Squat exercises are key for toning, so we asked top personal trainers Matt Roberts and Danielle De Wildt for detailed instructions on how to do them correctly. Here's how to get buns of steel like their supermodel clients...
MC: Why are squat exercises so great?
‘Squatting is a great exercise for achieving a number of different outcomes,’ says Matt Roberts, who works with Naomi Campbell and has 4 London-based personal training clubs. ‘The many variations of squatting can work your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps, as well as all the smaller, surrounding, stabilising muscles. As squatting is a compound exercise (a movement that uses more than one joint and multiple muscle groups), it takes a lot of energy to perform and burns lots of calories.’
‘Squatting is one exercise that should be part of virtually everyone’s routine, as it’s relatively simple to perform and can be done just about anywhere,’ says Danielle De Wildt, who works with Lily Cole and is Essentrics master trainer at Champneys. ‘When you challenge your legs and bum regularly, something changes in the cells of those muscles, which helps you burn more calories, even when you’re not exercising.’
Here are 5 different squat exercises to try…
The Traditional Squat
‘Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width with your toes pointing slightly outwards. Keep your back in a neutral position, bend the knees and lean forward from the hips, pushing your bottom out behind you. Squat until your knees near 90 degrees, then push through the heels and return to the start position. Repeat 15-20 times, for 2-3 sets, and do this 2 or 3 times a week.’ Danielle De Wildt
The Tai Chi Plié
‘Place your feet in a wide stance with your knees in line with your feet. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Pretend you’re standing against a straight wall, so your back is straight. Stabilise the knees by pushing them back against the imaginary wall, then squeeze your bum to fire up the muscles. Do 3 counts downwards (feel the pull in your leg muscles as you lower), then straighten your legs quickly. Repeat 8 times. Then reverse this, by starting in a deep plié: do 3 counts upwards and then bend back down. Repeat 8 times.’ Danielle De Wildt
‘Stand in front of a bench, feet shoulder-width apart, and your arms out in front of you. Push your bottom backwards and down towards the bench. Control the movement, lightly touching the bench before pushing up through your heels to the original standing position. Brace your mid-section throughout, and keep your knees in line with your toes.’ Matt Roberts
‘Hold an upturned (vertical) dumbbell or kettlebell, with your hands close together and close to your chest. Your feet should be just outside shoulder-width, toes pointing slightly outwards. Keeping your head level and your chin up, sit back and down, getting your bottom between your knees. Make sure you keep your back straight by squeezing your shoulder-blades together. At the bottom of the movement, push the knees out, pause, then drive yourself back up to the original position, standing tall.’ Matt Roberts
Barbell Back Squat:
‘This more advanced squat should only be performed once you’ve mastered the two exercises outlined above. Ideally, it should be taught by a trainer who can give you direct correction and feedback. The barbell needs to sit under the bony prominence in your neck, on the soft shelf of the trapezius muscle. Keep the feet flat, and slightly outside shoulder width. Brace your mid-section throughout the movement, and keep your eyes and head forward. The knees should be in line with the toes while you lower your pelvis as low as comfortable without leaning forward. Drive back up through flat feet and stand tall, with your glutes tight to finish the movement.’ Matt Roberts