Doing Squats

In addition to strengthening the muscles of your derriere, the squat also does a good job of exercising your quadriceps and hamstrings. If you have hip, knee, or lower-back problems, restrict the distance your knees travel during squats by bending only part of the way down.

Performing the squat

Follow these steps to perform this exercise:

  1. With either your hands on your hips or holding dumbbells with your arms down at your sides, stand with your feet as wide apart as your hips and place your weight slightly back on your heels.

  2. Let your arms hang down at your sides.

  3. Pull your abdominals in and stand tall with square shoulders.

  4. Sit back and down, as if you’re sitting into a chair.

    Lower as far as you can without leaning your upper body more than a few inches forward. Don’t lower any farther than the point at which you’re parallel to the floor, and don’t allow your knees to shoot out in front of your toes.

  5. Once you feel your upper body fold forward over your thighs, straighten your legs and stand back up.

    Don’t lock your knees at the top of the movement.

    The squat strengthens your butt and works your quadriceps and hamstrings. [Credit: Photograph by Su

    Credit: Photograph by Sunstreak Productions, Inc.
    The squat strengthens your butt and works your quadriceps and hamstrings.

Tips for doing squats

Keep these tips in mind as you perform the squat:

  • Keep your head up and eyes focused on an object directly in front of you. Your body tends to follow your eyes, so if you’re staring at the ground, you’re more likely to fall forward. Imagine balancing a book on top of your head.

  • When you stand back up, push through your heels rather than shifting your body weight forward. Don’t let your heels (or toes) lift off the floor.

  • Try not to arch your back as you stand up.

Gym alternative to squats: Leg-press machine

The leg-press machine at your gym is an excellent squat alternative for those who have chronic knee problems or who don’t have good balance. Follow these steps to use the leg-press machine:

  1. Set the machine so that when you’re lying on your back, your shoulders fit snugly under the shoulder pads, and your knees are bent to an inch or so below parallel to the foot plate.

  2. Place your feet as wide as your hips with your feet pointing forward and grasp the handles.

  3. Pull your abdominals in and keep your head and shoulders on the back pad.

  4. Push upward until your legs are nearly straight, just short of locking.

  5. Bend your knees, controlling the weight as you go down, until your thighs are parallel to the foot plate.

    The leg-press machine is a great alternative to the traditional squat. [Credit: Photograph by Sunst

    Credit: Photograph by Sunstreak Productions, Inc.
    The leg-press machine is a great alternative to the traditional squat.