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Health & Fitness: Exercise of the Week – Squats

KIM

By Kim Duke, NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

If you’re looking for a powerful way to boost your overall fitness and get some serious results — fast — from your workout routine, look no further than performing squatting exercises.

This is one exercise that should be a part of virtually everyone’s routine, as it’s relatively simple to perform, requires no equipment and can be done just about anywhere. More importantly, although squats are often regarded as “leg” exercises, they actually offer benefits throughout your entire body, including deep within your core.

Squats have long been criticized for being destructive to your knees, but research shows that when done properly, squats actually improve knee stability and strengthen connective tissue.

1. Warm up.

2. Stand with your feet just over shoulder-width apart.

3. Keep your back in a neutral position and keep your knees centered over your feet.

4. Slowly bend your knees, hips and ankles, lowering until you reach a 90-degree angle.

5. Return to starting position. Repeat 15-20 times, for 2-3 sets for beginners. Do this two or three times a week.

Breathe in as you lower. Breathe out as you return to starting position.

Squats obviously help to build your leg muscles (including your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves), but they also create an anabolic environment, which promotes body-wide muscle building.

In fact, when done properly, squats are so intense that they trigger the release of testosterone and human growth hormone in your body, which are vital for muscle growth and will also help to improve muscle mass when you train other areas of your body aside from your legs. So, squats can actually help you improve both your upper and lower body strength.

Strong legs are crucial for staying mobile as you get older, and squats are phenomenal for increasing leg strength. They also work out your core, stabilizing muscles, which will help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls — which is incidentally the No. 1 way to prevent bone fractures.

And finally, few exercises work as many muscles as the squat, so it’s an excellent multi-purpose activity useful for toning and tightening your behind, abs and, of course, your legs. Furthermore, squats build your muscles, and these muscles participate in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, helping to protect you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

FOOD TIP OF THE WEEK

Working out can cause an increase in appetite.  Here are a few hunger squashing snack ideas:

1. Spread the inside of a pita half with a thick layer of hummus and top with sliced tomato, lettuce and a few squirts of hot sauce.

2. Combine a can of tuna with your favorite salsa. Use Triscuits for scooping.

3. Lay a slice of Swiss cheese on a cutting board. Top with a slice of deli turkey and a spoonful of hummus or guacamole.  Wrap like a jellyroll and eat.

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