Do Squats Work For You If You Are a Beginner?
As you know I am trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle this year! As I blog, I’m hoping I’m helping you on your way too. One of the ways I plan on becoming healthier is to sneak some exercise or movement into my day. You see, I’m not really one who was ever found of exercising. I do believe in being active and moving, but I have never really stuck to the ‘go to the gym’ and workout.
I consider myself a beginner when it comes to exercising. I recently just did a plank challenge on my blog and today I would like to challenge you to a Squats For Beginners challenge. I encourage you to join me on my health and wellness journey!
How about you? Do you like to work out at a gym or at home?
No two people react to exercise the same way! Some love it: others hate it; and some just do it because….everyone’s health and wellness journey is unique. I think it is important to remember that whenever you are trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle you should keep in mind your fitness level, age, health history and nutritional habits. As these aspects will affect how well your body responds to your exercise regime.
ARE SQUATS GOOD FOR BEGINNERS?
This year I have been looking at exercises that use your bodyweight instead of / or in addition to weights. I do have a set of free weights at home and sometimes I do look at them, but they really don’t motivate me to use them. Instead I’ve been trying bodyweight exercises. The great thing about using your body for weight is that you can fit working out or exercising in anywhere and you don’t have to go to a gym.
In January I started doing planks and set out on a challenge to make “planking” a habit. I also had many of you sign up for my newsletter and follow along with me. It was a lot of fun and I’m happy to report that many of you are still planking along with me! You can check out My Best Tips for Doing Planks here.
I feel like I’m ready for a new challenge so along with continuing to plank, I’m going to add the ‘king of all bodyweight’ workouts – the SQUAT!
I think you can do squats no matter what your level of fitness. Being a beginner just means you need to do a bit of groundwork to ensure “good form” before you start.
If you are a beginner you happen to be here at the right place and at the right time – as today I’m going to show you how to do a squat using “good form”.
(For those of you who are more advanced you might be interested in checking my information on “good form” below and I’ve also added an option to the Bodyweight squat for those of you who are more advanced.)
WHAT ARE SQUATS?
Squats are an excellent way to tone and workout the multiple muscle groups in your glutes, thighs, and core. When done properly they can make you feel and look great!
There are many types or variations of the squat that one can do. No matter which squat you choose to do you should focus on fewer, quality reps and then slowly increase the intensity of your workout over time.
Using this idea I have come up with a second challenge for you and myself. For the next month, I would like to do a squat challenge. I propose that we start out slow, with good form and safely work on getting our butt and thighs toned and in shape for summer!
WHY DO A SQUAT?
Squats can be effective in toning and building muscle if you do them correctly and with “good form“. They can be done by all fitness levels, including beginners. Doing squats can help strengthen your entire body – not only building stronger muscles and your bones but helping you become more flexible too!
When you do a squat you are doing a compound movement – meaning the movement uses more than one joint (hip, knee, ankle). As well a simple bodyweight squat uses almost every muscle group in the body – you are not only using your “legs,” but you are also engaging your hips, back, inner core, shoulders and arms.
The science behind the squat is that when you utilize the large muscle groups in your legs, thighs and buttocks you are causing your body to increase its anabolic hormone production (This is thought to help you lose fat and gain muscle). There is a PUB Med study – ”The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise” that reports on this finding.
By doing squats you are increasing the strength in your lower body which should help you reduce your chances of injury whether you are an athlete or just doing those everyday things like standing up and sitting down or in our case here in Alberta, Canada shoveling the driveway!).
HOW DO YOU DO A BODYWEIGHT SQUAT CORRECTLY?
Let’s take a look at how to do a bodyweight squat. Many trainers recommend you master this move before you add weights like dumbbells or kettlebells.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
- Point your toes slightly outward – about a 10 degree angle.
- Look straight ahead; it is sometimes helpful to choose a spot on the wall in front of you to look at. (You’ll want to keep looking at this spot the entire time you do your squat.)
- Put your arms straight out in front of you parallel to the ground.
- Try not to round your back or hyper-extend.
- Keep your weight on the heels and the balls of your feet grounding yourself; there should not be any weight on your toes.
- Tighten your entire time body as well as your glutes as you do your squat
- Next breathe in, let your hips move backwards as your knees begin to bend.
- Keep your back straight and your chest and shoulders up.
- As you squat down, focus on keeping your knees in line with your feet and your eyes focused on the spot on the wall
- TIP 1 – Focus on pushing their knees out so they are in alignment with their feet. If they start to come inside the toes, push them out back out (try not to push your knees wider than your feet).
- TIP 2 – Pretend there is a string dropping down from your knee to between your second and fourth toes.
- Continue to drop down into your Squat until your hip is lower than your knees (or parallel to the ground). You can go deeper than this, however, anything less than parallel is considered a partial squat.
- Once you reach the bottom, it’s time to stand back up again!
- Keeping everything tight, squeeze your glutes, breathe out and push up through your heels (you want to keep the balls of your feet on the ground as well and try not to go up on your toes).
- Push your knees out the same way you did on the way down, and squeeze your glutes one last time at the top.
THIS IS ONE SQUAT – REPEAT as many times as you like….
TIP 3 – I sometimes like to do my squats in front of a mirror to watch that I’m using “good form”.
Different Types of Bodyweight Squats
(With each squat inhale on your way down and exhale on your way up.)
With your feet shoulder width apart, keep your chest up and arms out in front of you.
Sit back and down as if you are going to sit on a CHAIR. Let your butt touch the surface, but don’t actually sit down on the CHAIR.
As you descend make sure your knees are over your toes.
Return to the starting position – push through your heels and squeeze your glutes.
PRISONER CHAIR SQUAT
USING the above tips, place your hands behind your head rather than out in front of you.
Use a lower chair this time so that you are squatting a bit deeper.
Continue lowering the chair size until your thighs are parallel (or lower) to the ground.
This is the same as the chair squat, however now you remove the chair.
Put your arms out in front of you.
Squat down as you did above, until your thighs are parallel to the ground (or lower). The deeper you squat the more muscles you engage.
Try to keep your torso as upright as possible by holding your chest up.
PRISONER AIR SQUAT
This is the same as the Prisoner Chair Squat but your remove the chair.
Put your hands behind your head.
Squatting as low as you can trying to make your thighs parallel to the ground (or lower)
Again, try to keep your chest up, feet shoulder width apart, knees tracking over toes, sit back, and push through your heels.
The more you practice the easier it will get. Just remember, that quality is more important than quantity. Better to do just a few with great form vs a lot with sloppy form and end up hurting yourself.
Are you ready for a challenge?
Since it takes about 21 days to form a habit….Let’s start with a 4 week challenge for beginners. (If you are more advanced I may I suggest you try adding some light weights to your squats….I will be posting an article in the near future about using kettlebells with your squats if you’re looking to increase the intensity of your workout.)
Day 1 10 Chair squats
Day 2 15 Chair squats
Day 3 rest
Day 4 20 Chair squats
Day 5 25 Chair squats
Day 6 30 Chair squats
Day 7 rest
Day 1 20 Prisoner Chair squats
Day 2 25 Prisoner Chair squats
Day 3 rest
Day 4 30 Prisoner Chair squats
Day 5 35 Prisoner Chair squats
Day 6 40 Prisoner Chair squats
Day 7 rest
Day 1 20 Air squats
Day 2 25 Air squats
Day 3 rest
Day 4 30 Air squats
Day 5 35 Air squats
Day 6 40 Air squats
Day 7 rest
Day 1 20 Prisoner Air squats
Day 2 25 Prisoner Air squats
Day 3 rest
Day 4 30 Prisoner Air squats
Day 5 35 Prisoner Air squats
Day 6 40 Prisoner Air squats
Day 7 rest
***So if you decide to take on the challenge, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter. I will be checking in with everyone monthly. You can also share your thoughts, and results with me on Facebook….I encourage you to get your friends to join as well.
WRAPPING IT UP – Will SQUATS WORK FOR YOU IF YOU ARE A BEGINNER?
I think squats are amazing. I consider them a fundamental exercise and THEY rate highly in my books alongside the plank. In terms of time, I think doing squats is one of those exercises that gives you the best bang for your buck! Most good strength training programs will recommend you do squats 2-3 times a week.
Although, as much as I hate to say this, if you are doing this activity to lose weight there are a few other things you should consider as well. Unless you monitor your food (see my article on Canada Food Guide for more information), do additional forms of exercise and/or have excellent genetics, simply doing squats will not aggressively change your body or make you look like the model in the ad.
As I mentioned above an individual’s activity level, age, genetics, nutrition and fitness habits all play a role in how your body will respond to exercise.
My goal for adding squats to my health and wellness regime is to form a healthy habit to get you and me moving and sneaking in some exercise at the same time.
I believe squats will work for you as long as you include them alongside other exercises and eat healthy. Just as there isn’t a magic pill to keep you healthy or help you lose weight, there isn’t any one single exercise that we can do to ensure that we are fit and toned either. Doing squats is great, but you should also incorporate other exercises or movements, and a healthy eating plan too.
I truly believe that exercising should be all about how it makes you feel — increasing your energy, sleeping better, decreasing anxiety!
So, my final thought for you is that when you are thinking about adopting a healthier lifestyle this year, remember it is not just about making one change, such as doing daily squats.
I want you to think about the big picture. As you continue your journey in health and wellness by sitting less, become more mindful each day, forming new habits and improving your nutritional choices try adding some squats as another way to help get you moving.
I’d love to know what you think. Do you do squats as part of your exercise regime? Are you interested in trying my SQUAT challenge? Leave me a message below in the comments.
Recipe: Greek or Coconut Yogurt and Gluten Free Granola Checkout my recipe in My Mindful Eating For Beginners article. This Granola would make an excellent after workout snack or a meal if your add some Greek or Coconut Yogurt.
Quote: “Life has its ups and downs ….we call them squats.”
Affirmation: “I am powerful now!”
Until next time,