The hard part is over. You made it to the gym and that’s usually half the battle.  Now that you’re there, what are you going to do?  This is where a lot of people get stuck but don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

This is part one of a six-part series that focuses on the exercises that gives you the biggest bang for your buck in and outside the gym.  This series will go as follows

Part one- Squats

Part two – Pulls

Part three – Pushes

Part four – Hinge

Part five  – Carries

Part six – Groundwork

PART ONE –  THE SQUAT

This is a movement you’ve been doing since childhood and maybe even before that. Yet somehow between childhood and adulthood some of us seem to lose the ability to execute this fundamental human movement.

Why?  We sit more and move less due to the wonders of modern life and technology.

Why the squat is important   

  • It’s a full body exercise
  • Gives you great looking legs
  • Develops core strength
  • It’s a movement you perform every day
  • Builds lean muscle and burns a ton of calories

A good squat looks like this.

Baby-squat
I rest my case

The squat is a one stop shop when it comes to losing weight, building muscle and getting strong. Yes, it is that important. So, if it has been a while since you’ve squatted in a gym setting or you want to improve your form, use this article as your guide.

I’m bringing squatting back. The other boys don’t know how to act.

Note- The squat variations below are listed from easy (six-point rocking) to more difficult (barbell squats). Only move on when you feel comfortable and ready for the next exercise.

1. Six-point rocking

This is a squat with your hands and knees on the ground. If you can rock your butt to your heels without any problems, you’re ready to move on to more advanced verison. However, if you can’t, it could be a mobility or stability issue that’s holding you back.

If you’re having difficultly with this exercise try the following three exercises and retest. Keep doing these three exercise daily until you can rock your butt to your heels.

A. Half kneeling hip flexor stretch 60 seconds on each side

B. Passive leg lowering 10 reps on each leg

C. Push up position front plank 30- 60 seconds

 Note – With all the squatting variations below use a stance that feels comfortable for you and allows you to to get your thighs parallel to the ground. Use the picture below as a guide.

2. Assisted bodyweight squat

The above is one of a few variations that can help with your squat. Here is another one. When load isn’t part of the equation, you can concentrate on dialing in good form. And as Dan mentions in the video, this gives you confidence to execute the squat also.

Use this variation to groove the squat pattern or if it’s been a while since you’ve darkened the doors of a gym.  Try 3-4 sets, 12- 15 reps at 3 times per week.

3. Bodyweight box squat

Now that you’ve grooved the squat pattern with the assisted squat, use a box as reference point to get yourself into good squat position without assistance. Having the box behind you reinforces you to use your hips and not your knees to squat.

A common complaint of doing squats is “It hurts my knees.” Usually, it’s the way the person is squatting, not the squats themselves.  If that sounds like you, this variation is for you.  And when you feel more comfortable, you can take away the box. Try 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps at least 2-3 times per week.

4. Goblet squat

The Goblet squat has revolutionized the way the squat is being performed and taught throughout the world. But what makes the Goblet squat so popular?

Holding the weight anteriorly (in front) encourages you to stand up straighter, get that upper back tight and puff out that chest which sets the table for good squat. Furthermore, the weight acts as a counter balance that encourages you to sit between your legs and not over your knees.

It’s like squat magic and it could be the only squat you’ll ever need.

If you’re new to this movement choose a lighter weight (20-35 pounds) and do more repetitions (10-15). When you feel more comfortable with this movement, go heavier and do less repetitions (6—10).

5. Dumbbell Front squat

This exercise and the barbell back squat below require good shoulder mobility. Please perform the test below before doing either of these exercises.

Shoulder mobility test

1. Lie on your back with both feet on the ground and arms by your side.

2. Place your right hand between the curve of your lower back and the floor.

3. Take your left hand and raise it directly over your head, trying to touch your hand to the floor behind you.

4. Repeat test on other side.

5. If contact is lost between your hand and back on either side or either hand cannot reach the floor, you have limited shoulder mobility.

If you have limited shoulder mobility, stick with the goblet squat and work on you shoulder mobility with this exercise.

This front squat can also be done with either a barbell or two kettlebells, so please choose the correct tool for you. This exercise provides an extra challenge for your core and shoulders because you’re holding more weight in front of you.

Keep the reps and weight on the lower side when first starting out with this exercise. I recommend 3 sets of 8-10 reps and gradually increasing the weight when you become more comfortable with this exercise.

6. Barbell back squat

This is the granddaddy of squats and by far the most difficult to perform with good form. Before putting a barbell on your back you must have performed all the exercises above and passed the shoulder mobility test. Then and only then can you feel comfortable and confident in performing the barbell back squat.

There are many ways to program and perform the back squat which are beyond the scope of this article. However, I’ve found squatting 3 days a week progressing on the weight little by little each week is the best way to build leg strength and muscle.

Check this program out if you want to get stronger and conquer the back squat.

Wrapping up

It’s one thing to go to the gym but it is another thing knowing what to do when you’re there. One of those things should always be squats. They are difficult but when you look in the mirror, it will be worth it.

If you need any assistance in your quest to get more awesome in the gym click here.

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4 thoughts on “What you should be doing in the gym- Part one

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