Apr 27, 2022 - Health

How squats power your life

Illustration of a glowing silhouette of a person squatting with a barbell

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Squatting is one of the most effective exercises you can do to get stronger — and live longer.

Why it matters: The movement boosts your strength, balance and flexibility. Plus, you can squat anywhere, at any time — no equipment required.

Experts say there is no better exercise for improving the strength and pliability of your lower body — and the research tells us squatting has numerous other benefits too.

  • Strengthen your core and back — two muscle groups that support your every movement. One study found that squats were even more effective at targeting your core and lower back than planks.
  • Prevent injuries. Stronger legs and well-oiled knee and hip joints from squatting make you less brittle.
  • Stand up straighter. Studies have shown squatting improves posture.
  • Stretch out. Squatting is an effective stretch for your hamstrings, which tighten up from too much sitting. Loosening those muscles can relieve lower back pain and increase flexibility.

Taken together, the benefits of squatting are critical to maintain strength and agility as you age.

But, but, but: There's a right way to do a squat, and there are a slew of wrong ways that can damage your knees and hips.

How to do it:

  1. Start standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, toes pointing ever so slightly outward.
  2. Sit back as if you were sitting on a chair while remembering two key points: Keep your knees in line with your toes and keep your back straight.
  3. Sit until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground or your butt is slightly lower than your knees — or work up to that.
  4. Push through your heels to get back up and squeeze your glutes at the top.

Here's a video for reference.

  • And hey, you can use an actual chair for support. Follow the same steps but stand about 6 inches in front of a chair while doing it.

Exercise scientists say starting with 3 sets of 12-15 simple bodyweight squats a few times a week is highly beneficial.

Want more of a challenge? After you've mastered the bodyweight squat, try these three variations.

  1. Add weight. Use a barbell or dumbbells to add some resistance to your squat. And keep tacking weight on as you get stronger. Here's how.
  2. Squat jump. Follow the steps of a standard bodyweight squat, but get low and jump back up. Here's how.
  3. Split squat. Start in the lunge position with one leg in front of the other and squat. Then switch to the other leg. Here's how.

And there are many, many more!

The bottom line: Squatting is one of the key exercises you can do that mimics life. Adding squats to your exercise routine will help you when you’re cooking, gardening, playing with the kids or lifting things at work.

🏁 Editor's note: This article appeared in Axios Finish Line, a new newsletter in the Axios Daily Essentials package. Sign up here for free.

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