Leg Squats

Leg Squats, also called back squats, are a popular leg exercise. Just like so many of the multi-joint moves I like, there are a lot of different ways they can be done.

Whatever your goal is – losing weight…sports fitness…you should be including some form of squats in your routine!

Christine Perez and Brent Haskill both have a BS in Exercise Physiology. I have asked their input to tell you exactly how to do them and some of the variations…

“Leg Squats are my favorite exercise”, says Christine, who has played college soccer. Her and Brent both like squats because of the large muscle groups that are worked at the same time.

“If used effectively in an exercise routine, squats can actually have a cardio effect”, Brent says.

How To Do Leg Squats: Position feet shoulder width apart, toes slightly pointed out. Push hips back and keep your back straight while looking up. (“Straight” means a flat back – your shoulders should be back and chest out…you will naturally lean forward at the waist. Pretend you are sitting down in a chair).

Bend your knees to 90 degrees. Keep weight on back of heels. Then extend your hips and knees up to return to the standing position.

Christine says, “Squats require a recruitment of many muscles and joints to complete the exercise. You can use a variety of resistance, such as a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells or your own bodyweight”.

Brent and Christine explained to me how leg squats work the following muscles: Main muscles used: quadriceps (vastus lateralis, rectus femoris, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis).
Assist: gluteus maximus, adductor magnus, soleus.
Stabilization: gastrocnemius, hamstring muscles.

…When I asked them to put that in normal words, Christine said, “Basically every muscle from your waist down…the front and back of your thighs, your butt and calves! That’s what makes this such a great exercise”.

Brent said, “It also works the lower back and other core muscles to tighten and keep the trunk of your body straight.

Body weight: perform a squat without any weight.

Barbell with weights, also called back squats: using a barbell and weights, place barbell on shoulders and perform squat.

Dumbbells squats: hold dumbbell in front of body between legs, spread legs, perform squat. You can also take a shoulder-width stance and hold a dumbbell in each hand.

girl doing front squat exercise

Front squats: legs shoulder width apart, hold the bar with an overhand grip and rest it on the chest and shoulders, stick out chest and raise elbows so barbell doesn’t slide forward, perform squat.

Power squats: the same as a basic squat but the legs are farther apart and toes are pointed out.

Squat with a stability ball
Squats with a stability ball on wall

Stability ball (wall squats): put stability ball in between body and wall and perform a leg squat.
Christine notes: “When doing front squats or wall squats, most of the emphasis is felt on the quads (front of the thigh).

Brent adds, “Always make sure that the knees never extend past the toes and focus most of your weight pushing through your heels”.

Advanced moves:
Jump squats: explode up to plantar flexion. (This just means jumping straight up and pointing your toes down at the top.)

Box squats: perform basic squat using a bench or a box. Sit on bench for 1 or 2 second then stand back up. This can be done with or without weights.

Some form of back squats are incorporated into every popular and productive exercise routine that I can think of…P90X, CrossFit, Insanity, etc.

It is a functional move, which means it is used in everyday life and all kinds of sports. Used in conjunction with other multi-joint exercises, they can work your muscles AND give your heart and lungs a great cardio workout at the same time!

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