Squat for size and shape
You can get as creative as possible with building a firm, rounded rear-end, but there is only one multi-joint movement, with many variations, that will develop and shape your tush. You may have already been doing it: the classic squat. In addition as a shape and toner, the squat may be, arguably, the best exercise for athletes. Think about it, football players pop out of that low leveraged position on every play; baseball players use their hips to turn on a pitch to knock it out of the park, basketball players attack the rim with tremendous force from the ground up; fighters use their hip power to turn on a knockout punch. Ask all the top caliber strength and conditioning coaches what is a staple lift in their respective team’s training regimen and “squats” will surely be mentioned. And there is a good reason why the squat is a core lift in any training program. After all, your gluteus maximus, which is targeted in the squat, is the largest muscle in the human body. It is large and powerful because it keeps the trunk of the body in an erect posture; it aids in walking up stairs and getting up from a chair, and is largely responsible for many athletic maneuvers. Any version of squats, as long as it is performed deep and with good form, will enhance all the aforementioned maneuvers. The benefits are plentiful. Here is what the squat can do to make you more athletic and shapely:
- Strengthens lower back
- Stimulates bone growth to prevent fractures or osteoporosis (disease associated with low bone density)
- Forms the foundation of your body’s core strength
- Stimulates highest growth hormone release
- Develops strength stability and endurance while working the cardiovascular system; consequently, it speeds up your body’s metabolism
- Targets every major muscle in your upper leg, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus
- Works the posterior chain (virtually every muscle on the back side of your body)
- Upper body (chest, shoulders, arms, back) is working to stabilize the weight
- Aids in increasing balance, vertical jump, and overall athleticism
Diagram 1 Body squat
And we would be remiss if we didn't remind ourselves that the rump (running out of euphemisms) is one of the most attractive parts of the human anatomy to look at; therefore, it benefits you, especially if you’re single, to work it. And don’t forget, you simulate a form of squat everyday – getting out of bed; lifting yourself off the couch after watching TV; getting out of your car; and how about in the morning when you get off the pot after unloading. You get the idea. To make those minor obstacles easier, get a little pep to your step, and show off your ass-ets (that’s bad), the squat is the core exercise to accomplish that.
Intensity and exertion are required
Squats require much work. You don’t have the luxury of lying on a bench or sitting in a machine; since it is a structural exercise (involves many muscle groups), you must exert a lot of work and effort to do it. It is important to point out that your legs should break parallel to the floor to allow your full posterior chain to be worked. A full squat is much more work than a 1/4 or 1/2 squat, but the effect is much more beneficial.
Form is everything
Squatting should be performed in a full range of motion with the hamstrings making contact with the calves. There have been trainers that will tell you not to go parallel or lower because it will damage your knees; however, this has never been proven in clinical studies. Most experts and top trainers will agree the “full” squat is the best to achieve full range of motion thereby working the entire gluteal muscle group; after all, it is well documented that world class Olympic weight lifters who practice full squats on a regular basis have healthy knees. But if you’re attempting squats for the first time, there is a progression that should be learned. Start without weights with your arms extended in front of your body (diagram 1). Make sure you bend at the hips on your descent with the knees following; if you bend at the knees first, before your hips, your heels are likely to come off the floor; moreover, more shear force will be applied to your knees and you won’t have the full benefit the exercise applies to your gluteus muscles. Therefore, push off with your heels when you hit the bottom and keep your back straight with your head up. Once your ankle flexion, balance, and strength improve, you will be ready to go under the bar in a squat rack for back squats.
Back Squat Description:
- Place the bar on the squat rack at a height that is approximately 3 to 5 inches lower than your shoulders
- Stand under the bar, center yourself, and position yourself so that it rests on the upper part of your shoulder blades and lower traps
- Draw your shoulders back and keep the back straight once the bar is lifted off the rack supports
- After stepping back away from the supports, position your feet just outside shoulder width range with your feet pointed slightly outward. The further your feet are out, the more your powerful hip muscles come into play. Body structures, flexibility, and area of legs you are targeting determine what stance will be used. Experiment with different variations without weight and with light weight before progressing.
- Be sure your knees are positioned in the same angle as your toes; for example, if your feet are pointing out at 30 degrees, your knees should stay at 30 degrees throughout the entire squat. Don’t allow your knees to jut in during the movement, leaving you vulnerable to injury
- Keep your chest out, head up, and back straight and tight throughout the movement; avoid rounding the back, which creates
- On the descent inhale while dropping at a smooth controlled pace
- Once your legs break parallel with the floor (See Diagram 2), rise quickly with emphasis pushing off with your heels. Midway through, thrust your hips through to finish.
- When done, walk the bar back to the rack making sure that the bar hits both rails of the rack before you drop the bar on the supports
There are many more variations of a squat that will aid in building and shaping your glutes: back squats, front squats, sand bag squats, dumbbell squats, kettle ball squats. Whatever, the variation, doing a squat movement in your exercise routine at least once a week is a necessity in optimal development, shape, and athleticism. And yes, that extra effort will be well worth the time and sweat; after all, life is too short to go through it with a saggy, flat rear end.
Diagram 2 legs below parallel and back straight