Back To Basics: Best Leg Exercise

Squats, Squats and Squats.

Ready to get those legs into better shape than they’ve ever been in? Then you’re going to have to give up some of your treadmill time and trade it in for some squat-tastic exercises.


At the core of squats is strengthening your leg muscles. Specifically, squats strengthen your quadriceps and your hamstrings. By giving these muscles an extra helping of strength, you strengthen the muscles that support your knees, ultimately helping your knees avoid injury. Strong knees help you avoid injury during your daily routine, as well as on the athletic field. As squats also require you to maintain good balance, you’ll also give your core a bit of a workout, while increasing your flexibility at the same time. Because of all these benefits, many consider squats to be one of the most useful and necessary pieces of any weight-lifting puzzle.


For maximum effectiveness, you’ll need to practice proper posture with each and every repetition. When beginning your squats, stand upright with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. With your toes facing directly forward, slowly and carefully bend at the knees, hips, and ankles, as your back remains in a neutral position that hovers over your thighs. If you’re not using weights, allow your arms to extend out in front of you for balance. Once your thighs are approximately parallel to the ground, push up with your hips and knees until you return to the starting position. Repeat and prepare for incredible results.

Going to use weights as you squat? You’ll want to start with proper technique when removing the weight from the rack. To take the weight off the rack, set the barbell on the rack at a height that is approximately as high as the middle of your chest. Place your feet under the bar and squat under the bar as you place the bar on your back. Tighten your entire body and push up to remove the bar from the rack. From this position, take one step backwards with your right foot and then one with your left. You’re now ready to squat.

How Much Weight?

Just getting started with squatting? You’ll probably be squatting more than you weigh soon. But until you get good technique and become comfortable with the movements, keep it light and safe. Do it right for a while and you may wind up squatting more than two times your weight. Do it wrong right away and you’ll be in a world of pain.


Since many people who do squats do them with weights, it’s good to know some different ways to approach squats in the weight room.

Bar Position: For a differing squat routine, hold the barbell at different places on your body. Whereas most squats are performed with the weight resting on the back of your shoulders, holding the barbell in front of your body and directly above your collarbone gives your body a different workout that will help further strengthen your legs.

Body Position: Though most squats begin the same way, where you go from there can make a difference in your body’s response. For something new, try an Olympic squat by lowering your buttocks closer to the ground than normal, while keeping your body more upright than usual. Or go with a power squat by leaning forward farther than usual, as you shift your weight backward.

Leg Position: Instead of having your legs approximately shoulder-width apart, spread them out a bit more and turn your feet outward. This hits the inside of your thighs more than your quads, helping you work even more muscles with the same movement. You’ll need a pretty wide grip on the bar for this one, and you probably won’t be able to get down as far as you can with other squats. Also, if you find it too hard to balance as you squat in this position, don’t turn your feet out as far. The last thing you want is to fall over during a squat.

Split Position: With the barbell resting on the back of your shoulders, place your left leg on a weight bench behind your body, allowing all your weight to balance on your right leg. Slowly bend your right knee until it is approximately parallel to the ground and return to the starting position.

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