Squat Exercises for Men

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Squats are a great lower body workout.
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Whether you prefer to gain lean muscle mass, bulk up or simply want to get in better shape, a squat is one of the most effective exercises a man can do for these purposes. The benefits of squats for men include injury resilience, strength in lower limbs and better functional movement patterns.

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Squats for Men

According to a December 2014 review from the Strength and Conditioning Journal, the squat pattern is one of the most critical movements necessary for improving sports performance, mitigating injury risks and supporting a life full of physical activity and health.

Squat benefits for guys also includes bettering movement patterns for running and jumping and completing everyday tasks, such as carrying heavy objects and lifting.

Above all, one of the top benefits gained from performing the squat is that the movement uses multiple muscle groups. This is valuable when you have limited time to work out and you want to make the most of your time in the gym. Such muscle groups engaged in a squat include the quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calves and the glutes.

Although you might want to start out performing more advanced movements, the uninitiated should start with basic squats and master those first.

Move 1: Basic Squat

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your knees and toes facing straight ahead.
  2. Squat down like you are sitting into a chair by pushing your hips back and bending your knees.
  3. Keep your torso erect and your chest facing out.
  4. Slowly lower yourself as far as you can without lifting your heels off the floor.
  5. Slowly push yourself back up.
  6. Repeat for two sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Move 2: Squat with a Dumbbell

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in front of your body with both of your hands. Keep your elbows slightly bent so you don't lock your elbow joint.
  3. Bend the knees and lower yourself into a squat, keeping your head up, glutes squeezed and chest straight.
  4. Slowly move back up into the starting position.
  5. Repeat for two sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Tip

You can use a kettlebell for this move instead, which might be easier on your hands.

Move 3: Pistol Squat

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Extend your arms out in front of you for balance.
  3. Raise your right leg in front of you while pushing your hips back.
  4. Bend down with the left leg into a squat position by lowering your hips as low as possible while keeping your right leg lifted.
  5. Pause at the bottom of the squat for one second.
  6. Push with your left leg to return to the starting position.
  7. Complete 10 reps.
  8. Switch sides and complete 10 reps.

Tip

If you find the pistol squat too challenging, try using a sturdy object to hold your balance, such as the back of a chair or a wall.

Move 4: Barbell Squat

  1. Stand inside with feet hip-width apart in front of the rack with the barbell behind you.
  2. Bend your elbows with palms facing forward and grasp the barbell.
  3. Tilt your wrists back to lift the barbell off the rack.
  4. Position the barbell so that it rests right above your shoulders.
  5. Bend the knees and lower yourself into a squat, keeping your head up, glutes squeezed and chest straight.
  6. Slowly move back up into the starting position without moving the barbell.
  7. Repeat for two sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Move 5: Front Barbell Squat

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart behind the rack with the barbell in front of you.
  2. Bend your elbows with your palms facing out and grasp the barbell.
  3. Lift the barbell off the rack, tilt your wrists back and position the barbell so that it rests in the top joints of your fingers and across the top of your chest.
  4. Bend the knees and lower yourself into a squat, keeping your head up, glutes squeezed and chest straight. You won't be able to go as low as you would in other squats because the barbell in front changes your center of gravity.
  5. Slowly move back up into the starting position.
  6. Repeat for two sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Tip

Using a rack for front barbell squats will help ensure your safety. They have built in safety handles in case you need to drop the bar due to weight or losing your balance.

Move 6: Split Squat

  1. Take a step forward, similar to how you would step in a lunge. Make sure your front foot is solidly on the ground and your other heel is raised.
  2. Keeping your chest straight, lower until your back knee almost touches the floor.
  3. Slowly push yourself back up to starting position.
  4. Repeat for 12 to 15 reps.
  5. Switch legs.
  6. Repeat for 12 to 15 reps.
  7. Complete 2 sets.

Read more: The Ultimate Fat-Burning Kettlebell Exercises for Men

Proper Squat Form

Maintaining proper form is essential when performing squats. Regardless of which type of squat you do, Harvard Health Publishing says to do the following:

  • Keep your core engaged
  • Don't extend your knee beyond on your toes
  • Make sure your chest is lifted
  • Ensure you hold your shoulders back and down
  • Keep a neutral back
  • Move your feet and knees so that they are pointing straight ahead when you start a squat
  • Keep your knees, hips and toes pointing forward throughout the move

The Strength and Conditioning Journal recommends descending until the top of the thigh is at least parallel with the ground and the hip joint is level or a little below the knee joint. Proper ascending is achieved through extension of the hips, knees and ankles until you've returned to the starting position.

The position of the stance also greatly affects the muscles targeted in a man's body during squats, according to a July 2017 study from BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation. To hit the quadriceps and hamstrings in your upper legs, keep a narrower stance with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Widening your stance to hip width or slightly wider develops the abductor muscles on the outer thighs and the glutes.

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