Strengthening the legs – How to Squat

I am going to nominate the squat as one of the most important exercises you can do whether its the wall slide, body weight squat or squat with added weight. To prove how important it is one of the most oft used phrases when teaching the squat is "pretend you are sitting down in a chair". Yes being able to squat means you will continue to be able to sit down and stand up safely without using your arms (or the chair arms) for assistance. Stronger legs means better balance, so less likely to fall. They also reduce your risk of lower back and knee pain, improve mobility  and of course who doesn't want a bottom that fills out their trousers.

Beginner - Walls slide  (also good for those with arthritis in the knee)

  1. Stand against a wall with your back touching it. Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
  2. Begin by slowly sliding down the wall, maintaining contact, until you are in seated position.  Your  hips and knees should both  be at 90-degrees, your back flat against the wall, your heels  on the ground and your knee joint should be directly above your ankle joint.

Do not worry if you can not get this far down to start with, just slide down the wall to a position comfortable for you.

3.  Slowly push with the legs, weight going thru the heels and slide up the wall to return to starting position.

Start by doing this 3 times a day, to increase the difficulty of this exercise then when you are in the seated position hold for 5 seconds before sliding back up the wall.

Intermediate - Body weight squat to chair

When you first try these place a chair behind you, it will help you visualise what you are suppose to be doing. If necessary actually sit in the chair when you lower yourself.

  1. Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder width apart with toes turned out at a slight angle.
  2. Push back your hips as if you were going to sit in the chair, think about reaching back with your bottom attempting to touch the chair . Whilst you are doing this you need to remember
  • Do not round your back
  • Keep chest up
  • Your knees should track over your toes i.e. you should be pushing your knees out, they shouldn't be collapsing inwards.
  • Keep weight toward the heels, you should be able to wiggle your toes.
  • Eyes looking foward, your chin should be parallel with the floor

3.  The position you are going down to is just below parallel for your thighs, where your bottom drops below your knees BUT this is a position you are working towards, when you start just go down as far as it feels comfortable. At this point your form is more important than your range of movement.

4. Keeping the weight in your heels, slowly push your body back up.

5. Start with 3 repetitions and work up to 10.

So 2 exercises the press up and squat, both movements which use lots of muscles but no equipment! The next post will be covering a back exercise, as we age it's actually important that we strengthen the back to help prevent the hunching that can occur as we age for now - as you are probably reading this on a PC or laptop -  I will just say sit up straight!

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

Helen Witcomb runs Whole Life Fitness which is a personal training company which specialises in the over 50s. For more information please visit Whole Life Fitness or call 01252313578.

3 thoughts on “Strengthening the legs – How to Squat

  1. So, both push ups and squats use body weight. Are you suggesting starting with these two exercises for weight workouts, or have I missed something?

    Although I belong to a gym, being in the gym is not my favourite. I look forward to your posts about incorporating weight into everyday exercise, maybe even in combination with my yoga practice (warmed up and breathing right)?

    1. That's exactly what I am suggesting 🙂 I chose those 2 exercises as not only do they work a lot of muscles they can also be done without going anywhere near a gym. You can do them during a walk or as part of your yoga practice.
      I would suggest trying 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise with a 30 seconds rest between each set after your yoga practice.


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