How to Find the Right Squat Exercise for You 

When people talk about the exercises that help them get in shape – and maintain a healthy weight – cardio workouts like running, time on the treadmill or the elliptical get lots of attention. Even push-ups and planks have their devotees. But what about squats? This relatively easy exercise ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to building muscles and staying in shape. Let’s look at how to find the right squat exercise for you. 

Benefits of squats 

Taken one at a time, basic squats might not seem like such a mighty workout. It’s a relatively simple movement: You stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, you bend your knees and lower yourself into almost a sitting position, as if you were going to take a seat in a chair. Then you slowly raise yourself back into a standing position. This kind of exercise does not require any special equipment and can be done anywhere you have room to stand up.  

Done as a repetitive exercise in sets of 10, 20 or however many you can do, squats can be a really powerful workout. They build the big muscles in the legs, backside, and work the tendons and ligaments from the hips to the toes. This exercise can also strengthen the lower back, and improve balance and stability. Calf muscles, shins and abs see benefits from squats, too, according to the Cleveland Clinic 

Muscle-building and strengthening are the primary benefits. But as a form of calisthenics, squats do burn calories, too. Studies have shown about five minutes of doing low-intensity squats can burn about 20 calories. But if you step up the speed and intensity, the calories burned increases to about 45 in five minutes, according to Healthline 

Best squat exercises for you  

Like with lots of exercises, there are several variations of squats. Some of these variations make them easier for people who have mobility issues. Other types ramp up the intensity for those looking for more of a challenge. Here are some options so you can pick the one that feels right for you: 

Easy seated squats: Start from a seated position in a chair. Hold your arms out to the side for balance, then stand up and slowly lower yourself back down. 

Wall squats: These are great if you have knee or hip problems. Stand with your back up against a wall and put your feet about a foot away from the wall in front of you. Lower yourself into a squat, keeping your back against the wall for support. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Push through your heels as you raise yourself back to the starting position.  

Add a jump for intensity: Lower yourself into a squat, then jump into the air, coming to rest in a standing position.  

Add weights: Use free weights to make it a tougher workout. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, bend your elbows and bring your weights up so you are holding them on either side of your jawline. Do the full squat motion while holding the weights.  

Pulse squats: Add intensity to your squat workout with little muscle-building pulses. Go into a regular squat but instead of coming all the way back into a standing position, come up a quarter of the way, then go right back down into a low squat for a pulse. Do 15 to 30 pulses per squat. 


Photo credit: Getty Images

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