As a woman, resistance training not only increases your strength and burns fat, but improves the density of your bones. The barbell squat works many muscle groups, strengthens your legs and burns calories. Many variations of the barbell squat exist, which effectively allow you to strengthen your core while working your lower body. Consult a health care provider before beginning any exercise program.
The squat works your legs, hips and core. One of the most important aspects of squatting is squatting deeply, as this has a direct effect on many of the muscles you use, including your hips. While you cannot spot reduce fat, strengthening the lower body and developing the hips is very important for many women. Do not allow your back to round when squatting, and do not rest the bar on your neck -- hold it on your upper back instead.
The front squat is a variation of the barbell squat. You hold the bar on the front of your shoulders and maintain a more upright posture. While the front squat does not work your legs to the same degree as the barbell squat, you do not have as much lower back involvement. This may make the front squat a superior alternative for any woman with lower back issues. Alternately, if you simply wish extra work for your legs, you can perform both exercises in the same workout.
Split squats, otherwise known as lunges, primarily work one leg at a time. By stepping forward with one leg, then bending both knees, you can work your legs while getting a good stretch in your hips. If you do not have the strength to use a barbell, this exercise can be done with dumbbells. Like the front squat, there is less lower back involvement when compared to the barbell squat. And like the front squat, there is less activation of the muscles of your hamstrings than the barbell squat. While many women prefer this exercise, it does not result in as many benefits as the barbell squat. It can also be used in the same workout.
The overhead squat is commonly practiced by competitive weightlifters, but it's also good general strength and conditioning exercise. This is a fairly skilled lift, so you may wish to start with a broomstick or something similar until you have the technique down. Hold the bar, or stick, overhead with your hands approximately 1.5 times the width of your shoulders. Keep your arms locked firmly overhead, and maintain tension by attempting to "pull the bar apart" with your hands. With this position, and your feet slightly wider than your shoulders, squat down to a low position, then stand back up.
- "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research"; Changes in Bone Mineral Density in Response to 24 Weeks of Resistance Training in College-age Men and Women; H.C. Almstedt, et al.; April 2011
- "Journal of Physics"; Biomechanics of Front and Back Squat Exercises; A.A. Braidot, et al.; 2007
- "American Journal of Sports Medicine"; Comparison of Intersegmental Tibiofemoral Joint Forces and Muscle Activity During Various Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises; M.J. Stuart, et al., November - December 1996
- Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.