The squat should be a compulsory exercise for everyone.
Squats help build your leg muscles but they also create an anabolic environment, which promotes body-wide muscle building. They engage the legs to handle the weight and the core to stabilise the trunk.
Athletes from all sporting disciplines use some version of the squat to tone and strengthen leg muscles.
For functionality, the squat is hard to beat since it essentially mimics the movement we perform each time we sit down and stand up.
A fortnight ago, I went for a beach vacation and took a Pilates class at the resort. The young instructor, from South Africa had a lilting voice that was soothing to the ears. Her warm-up comprised 100 parallel squats where the feet are placed hip-width apart with toes facing forward. In her version, every squat required you to touch the side of your ankles with your fingers.
In some people, parallel squats do make the butt firmer and bigger because it targets the gluteus maximus muscles, which is the largest of the butt muscles.
As a Pilates instructor myself, my warm-ups are never that intensive. Perhaps times have changed and I haven’t kept abreast with the latest warm-up trends in Pilates but I always cringe at the sight of students doing exercises with improper or faulty alignment.
Here, as fatigue set in, the roomful of mostly mature students were performing the squat with rounded backs, caved in knees and tucked chins. As I expected, a few walked out of the class midway because the instructor carried on with a series of gruelling 100 arm circles in both directions, 100 arm pulses, and 100 of various other exercises before finally starting on the Pilates 100, the traditional warm-up exercise and my preferred choice. It’s designed to strengthen the core by using gentle but powerful, controlled movements.
After repeatedly doing 70 of these parallel squats, my quadriceps (thigh) muscles began to scream for mercy and since it was only the second day of my holiday, I didn’t want to be aching for the rest of the duration. So, I switched to doing sumo squats to activate some different muscles.
Keep the joints happy
If you want to strengthen your knees and keep them happy, sumo squats is my answer. The positioning of the knees can change the amount of stress throughout the knee joint. The narrower your stance, the more focus you put on your quadriceps muscles.
Also known as duck or wide-stance squats, this is a variation of the traditional parallel squat and works the same muscle groups (the gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves) but engages the inner thighs (adductor muscles) as well.
Sumo squats are similar to second position plies in ballet.
To perform an effective sumo squat, your stance should be wider than your hips, Keep the toes turned out but don’t turn the toes out further than the knees can track. Finding a wide position where the knees properly track with the toes is important. Ground the feet to the floor and rotate your gluteal (backside) muscles.
Copyright: The Star Online/ Asia News Network (ANN)