Tech + Health

01.02.14

Squats: The Absolutely Incredible Secret to Staying in Shape

The Swiss Army knife of exercise can help you build full-body strength, invigorate your nervous system, and help you regulate your digestion.

Here’s a protip: An active lifestyle can be just as effective, if not more effective, than structured exercise.

In the last year or two there have been several innovations, movements, and techniques popularized for incorporating more movement into the average day. Sitting for long periods of time (as you probably do in your office chair) can slow your metabolism and even increase risk of certain diseases.

Little tricks like getting up every hour and walking around, or having walking meetings, standing desks, and even treadmill desks have become increasingly more popular. However, there is one exercise that many people, even regular gym rats, neglect to do and it will gives you the most bang for your buck.

I’m talking about squats.

Squats are absolutely incredible. They build full body strength as you use your core to stabilize and keep everything aligned. The glutes and hamstrings are very large muscles so buy utilizing them you tend to burn a lot of fat. Squats invigorate your nervous system and help your stress response since the squat is a naturally defensive position. They can even help your digestion and the regularity of your bowel movements. This is essentially the swiss army knife of exercise.

Here are some easy ways you can incorporate squats throughout your day to build strength, increase health and energy, and improve performance.

First off, if you can set a goal of trying to complete 100 squats each day you will see a noticeable change in your body in just a matter of weeks. That may sound like a lot but if you were to do it straight through it would probably take no more than 10 minutes so working it in throughout the day is really easy. To make sure you are doing a squat correctly, simply stand with your toes against a wall and then lower your butt down as far as you can as if you are sitting on a chair. Focus on pushing your knees away from each other and as long as you don’t fall over backwards, then you’re probably doing it right.

The Air Squat - This is your basic body weight squat, you can do this anytime, anywhere. Do 20 squats during the commercial breaks of a TV show and you’ll meet your goal after one episode of Homeland.

Lateral Squats - For this variation, you step to the side as your do your squats. Keep both feet facing forward and get deep. These incorporate an extra stability challenge and can be done will in transit on a subway, or if the motion is too challenging, do it while waiting for the train or bus.

“This is essentially the swiss army knife of exercise.”

Deep Squat—For most squats you want to get your thighs parallel with the ground but for a deep squat you go ALL the way down. This is more about stretching and mobility and you can sort of hang out in this position for a while. Great again for watching tv or even reading if you put your material on the floor.

Jump Squat—Doing squats will naturally help build explosive power but if you really want to ramp it up try a jump squat. The only difference is that you jump straight up and then land in a squat position. This is a nice way to shake up the routine and will really add an element of cardio the exercise.

Isometric Squat—In an isometric exercise you aren’t extending or flexing the muscle, rather you are holding a position that causes your muscles to contract constantly in order to maintain stability. A typical example would be a plank. You aren’t technically moving but you can feel your abs burn. In an isometric squat, drop down into your squat position and then just hold it there for as long as you can. If you do sit at a desk, try pushing your chair away and maintaining the position as if still sitting in your chair and continue doing your work. If that is too challenging for you, try a wall sit where you keep that same position but lean against a wall, trust me, you’ll still feel the burn.

The last thing worth mentioning has to do with going to the bathroom. The 90-degree knee position that the modern toilet puts us into is actually pretty unnatural and can lead to all sorts of problems like hemorrhoids and constipation. There are devices you can put in front of your toilet to help raise your knees above parallel, but if you feel up to the challenge there’s nothing to stop you from squatting right on your regular toilet seat. I apologize in advance is that seems too weird for people but the evidence is there and you will experiencing better digestion AND work your squats at the same time.

Once you find yourself breezing through the 100 squats per day, that’s when you can think about adding weights like a back squat or front squat but for now, this is one of the most effective ways you maintain and improve your health.

So try it! Why the squat not?