If strong, sculpted legs are what you're after, you've got to become one with the squat. The basic exercise targets glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core, so incorporating it into your strength-training workouts is definitely worth your while. Here are some ways to get more bang for your butt — er, I mean buck — when doing squats.
- Focus on your heels: When doing a squat, make sure to shift your weight back onto your heels and lower the body as if you're about to sit in a chair. This proper form helps to put even more focus on the glutes and hamstrings and takes pressure off the knees. It also offers a stable surface that enables you to get low to the ground, which is what makes the move so effective.
- Try variations: Target lower body muscles differently by changing the position of your feet. Squat with your big toes together, feet out wide, and try one heel or both heels lifted, or even one leg lifted (to get legs like Cameron Diaz). Step on a Bosu ball and squat on a wobbly surface to work your core, and try twisting variations for even more of a challenge. Check out this list of different squat variations.
Keep reading for more ways to make squats more effective.
- Multitask with weights: Squats focus on the legs and butt, but you can make it a total-body move by working your upper body at the same time. Grab a set of dumbbells or a resistance band and while squatting, do front raises, biceps curls, overhead presses, lateral arm raises, and overhead triceps extensions.
- Take your squats for a walk: While squatting, take steps forward or backward as if you're walking, or take steps out to the side. Make it even harder by tying a resistance band around your ankles for even more of a burn. Learn how to do squat walks with a resistance band here.
- Add a jump: Work your heart and leg muscles by adding a jump between reps. Get into your squat position. Bend the knees and lower down and, as you're coming up, press off the balls of your feet into an exploding jump, then land in squat position and repeat. This is also a great move for challenging your core and balancing abilities.
- Hold it: Traditionally you move the torso up and down as you do your squats, but if you lower down and hold the position for 15 or more seconds, you'll really feel the burn. While lowered, you can also pulse up and down ever so slightly for 15 seconds before coming all the way up.