Squats are one of the most effective and efficient strength and conditioning exercises for a multitude of sports:
Squats help promote good mobility, posture and balance, keeps your legs and your core strong. It is an essential movement for everyday living, to get in and out of a chair, go to toilet, walk, climb stairs but also for active sports men and women it is one of the most efficient exercises to incorporate into your exercise regime, in terms of time invested and results and no equipment is needed!!
And here is why squats are GREAT read on to understand all the muscles trained and movements involved:
From a standing position, feet shoulder width apart, squats involve lowering your body to the ground as if you were going to sit down. This is the downward phase and in order to do this movement you bend at the hip (hip flexion), you bend at the knee (knee flexion) and you bend at the ankle (dorsiflexion) all at the same time.
As you lower the muscles of the hip, knee and ankle contract to control this movement and however the muscles used are in fact the opposite muscles to the movement being performed. So it is the hip extensors (which are our gluteals (bottom) and hamstrings), our knee extensors (our quads (front thigh muscles) and our calves muscles which are being used and they are contracting eccentrically, which means they are lengthening. They are used in a "braking" manner and controlling the speed against the forces of gravity as we lower down, keeping the knees forward (not deflecting outwards) and the deeper we go into a squat the more the calve muscles are used as they control the movement of our shin moving further forward over the ankle. If you do a wide leg squat the hip muscles on the outside of the hip are used more as well, which is often a weaker muscle area for many sports men and women.
Then the upward phase, returning to standing, and the movements involved are extending the hips (hip extension) to bring the torso upright, extending the knees (knee extension) to straighten the legs and extending the ankles (plantar flexion) so you are pushing down against the ground assisting the rest of our body as we return to standing. Now in this upwards phase it is the same muscles which are used but they are now contracting concentrically, so they are shortening, to produce the force required to resist gravity and push upwards to return to normal standing position.
So wow, look at the use of all the muscles used in the leg to perform the squat movement and the muscles are being used eccentrically and concentrically, which is great for strength and conditioning training. Plus, taking a step back, in order to even commence a squat we need our core muscles to stabilize us throughout the movement, they contract isometrically (which means the muscle remains still) so our abdominals are used to keep us still and static, to prevent pulling the back muscles, and also to keep our hips stable.
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Please note, this article is intended to describe the benefits to our muscles NOT instructions on how to perform a squat.