The Perks and Pitfalls of Squats – Muscle Strengthening Exercise

squat training

You must have come across the term squat if you are a regular at the gym. A squat is a muscle strengthening full body exercise with a primary focus on adding strength to the muscles of thighs, hips, buttocks, hamstrings, and quadriceps femoris muscles.

In addition, this vital component of strength building and fitness training invigorates the bones and ligaments. Bodybuilders and weightlifters can achieve enormous strength in the lower part of the body, especially legs, by doing squats. When performed correctly, squatting benefits most regions of the body. These include lower and upper back, abdomen, trunk muscles, coastal muscles, shoulders, and arms.

How to perform a squat

Unknowingly, all of us practice a little squatting every day. Postures like getting up from a chair, getting in and out of a car, sitting on a toilet seat, all involve squatting.

  • Squat is a compound exercise that begins from a standing position.
  • You can hold a dumbbell in each hand or use a barbell across your shoulders to add more weight.
  • Bend your knees and sit back, thus lowering your body along with the weight, and then get back to the upright position.

Muscles involved in a squat

Several muscles are at play as the body moves along with the weight, for example:

  • Trapezius muscles, which provide support to the arms, are the ones on the shoulder extending longitudinally from the shoulder bone to the lower vertebrae of your spine.
  • Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, and Transverses Abdominis located in the abdominal region.
  • Erector Spinae is a large muscle originating near the sacrum and extending vertically along the spine at the back.
  • The above muscles are part of your core body that supports the lumber spine and help keep your back in a proper alignment. To rule out any injury during squatting, bodybuilders work on strengthening the “core” muscles for a long period.
  • Hamstring muscles are located on the back of thighs. They extend longitudinally from the pelvis to the back of the knees.
  • Bicep Femoris, Semimembranosus and Semitendinosus form the hamstring muscles. Flexible hamstring muscles expand and contract accordingly, to help you move down and get up in an upright position seamlessly.
  • Gluteus Maximus is a large muscle located on your butt that controls the hip movement.
  • Quadriceps are muscles that run longitudinally from the front of the thigh to your knee. Rectus Femoris, Vastus Intermedius, Vastus Lateralis and Vastus Medialis form the quadriceps.

You can decide to move down to a certain height while squatting. Depending on your intensity and variations, squats can benefit you in many ways.

Front Squat vs. Back Squats

A qualified trainer should check out the mobility of the athlete’s shoulder, upper and lower back, hips, knees and ankles before zeroing in on the type of squat.

  • Front squat calls for a higher mobility than back squat. Back squats require lesser muscle mobility and a recipe for strengthening the muscles.
  • Higher mobility of thoracic spine helps keep the chest up. Shoulder and wrist flexibility facilitates holding the bar right across the shoulder.
  • Flexibility of hip and groin muscles help squatting low, with knees aligned to the toes.
  • Front squats rely on quadriceps and upper back muscles while hips, glutes and lower back muscles support back squats.
  • Athletes can step up their field performance with a rapidly increasing front and back squat.
  • Bodybuilders, on the other hand, put more focus on building and strengthening of the muscles.

As we know, squat is a one of the compound of the strength-building regime. Another such component is the leg press. Squats need more focus and coordination as compared to leg press and ramp up testosterone.

Leg Press vs. Squats

  • Both squats and leg press target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes muscles.
  • These muscles along with erector spinae lead to increased activity in squats than in leg press.
  • Squat is superior to leg press in terms of quad hypertrophy, body strength and body hypertrophy.

Proper squatting is definitively helpful to thwart knee and back pain. Each of the three squats, high bar, low bar and front squats are significant by their own merits. Squats are considered as a full body exercise in spite of a greater focus on the strengthening of lower body muscles.

Low bar Squat Form

  • The low bar squat is determined by the placement of the bar.
  • The bar on the rack is initially set at just about your chest height. Position yourself below the bar and rest it on your shoulder shelf.
  • Weightlifters use a wide grip closer to the notches of the bar, as a narrow grip increases stress on the elbow joint.
  • While taking a position, keep your feet wide apart and take a deep breath
  • Lift the bar off the rack driving it upwards pushing your hips back, slightly. Step backwards out of the rack by taking short steps.
  • A neutral arch position ensures the feet are stable, while the back supports the bar.
  • Keep your back nice and tight. While going down think about driving your shoulders back into the bar and stand all the way up.
  • Maintain your torso at the same angle while coming back to the starting position.

High bar vs. Low bar Squats

The high bar squat hits the quads harder and is popularly known as Olympic squat. It is mainly used in the training of Olympic lifters. Ensure you remain in an upright position while doing a low bar squat as it targets hamstrings and glutes. The latter is common among power lifters. The objective of performance sets the training technique.

  • The bar is placed on top of the shoulder just below C7 vertebrae in the case of a high bar squat. In a low bar squat, the bar is placed down on the back across the spine of the scapula.
  • Foot placement of a high bar squat is narrow, while that of a low bar squat is wide.
  • Hips are directly under the bar in a high bar squat. During a low bar squat hips are pushed back during the un-racking movement.
  • Chest angle is greater in a high bar squat as compared to the forward lean posture during the low bar squat.
  • Hands are placed closer in a high bar squat whereas the low bar squat is performed using a wider grip on the bar.

Knee pain due to squatting and its remedies

Squatting can put a large amount of pressure on your quads. Quadriceps tendon called Patellar Retinacula connects front of the thigh to the patella that rests in a groove. Knee movement makes the patella move back and forth inside the groove. Improper training, usage of wrong equipment unfit for your body, causes Patellofemoral pain. You can follow some home remedies to get yourself relieved of the pain.

  • Rest your body to help soothing of the nerves.
  • Put an ice pack on your knees for around 20 minutes, several times a day.
  • Use a kneecap and keep your leg on an elevated position higher than your heart.
  • Anti-inflammatory and non-steroidal drugs can be taken, if home remedies fail to reduce the pain substantially.
  • Persisting pain, however, calls for a check up with a qualified physician.

Squatting with heavy weights can often be a cause of concern and may lead to excruciating pain. Extra care should to be taken while practicing squats.