This week's focus, the squat, is arguably the single most important exercise that one can do. I mean, you have to be able to sit down and stand up, right? This movement is basic to just about anyone's activities of daily living. It epitomizes what is known as "functional training." Therefore, no matter who you are, there is probably a version of this exercise for you.
For the basic squat start position (see above), stand with your feet at hip width or a little wider with toes pointed straight ahead or slightly outward, arms out front. Next, shift your weight mainly to your heels and prepare to lower your hips back and toward the ground.
As you begin to bend the hips, immediately followed by your knees, you should focus on going down and back as if trying to sit on an imaginary low stool behind you. Use your arms to counterbalance, so that you don't fall. Balance is the tricky part at first. Your goal is to get your thighs parallel to the ground; however, lack of balance may prohibit this. Just get as close as you can. Also, your knees may prohibit you from going all the way to parallel. Let your joints be your guide; try to stay in a pain-free range. This exercise is done entirely in the sagittal plane (See "Push-Ups," September 12, 2016) by flexing then extending the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Squats strengthen the largest muscle groups in the body: the quadriceps, gluteals, and hamstrings.
And speaking of getting up and down from a low seat, a version of the squat called a chair stand is a wonderful modification of this exercise for older adults (as seen in this video). Notice when watching the video that the instructor stresses over and over that one should limit the range accordingly. And one modification not mentioned in the video is that you can use a chair with arms and assist slightly with the upper body if need be when rising from the chair. In addition, I would recommend placing the chair against a wall for added support.
Now, back to more challenging variations ...When doing a weighted squat, just like the basic version, it is important to shift your body weight toward the heels before beginning, as demonstrated in the photo above.
Whether using dumbbells (above) or a barbell, please keep in mind that balance is even more of a challenge when doing a weighted squat, so be patient with yourself and limit your range at first. This version is a great way to add resistance and therefore more challenge to the exercise.
And if you really want to get tricky, try this super challenging (and time efficient) version of the exercise: the squat-press. Before beginning your first rep, position a pair of light-to-moderate dumbbells like so, and shift your weight to the heels, as in the other versions of the exercise.
Then lower to parallel (or close to it), keeping the weights in the same position.
Finally, "press up" at the top of the range, using your deltoids (mainly middle and anterior) to do so. This is a wonderful two-for-one version that hits one of the largest muscles of the upper body as well.
Like push-ups, there are many other places I could go from here, so again, expect a "part two" at some point in the future. Hope you have a great week. Be strong and be well, everyone!