By that I mean that unless you hold your body in the correct posture and engage the right muscles you could spend 45 minutes and a whole load of money getting a back ache instead of toning your abs or your legs.
So today I will talk about the not so humble "squat".
Firstly, why squat?
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. They work the muscles in your bottom, known affectionately as 'glutes'. You may think that you don't want to look like a bodybuilder so they're not for you. Squats of one kind or another are for everyone. Many back problems are a result of poor core stability and under-developed glutes. I have seen many runners that develop back issues when they run, usually as a result of poor ab and/or glute strength.
Squats are more than just a leg exercise, whilst your legs do do most of the work, your abs and lower back muscles are also used to help stabilize your torso. If you introduce weights, either dumbbells or a barbell, squats work your whole body from head to toe.
There are two great things about squats; they hit muscles that we need every day, to walk, stand and to establish good posture. The second is that they are totally modifiable! Anyone and everyone should include these in their workout.
If you're 'in treatment' either between chemo cycles or during radiotherapy this version of squats would probably suit you
SIT TO STAND You'll need a good sturdy chair with a firm seat...like a dining chair
This exercise, which strengthens your abdomen and thighs, will make it easier to get in and out of a car. It will also slow down the muscle wastage so many of us experience during our cancer treatments.
If you have knee or back problems, talk with your doctor before trying this exercise.
Sit toward the front of a sturdy, armless chair with knees bent and feet flat on floor, shoulder-width apart
Keep your back and shoulders straight throughout the exercise
Breathe in slowly
Breathe out and extend your arms so they are parallel to the floor and slowly stand up
Breathe in as you slowly sit down
Repeat 10-15 times
Rest; then repeat 10-15 more times.
If this is tricky at first, use your hands to push you up. As you get stronger, use your hands less.
When you get better at this, try not sitting down fully, but simply feel the seat under you and push back up to standing.
When this becomes less challenging you can try full squats......(without weights, also known as air squats)
Here are the key points you should remember when attempting an 'air squat':
Keep your weight on your heels.
Keep your torso upright with your shoulders pulled back.
Your feet should be hip-width apart with your toes slightly pointing outward.
Your knees should be over (NEVER beyond) your toes.
Stand with heels shoulder width apart, the hips need to be open.
Engage your core...so I tell my clients to visualise their abdominal muscles as a deep ring of muscle, located like a rubber ring for swimming, then focus on making that ring of muscle tighten all the way round their spine. Then 'pull' on the pelvic floor. If this is all very confusing, don't worry...I'll talk about abs and pelvic floors next week!
Place one hand lightly over the other at hip level.
The first thing we do when we squat is push the hips back a little as if you're aiming to sit on a chair! This is why the sit to stand preliminary work is so good.
The hands (arms) are going to come up right in front of the belly button.
As the bottom goes back, your knees bend automatically and the weight transitions through your heels. (Test this by seeing if you can tap your toes)
Keep the hips in line with the knees.
The hands (with straight arms) are in front of the face..helping your chest to stay high.
To rise, push your heels into the floor and push the hips forward and up!
Then repeat in blocks of 10.
Remember technique and posture is everything! Performed incorrectly squats can merely wear out your knees. Performed correctly, they can work those big muscles in your lower body and reduce muscle wastage, prevent back issues and help with core stability.