The first part in our series of functional movements is the squat. Functional movements are simply movements that we perform as part of our normal daily lives such as squatting, pulling, pushing etc. and they can form the basis of a great total body training programme.
For strong glutes and legs you need to incorporate some squats into your training! Squats can be performed with many different pieces of equipment but the fundamental technique of a squat will always be the same. To set yourself up for a squat, place the feet hip to shoulder width apart. Aim to keep the knees tracking with your second toe as you sink into the squat. A very slight turn out of the toes is totally acceptable.
Initiate the movement by pushing the hips back to avoid the knees passing over the toes and creating unnecessary pressure through the knee joints. The chest should stay lifted throughout the squat to avoid placing a strain to the lower back muscles.
To return yourself from a squat, try to push through the heels. Make sure breathing patterns are used when working with load, as this will help to engage the core structure and improve core strength.
Here are some variations of squats:
The back squat – where the load/barbell is placed upon the rear (fleshy) part of the shoulders. The back squat strengthens the quadriceps, hamstrings and glute (bottom) muscles whilst challenging the core at the same time.
The Front squat – this is where the barbell/kettlebells is held in a rack position at the front of the body. The front squat will challenge the postural muscles more as maintaining an upright position can be a challenge when the weight is at the front. We use a range of technique improvement strategies to help clients with the front racked position.
Sumo squat – This position takes the legs out wider than a normal squat stance position, approximately shoulder width distance. The sumo squat will challenge a different area of the bum muscles whilst also targeting the inner thigh muscles a little more. A sumo squat can be performed with a weight on the back of the shoulders, or alternatively holding a kettlebell in front of you.
Single leg squats – These are a great way to challenge each side of the body separately. Due to being on one leg, this type of squat will really challenge the hamstring muscles and also help to improve balance and stability around the knee. I usually give this type of exercise to someone who wants to improve their running.