Squats are a functional lower-body strength exercise. They simulate everyday activities, such as picking a box up off the floor. The body weight squat is the most basic, beginner squat; you only use your body weight for resistance. As you grow stronger, you will need to increase the challenge of the squat exercise and begin doing dumbbell squats.
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Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and your arms relaxed at your sides. Pull your belly button in toward your spine to engage your stomach muscles. Shift your weight back on your heels, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower yourself toward the floor. Keep your back straight. Continue until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Pause for a count. Push through your heels and straighten your hips and knees to stand back up.
Once you can perform 15 to 20 body weight squats with good form, hold dumbbells to increase the challenge of the exercise. You can hold the dumbbells several ways, depending on what you find most comfortable. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms relaxed at your sides. You can also hold the dumbbells up by your shoulders, with your palms facing you or with your palms facing each other. Perform the movement the same as the body weight version.
The squat exercise works several muscles in your lower body, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and erector spinae, your low back muscles. As a functional exercise, it simulates the proper method for picking up heavy items. Rather than bend over at your low back, you should use your legs to bend and pick up the object, keeping your back straight. Advance to the dumbbell squat to increase your leg strength, which transfers to these everyday activities.
The overload principle of strength training dictates that you must gradually increase the difficulty of an exercise if you want to continue to make physical improvements. Over time, your muscles adapt to the stress of an exercise program. You must continually make your program more challenging to avoid plateaus. Adding weight is one method of achieving overload. Increasing workout volume, such as doing more repetitions of an exercise, is another method of overload; however, if you do too much volume, you risk overtraining and overuse injuries. Advancing from a body weight squat to a dumbbell squat allows you to increase the intensity of the squat exercise and continually overload your muscles.