Tuesday 6 December 2016

Siobhan Byrne: Top tips for performing a perfect squat

Our fitness expert shares the ultimate exercise you should include for a great lower body workout

Siobhan Byrne

Published 18/10/2016 | 02:30

Siobhan Byrne: Developing a good technique for squats is investing in your knees for later in life
Siobhan Byrne: Developing a good technique for squats is investing in your knees for later in life
Prisoner squat 1
Prisoner squat 2
Sumo squat 1
Sumo squat 2
In out squat jump 1
In out squat jump 2
In out squat jump 3
In out squat jump 4
Close stance squat 1
Close stance squat 2

Everyone has their favourite exercises and I'm no exception to that rule, but one exercise that is the holy grail for a great lower body workout is squats.

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We all know that form plays a very important role in making sure you get the best results from any exercise and also to help avoid injury. There are numerous ways to complete a squat - from beginner level to the more advanced or someone suffering from knee issues, but you can easily find a squat that works for you.

One of the main reasons why squats are so good is that they are a great compound movement, meaning they work more than one muscle group. Depending on how they are done, they can work the calves, quads, hamstrings, while some even focus on the inner thigh, such as the sumo squat or plié squat, which targets the outer thigh.

What I love about squats is that functionally they work well as a movement for everyday life - how many times a day do you get up and sit down? Developing a good technique for squats is investing in your knees for later in life.

If you think about our daily lives, apart from getting up and down the stairs and sitting and standing, we are also working our back muscles, which is ideal for your daily tasks whether you are sitting at your desk and suffer with back issues, lift the shopping or make the beds.

Creating the correct form and technique is crucial for you to benefit and not injure yourself, but it's not something you should be fearful of as the benefits far outweigh a risk of injury.

My top tips on squats are to make sure your knees don't come beyond the shoelaces. The rule says toes but aiming for shoelaces will keep you in line and give you room to work.

My other top tip is to hold your back as straight as possible. We are not all naturally gazelle-like in movement, so everybody is different. The trick is to try and keep your back straight without curving it or leaning too far forward. Age and flexibility can seriously hinder this but using a mirror will help focus on these points to perform the best squat possible.

Do each exercise 12 times before moving on to the next one. When you have completed each exercise, that is one set. Catch your breath before moving on to the next set, and do three to four sets, three to four times a week

Focus on legs

Prisoner  squat

1/ Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and lock your fingers behind your head.

2/ Bend at the hips and knees to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then push back up to the starting position and repeat.

Sumo squat

1/ Start by standing upright with your arms bent and your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.

2/ Lower yourself towards the floor, sending your hips back and down and bending your knees. Then push through your heels to return to the start position, keeping your back straight and head up throughout the exercise.

In out jump squat

This is a great exercise for runners as it helps with core stability and the active plyometric movement helps not just for stabilising when we need to move quickly, but is also great for working quads, hamstrings and calves.

1/ Start in semi-squat position with feet wider than shoulder-width apart.

2/ Jump into the air changing your foot direction to split squat before landing.

3/ Dip towards the floor.

4/ Jump back to squat position and complete a squat, repeating as you go.

Close stance squat

1/ Start with your feet hip-width apart.

2/ Squat back and down so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Drive through the heels back up to the start position and repeat.

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