keep your head inline with your torso. Don’t look at the ceiling or at your feet. Don’t turn your head sideways.
- Back Angle. Not vertical or horizontal but diagonal. The exact back angle depends on your build and bar position.
- Un-racking. Put the bar on your back and your feet under the bar. Un-rack it by straightening your legs. Walk back.
- Way Down. Bend your hips and knees at the same time. Hips back, knees out. Keep your lower back neutral.
- Depth. Squat down until your hips are lower than your knees. Thighs parallel isn’t enough. Break parallel.
- Way Up. Move you hips straight up. Keep your knees out, your chest up and your head neutral.
- Between Reps. Stand with your hips and knees locked. Breathe. Get tight for the next rep.
- Racking. Lock your hips and knees. Then step forward, hit the rack and bend your knees.
- Bar Path. Move the bar in a vertical line over your mid-foot. No horizontal movement.
- Breathing. Big breath at the top. Hold it at the bottom. Exhale at the top.
Proper Squat Depth
Squat down until your hips are below your knees. This moves your body through a full range of motion. It strengthens your leg muscles evenly. Thighs parallel to the floor isn’t low enough. You must break parallel so the top of your knees is higher than your hip crease. If you can’t Squat parallel, put your heels shoulder-width apart and toes 30° out. Now squat while push your knees to the sides. You’ll squat deeper.
Many people do partial squats. They only squat a quarter or half the way down. This makes the weight easier to squat because it moves over less distance. You can squat more weight. But partial squats only work your quadriceps. They don’t strengthen your hamstrings and glutes which are important for knee health. Many people think partial squats are safer. But they create muscle imbalances which often cause knee injuries.
Other people like to squat deep. “Ass-To-Grass” squats (ATG) involves squatting down until your butt touches your ankles. This works your muscles through a greater range of motion. But it also decreases how heavy you can squat since the bar moves further. Plus, most people lack the flexibility to squat deep without their back rounding. I recommend you break parallel then stop. No need to squat deeper to gain strength and muscle.
Squats are more than just a leg exercise. Your legs do most of the work to squat the weight. But your abs and lower back muscles must stabilize your torso while your upper-body balances the bars. Squats work your whole body from head to toe. This is why you can do squats heavier than other exercises, and why they’re more effective for gaining overall strength and muscle. Squats work the following muscles…
- Thighs. Your legs bend when you squat while your knees stay out. Everything straightens at the top. This works your knee and hip muscles: your quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors and glutes. The squat is the best exercise to build strong, muscular legs and a firm butt.
- Calves. Your shins are incline at the bottom of your squat. They end vertical at the top. This ankle movement works your main calf muscles: your gastrocnemius and soleus. But don’t expect miracles. Genetics play a large role when it comes to building bigger calves.
- Lower Back. Gravity pulls the bar down when you Ssquat. Your lower back must resist this downward force to keep your spine neutral and safe. This strengthens the muscles on the back of your spine which protects it against injury: your erector spinae.
- Abs. Your ab muscles help your lower back muscles to keep your spine neutral when you squat. This strengthens your six-pack muscles that lie on your belly: your rectus abdominis and your obliques on the side. Stronger abs are more muscular. Eat right and they’ll show.
- Arms. Your arms assist your upper-back muscles to balance the bar on your back. Your hands squeeze the bar which increases tension in your forearms and upper-arms. Squats don’t work you arms like Chin-ups because your arms don’t bend. But you get isometric arm work.
Squats also work the muscle that pumps blood to your legs: your heart. And it strengthens the muscle between your ears: your mind. Many people hate squats because they’re so hard. But that’s also why they’re so effective for gaining strength and muscle. People who have the courage to squat every week, build discipline that becomes useful in other parts of their lives (like sticking to healthy nutrition and sleeping habits).
If you only have time to do one exercise, then squat. Squats work more muscles, with more weight, over a greater range of motion, than any other exercise. The weight is heavier than on a leg curl or leg extension. You must balance the weight and yourself unlike on the leg press where you’re sitting on a machine. The bar moves twice the distance than on deadlifts. There’s no substitute for the squat.
Get Started Meal Plan
Try this simple yet balanced meal plan to help you to lose weight or maintain a healthy balanced diet. Pair with regular exercise including weight workouts and you will soon be on your way to your goals.
* 125ml cold water
* 1 serve chocolate protein
* 30g rolled oats
* 1 cup frozen berries of choice
* 100g chobani 0% greek yoghurt
- 1 piece soy-linseed toasted + 30g avocado
Or try our recipe with a few more added extras at http://www.ubodymag.com.au/sundays-special-smoothy/
- 100g Turkey steak + 100g veg (I love pre-packaged cabbage stir-fry mix) + 80g Quinoa
- 80g Chicken + 100g veg + 50g sweet potato (try roasted, YUM)
- Casein Custard (2 scoops) amazing if you love your desert.
- Protein shake (with cold water)
- 1 apple
- Profix Mini protein bar
- 50g steak + 80g sweet potato
Get inventive. These are the basic ingredient so mix it up with stir-frys and different herbs and spices.
5 ways you’re sabotaging your fitness goals
So you’re getting up early every day and heading out to train … yet nothing’s happening, what’s wrong?
It’s so depressing when you’re making all the efforts and you’re not seeing results, but sticking on a pair of runners and joining your local bootcamp does not automatically equal better fitting jeans. It takes a full lifestyle change.
If you’re struggling to reach your goals despite believing you’re doing all the right things, check this list out and make sure you’re not being held back by these self-sabotaging habits.
You don’t get enough sleep
Everything is harder when you’re tired, let alone trying to push your limits in each workout. Try heading to bed a little earlier for a few nights and see if it gives you the extra energy you need to go a little harder in your training. If you find you can’t fall asleep at an earlier time try turning off ALL technology and sitting in bed with a good book. This will relax your mind ready for sleep. You’ll also avoid falling into the ‘I’m too tired to train’ trap. In my experience, this is the most common excuse of all to drop a training session.
Your diet is all wrong
Your body needs good nutrition to perform at its best, so make sure you’re getting plenty of lean protein and plenty of green, leafy vegetables. Of course, even if you’re eating well, if you’re supplementing your chicken breast and broccoli at dinner with a block of chocolate and a bottle of red wine, you’re pretty likely to experience a lack of results. Cut back on those special treats to intensify your results. Remember you can’t out-train a bad diet.
You’re doing the same workouts
If your workout is always the same, your body will always be the same. When you stick to the same workout all or most of the time, your muscles adapt to the exercises and it becomes a less effective way to burn fat and calories. Your body also needs time to recover so it’s important to mix up your workouts to give it time to recuperate and repair. Before you run off to change your workout try increasing your weights used each time.
You take shortcuts
Are you putting everything into your workout, or do you make little excuses to keep things comfortable? “I’ll just drop straight to my knees in these push-ups because I’ll be able to do more”, “I’ll stick to these weights because I don’t want to bulk up”, “I have to get back to work after this session, so I won’t get too sweaty”. These excuses come in all shapes and sizes, and they can become very creative. Fact is though, they are just that — they’re excuses, designed to keep you in your comfort zone. And we all know what happens in your comfort zone. Not much.
You’re socialising during your workouts
The social side of training can be great, but not if it’s distracting you from achieving your fitness goals. Stay focused on what you’re doing and avoid turning your workout into a social event. Leave your phone in your locker as well. If you’re having a text conversation while you’re lifting weights, your rests are probably too long. If you’re answering the phone during a run, you’re giving yourself an excuse to slow down.
If you’re making the effort to workout, hold yourself accountable. Avoid falling into traps that rob you of the results you deserve by identifying the self-sabotaging habits that might be getting in the way. Even changing one or two of these habits could be the key to unlocking the results you’re looking for. Why not give it a go? =)
Lactic Acid is Good for You: Why Everyone with a Healthy Heart Should Do Interval Exercise copy
Accumulating lactic acid in your muscles makes you a better athlete, helps to prevent diseases and may even prolong your life. Athletes use a form of interval training to make themselves faster and stronger, and everyone with a healthy heart can benefit from this technique. Interval training means to exercise so vigorously that you get short of breath, slow down and when you recover your breath, you exercise intensely enough to become short of breath again. Then you alternate intense intervals and recovery until your legs start to feel heavy or hurt, and then stop the workout for the day. For example, warm up by running very slowly for five to 10 minutes, and then run a little faster until you become short of breath, slow down until you recover your breath and repeat until your legs start to feel heavy or hurt.
Intervals to Make You a Better Athlete
You cannot enlarge a muscle and make it stronger unless you damage it with vigorous exercise. When it heals, it is larger and stronger. You cannot improve your ability to take in and use oxygen unless you exercise vigorously enough to become short of breath. Interval training allows you to exercise more intensely than continuous training and therefore give you a stronger training effect by causing more muscle fiber damage and greater oxygen debts.
Intervals to Prevent Disease and Prolong Your Life
A regular exercise program helps to prevent diabetes, heart attacks, and cancers. Interval training may be even more effective in preventing heart attacks and cancers because it helps to lower high blood sugar more effectively than continuous training by making cells far more sensitive to insulin (Int J Sports Med, published online November 6, 2014). Vigorous exercise increases the number, size and efficiency of mitochondria in your muscle cells. All of the cells in your body (except mature red blood cells) have anywhere from a few to thousands of organelles, called mitochondria, that turn the food that you eat into energy. Muscle cells need a lot of energy so they have lots of mitochondria. Nerves don’t need a lot of energy to transmit messages so they need only a few mitochondria. When you exercise so intensely that you can’t get all the oxygen you need and you become short of breath, you increase the number, size and efficiency of mitochondria in cells everywhere in your body. Accumulating evidence shows that this helps to prevent overweight, diabetes, heart attacks and certain cancers. It helps to explain why exercise increases memory and nerve function. Exercise also helps to reduce the loss of mitochondria in cells that occurs naturally with aging (Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, April, 2007).
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