Squats equal great bum…true! But what if you found out that doing a squat workout is not only the way to get a firm, round tush but also gets your core into shape? Kelly Du Buisson, leading London trainer, explains the benefits of squats
Happy New Year and welcome to my new fitness blog for Healthista.com. Let’s leap into 2015 and begin with a quest for a toned and tight tushi. You may have been following my 30 day squat challenge which launched on January 1st, but if you haven’t sign up ASAP for your chance to win a Healthista hamper (just share the story on social media for a chance to win).
It’s every women’s dream to have glutes (that’s butt muscles) to die for and in 2014 it seems ‘bigger was better’ with celebrities from Kim Kardashian to Nicki Minaj flaunting tight (yet lets face it, slightly unnatural) derrieres.
Obviously there is the aesthetic value of working those buns but there are also benefits to improving posture, preventing lower back pain, strengthening the core and burning masses of calories!
The power of a humble squat
A basic squat recruits the four quadriceps muscles (front of thighs), gluteus maximus (bottom muscles), the three hamstring muscles (back of thighs) and the major core muscles including the transverse abdominals (corset muscles), erector spinae (back) and the oblique’s (side abdominals). There are also many smaller interconnecting muscles and tissues which stabilise and support whilst also pulling the skin back to the muscles.
Our squat challenge begins with the basic squats and lunges as we need to wake up the major muscles to make sure we are performing quality movements.
Squats should be deep, aiming to bring hips to knees and making sure the heels stay on the floor.
Squats should be deep, aiming to bring hips to knees and making sure the heels stay on the floor. If knees come forward over the toes the heels will lift and all the effort is placed on to the knees so make sure to sit back. This will ensure correct performance and wake up the gluteus muscles of the bottom.
If knees come forward over the toes the heels will lift and all the effort is placed on to the knees so make sure to sit back.
As the weeks progress we will add in smaller twists and turns, pulses and movements that cover all three planes of motion so are really working every angle of the body. This will create the tight and toned look without causing bulk. If bulking is what you wish for add in weights to each exercise.
Waking up dormant muscles = burning more calories
Commonly, muscles are either stabilizers or movers. However if the body is unbalanced (as most sedentary people and a lot of very active people will know) the stabilizers quite often lie dormant or asleep as we do not use them in the correct manner. A very common example of this is the gluteus muscles which provide support for the spine, initiate walking and squatting movements and absorb a lot of impact before it reaches the lower back.
These are huge muscles with a massive calorie burning system but we neglect to use them. Instead hamstrings will take over the stabilizing of the lower back resulting in very tight hamstrings which pull on the pelvis. Whilst the imbalance remains, no amount of stretching will relieve the tension so instead we need to correct the imbalance by strengthening the gluteus muscles. Once these muscles at the front of your thighs are activated the hamstrings will start to relax and tension in the lower back is released.
Try split squats, shoulder bridges and squats with wide knees to kick those glutes into action!
Once the glutes are engaged they burn lots and lots of calories, so if you are seeking a weight loss result it is vital those muscles are involved in each and every exercise you do. The bigger the movement the better the calorie burn. In our squat challenge the moves all combine lots of muscle groups in one go to really maximise the calories used.
Mixing it up to burn fat
Once we reach the latter stages of the 20 day squat challenge program the exercises also become more dynamic. Powerful movements release hormones that burn lots of fat including human growth hormone (HGH). As these moves generally cause the body to fatigue quickly they create a deficit in the muscles that has to be replaced. This means your body will work overtime to replenish its energy stores and to do this it needs fuel. Lots of calories are used in the process so your metabolism will be at an all time high after every workout.
Each squat movement requires balance and control which invokes those wonderful muscles we refer to as the core. It is true that despite working your abs to breaking point you still need to burn the layer of fat on top and this will come down to what you eat. However I know lots of very fit and athletic people who have very low body fat percentage but simply can’t get rid of the small tyre around their middle or who constantly suffer with lower back ache despite their impressive six pack. Six packs unfortunately do not refer to core strength.
Using squats to work your core
The ‘core’ refers to deep stabilising muscles that support your vital organs, hold the body upright and stabilise the body through movements including twisting, turning, reaching, leaping, walking, running – the list goes on. Without core strength we again refer to alternative muscles, in this case the lower back causing tension, aches and ultimately injury. Without core strength the internal organs push against the abdomen and cause unsightly bulge.
Doing it well
Have you ever seen someone in the gym squatting low to the floor but leaning their chest all the way forwards and bringing their knees forward over their toes? The weight is all in their lower back and knees but the core is doing nothing. As you squat keep the chest up and tuck the tail bone (imagine you tail bone is pointing straight to the ground). Pick a spot on the wall straight ahead of you and sit back into heels keeping your gaze focused on that same spot.
Each exercise in our squat challenge makes full use of the core muscles especially as we reach the latter stages of one leg movements so make sure to focus and do each move properly. If you wish to overload the muscles further add in some extra weight but it is vital that you keep good technique.
The simple squat is one of the most effective full body movements you will find that requires absolutely no equipment, expensive gyms or fancy workout gear (although fancy workout gear does give you that extra motivation so by all means stock up on squat worthy leggings to show off those legs!). But if you need extra inspiration that a squat is not just a squat, have a go at our 30 day challenge and see how much this little concept can improve your life. Good Luck!
Squat challenge workout videos:
Kelly Du Buisson is a leading London trainer specialising in short, high intensity workouts that get her clients super-fit, super-fast. She is also the creator of The 7 Minute Workout: The Fastest Way To Shred Fat And Change Your Body Shape For Good, available from Amazon.