The power of the squat in physical activity

THE NEW YORK TIMES LIFE/STYLE – Which one is the best strengthening exercise that many of us could be doing right this minute, but almost certainly aren’t? Consult exercise scientists and the latest research on the subject, and the answer would likely be resounding: squats.

Squats are an exercise you can do for the whole body, say scientists.
Squats are an exercise you can do for the whole body, say scientists.
Photograph: Pixabay

For strength and flexibility lower body, there’s probably no better exercise,” said Bryan Christensen, a professor of biomechanics at North Dakota State University in Fargo who studies resistance exercise.

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The benefits are not limited to the lower body. “It really is a full-body workout,” said Silvio Rene Lorenzetti, director of the Performance Sports division at the Swiss Federal Institute of Sport in Magglingen. “It requires core stability and trains the back.”

Some people fear that squatting could endanger their knees and the hipsbut the Exercise can actually help protect and improve the functioning of these and other joints., said Sasa Duric, an exercise scientist at the American University of the Middle East in Kuwait who has studied squats. The movement “helps maintain flexibility, stability and function” of the hips, knees and ankles, he said.

But perhaps most fundamentally, the squat is the key to living and aging well. “When we clean the house or plant a vegetable garden, we need to squat down,” Duric said. Ditto for getting in and out of chairs and bending down to play with a child.

In essence, according to a 2014 scientific overview, the squat is “one of the most primitive and necessary fundamental movements to improve sports performance, reduce the risk of injury, and sustain lifelong physical activity.”

The right way to do a squat

The squat is simple, portable and powerful. “You don’t need a gym,” Christensen said. Any place with a few feet of space will work, whether it’s a living room, office, staircase, park, or closet. And the only equipment you need is your body weight.

If you are a beginner in squatOne of the safest and simplest ways to start, Duric said, is with what is commonly called the box squat, so called because it’s usually done with an exercise box found in gyms. But you can also do this at home, in which case you will use a chair, bench, or the side of the bed.

If you have lower body deficiencies or previous injuries, talk to your doctor first to find out if squats are right for you. “Be patient and pay attention to proper technique,” ​​said Dr. Duric. “Don’t rush the squat.”

To get started, follow these steps

When you feel like you’ve explored your box squat enough, you can drop the box or ditch the chair and switch to an independent bodyweight squat. But keep paying attention to these steps.

“The squat is an excellent exercise, excellent even, for both increase functional capacity and reduce the risk of injury — as long as the exercise is performed correctly,” said Brad Schoenfeld, a professor of exercise science at Lehman College in New York and an expert in bodybuilding.

Within these guidelines, look for the move that feels right for you. “There is no one-size-fits-all way,” Schoenfeld said. “There are certain biomechanical principles that need to be followed,” he continued, “but a person needs to determine what is most comfortable for them.”

Progress to more challenging squats

When eventually bodyweight squatting ceases to be a challenge, you may want to grab a dumbbell. “Over time, you’ll need to add resistance” if you want to get stronger, Schoenfeld said. Which brings us to cup squats and landmines.

“There are many variations of the squat,” said Dr. Christensen. “The cup squat is one of the most affordable.” An entry-level weight squat involves holding a dumbbell or other weight close to your chest with both hands, as if holding a cup, and squatting down (while maintaining balance). In a study he oversaw last year, the cup squat effectively targeted and strengthened the quadriceps, which are our front thigh muscles. The effects were especially stated in women.

But they weren’t so good at working the hamstrings, the muscles in the back of our thighs. For this, the study found, landmine squats would be better, so named after the landmine machine in gyms (named, for no apparent reason, after the explosive device), which consists of a rotating bar placed diagonally across a floor support. At the gym, you load your desired weight onto the pole, grab the end with both hands, hold it close to your chest, lift, and then squat. This movement involves the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, as well as other muscles in the lower body, Dr. Christensen.

But don’t be intimidated. You know how to squat. We all know. Movement is elementary and essential. “The squat mimics many physiological tasks in our daily lives,” said Dr. Lorenzetti. So the “biggest mistake you can make” with squats, he concluded, “is not starting to squat.” / TRANSLATION LÍVIA BUELONI GONÇALVES

The New York Times Licensing Group – All rights reserved. Any reproduction without written permission from The New York Times is prohibited.

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