There are no shortcuts on the journey to a healthy physique—but there are certain high-efficiency exercises that come pretty close. We seek them out in One-Move Wonders, our series about the quick hitters that deliver major results in minimal time, straight from some of the best trainers and fitness experts around the world. Grab your water bottle, rev up your playlist, and let's go!
“Do more squats” is on the top of every fitness to-do list (imaginary and real, for those who really have fitness to-do lists). But rather than just doing more of the power move, why not do a better squat? For that, we enlisted the help of Mike Alexander, an L.A.-based professional trainer and the owner of Madfit on Melrose.
“Squats work most of the muscles in your lower body—the motion of knee extension works your quadriceps (front of thighs), and the hip extension works your glutes (butt) and hamstrings (back of thighs),” Alexander says. He calls his supercharged squat “magical”—“magical in that it can help girls with no butt get a bigger one, and give girls with too much butt a smaller one.” Plus, because of the number and size of the muscles you work with a squat, Alexander says squats can significantly spark your heart rate and burn plenty of calories.
Keep reading for the step-by-step details of the perfect squat!
- Stand up straight (no bend in knees or at hips) with feet hip’s width apart and toes just barely turned out. Hold a 7.5- to 10-pound dumbbell in each hand.
- Put your weight into your heels, but don’t let you toes come off the floor. Allow your knees to bend, and rather than keeping your upper body upright, lean forward, bringing your shoulders down in the direction of your knees. Tighten your abs and keep your spine and neck straight (nose should be pointing at an angle toward the ground, not straight ahead) as you lower. Keep your shoulder blades together and pressed down. Alexander says to think of tucking them into your back pockets.
- Be sure to lower yourself down in a controlled manner at a consistent speed, rather than dropping and catching yourself at the bottom. Continue lowering yourself down until you’re at the bottom of your squat. Alexander says that’s roughly a 90-degree bend with the knee. “Bottom (stopping) position will vary due to factors such as flexibility, femur length, previous injuries, etc., but a good rule of thumb is to have your spine (back) parallel with your lower leg at the bottom position.”
- Return to standing position by pressing down through heels and extending knees and hips. “Think of pressing the front of your hips into the wall in front of you, squeezing your butt up underneath you,” Alexander says. “It’s okay to come up to a fully extended knee position as long as you arrive into that position under control—no popping.”
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