The Classic Squat
The squat is a classic exercise that strengthens the glutes (or butt), hips and thighs. To start the squat, stand with your feet at about hip-width apart – think of this as 6 to 8 inches apart. Draw your abs in slightly to stabilize your spine and shift your weight into your heels. Sit down by bending your knees and hips as if you were going to sit into a chair, aiming to make your thighs parallel to the floor. Keep your weight in your heels and your hips aimed toward the back of the room – make sure your knees do not jut out past your toes. Extend back up to a stand to complete one repetition. Master 3 sets of 15 repetitions, with 30 seconds to one minute rest between each set.
Prisoner squat – like the classic squat but place your hands behind your head. This variation helps strengthen the back and improves posture.
Weighted squat – allow the weights to hang alongside your thighs as you squat up and down. Use 5 to 15 lb. hand weights. This variation builds leg muscle once you have mastered the classic, body weight version.
Front-loaded squat – hold hand weights in front of your chest as you squat. This variation puts more emphasis on the fronts of the thighs, or quadriceps.
For more information from Andrea Cespedes, fitness instructor with the YMCA, read her articles at Suite101.com.