Every person aims to have strong and toned muscles. Many people are cardio trainers and they avoid heavy lifting so they won’t get bulky.

But this is a big myth because the developed muscles aren’t bulky but sexy, healthy and functional. Maybe you want to start to strengthen your legs but you have gotten stuck in cardio rut and you do not know where to start. That is why we will show you some excellent leg exercises.

*The squat*

This is all encompassing and versatile when it is about building sexy and fabulous strong legs. We will show you its benefits, proper technique, myths, common mistakes, variations to the exercise, using weights, the advanced variations and how to build them in your exercise.

The squats are amazing because they include many groups of large muscles like the calves, core (gluteal muscles, low back stabilizers, obliques, transversus and rectus abdominus), back (latissiumus dorsi and erector spinae), hamstrings (semitendinosus, semimemranosus and biceps femoris), gluteus maximus (the booty) and the quadricepts (vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and rectus femoris).

These muscle groups are necessary when you squat. For example: from a couch, chair from a toilet, out of bed, in the car, etc. We stand and sit all day long. But those repetitions can injure the body after some time in the life and the back and knees may begin to bother you.

-Proper technique

At first you have to straight your back, lift the chest and look with your eyes forward. Then, set the knees following over the second toe. Activate the core and set the shoulders down. Square shoulders, hips and feet. And press the heels into the floor.

-Myths

There are many false facts and even your physical therapist, personal trainer or doctor may not be up to date with them, so in that case you have to consult an expert for more questions.

*The knees cannot fall in front of the toes-
Yes, it can be dangerous if you fall into squat and let the heels rock off the ground and bounce at the bottom with the knees (almost touching the floor). Controlled squats with the knees beyond the toes is ideal for most people for strengthening the quads.

*The knees cannot pass 90 degree angle-
It is all about watching the low back and the hips. If you see that the pelvis is rocking and the back begins to round, then you have to finish the squats. It is more about the form than the depth.

*The squats are bad for the knees-
If you have limitation or physical deformity in the knees, then it may be bad for you. But if you have sore knees and it is not a structural issue it may be just what you need. The quads are attached to patellar tendon and it controls the knee movement during flexion. If the knee is misaligned or wobbly you may be causing injury and repetitive stress. The quads strengthening will allow less repetitive damage, more strength and better control.

-Common mistakes

In the following you will see the most common mistakes that people do. That is why it is a good idea to have a personal trainer that will evaluate your form.

*Wobbly knees and knocked knees;
*A rounding back when you do the squats too deep with no proper technique;
*Hinged chest forward;
*Twisting, tight and instable hips that cause non-symmetrical squat of the right and left legs;
*Unintentional lift of the heel off the floor;
*Lack of control that leads to falling into the squats and bounce on the heels;
*Not going enough low;
*Or going too low or using too much weight with poor form;

If you make some of these mistakes, here are some videos:

-Basic squat variations

It is great to try different variations to the squats, movement patterns and weights so that you will avoid boredom and continue challenging yourself.

*Foot position-

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Every position has benefits and they target different stabilizers and muscles. Many people can squat deeply with slightly turned out stance.

+ A narrow feet touching;
+ A parallel feet, facing forward along with the shoulders;
+ Heels turned out (30 degrees), in shoulder line;
+ A wide heels, turned 45 degrees, outside the shoulders;
+ A maximum rotation of hips- Sumo. Feet and knees in line;

However, you should keep your knees following over the toes in order to avoid aggravating the leg and knees compensation.

*Squat depth-

The depth of the squat depends on the form you maintain. You can put a step or a chair at or below the deepest squat you can make but with proper form. It will ensure you not to go too low.
As you continue to increase and strengthen the flexibility you are going to be able to go deeper and begin to carry weight. As you add weight, your form may change. Here is a video for you to watch:

*Unstable surfaces-
You can warm up on a Bosu ball or wobble board before you get into your heavy daily squats. You can do it with very light weights or with body weight just to engage the core and stabilize the muscles.

*Machines-
If you use the leg extension or leg press, you’ll isolate the quads and remove the core engagement and the full body. The machines are great for isolating a group of muscles but it is recommended free weight squats in case you have to choose one over other. To end the squats with machines is an excellent finisher if you cannot concentrate on perfect form.

-Weight variations

*Goblet squats-

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These squats are great way to start beginner off. You should hold up the weight at the chin helping to lift the chest, keep the attention forward and to maintain a flat back.

*Dumbbell squast-
To hold two of these squats by your side is a classic free-weight squat but you should make sure that the chest is lifting because the weights may cause the shoulders to rotate forward and to round the upper-back.

*Barbell squats-
This type of squats is the best way for using heavy weights. To have barbell sit in front or behind the body is a choice that is based on a person’s form, experience, wrist’s and shoulder flexibility. You can use straps or towels if you have injured or flexible wrists and shoulders.

-Advanced squats

There are numerous variations like combining upper- body exercises, plyometric box-squats, Cossack squats, jumping squat variations and single leg squats.

-Numbers game

To build the squat variation in an exercise routine depends on the squats you are doing. Here are some of them:

*Low weight and high rep-
These are plyometric movements, light weight or body weight that can be done into a routine for ten to twenty repetitions or for 30 seconds. Your form is not the most important thing for safety but it is still important for the high repetitions. These high repetitions activate the metabolism.

*High weight and low rep-
Do these repetitions of three to ten and sets of three to six with a proper amount of rest. For these repetitions the form is very important because the heavy weight can cause serious injuries.

Source: www.theheartysoul.com