Have you done your squats today?
It’s my favorite strength-training exercise of all time. It strengthens the hamstrings, protects the knees and tightens the tush. No, there is nothing better than the all-mighty squat for runners.
I’ve been a longtime proponent of the squat. In college, I remember washing dishes with my roommate while listening to Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back,” sitting back into a squat position while soapy-handed. It was part of our very regimented fitness routine that included hundreds of squats, which did their job despite the late-night eating and adult-beverage drinking that often goes hand in hand with college life. And this was all before I started running! Now, as a runner with several marathons and half marathons under my belt, I take my squats very seriously and owe my dropping PRs to this glorious exercise.
When I tore my hamstring last year it was during a time I had been neglecting my squats, and oh did it remind me that I needed them in my life! After months of physical therapy and doing more squats than you can shake a stick at, I rebuilt that torn hamstring and will never not include squats into my daily routine again. Whether I do a set at the gym, while waiting in line at the grocery store or for the two minutes I brush my teeth every morning and evening, I’ll never again forget about my trusty friend — and you shouldn’t either.
Doing squats can be tricky. Form is of the utmost importance, as doing them wrong can lead to devastating results. Follow these cues and try to get in a set or two of 20 squats a day. Your knees, hamstrings, glutes (and jeans) will thank you!
* Stand with your feet hip-distance apart (or slightly wider )with toes pointed straight forward.
* Tighten up your abs as if someone is about to punch you and lift your chest up tall and proud, while pulling the shoulder blades back and down.
* Keeping the chest up, sit back as far as you can — as if you are going to sit in a chair. Note: you need to sit back VERY far. Pretend there is a chair one to two feet behind you and, keeping your feet planted, you have to get your butt back far enough to sit in the chair or you’ll land on the ground. You may feel like you will fall backward, but trust me you won’t. The knees should stay over the ankles and should not push forward over the toes at all when sitting back. Check yourself out in a mirror to ensure you have perfect form.
* Once you’re “sitting,” work toward getting your quads parallel with the ground, continue holding the abs in, shoulders back, and stand up.
Ta-da! Now go do one hundred more.