Squatting literally means assuming a crouching position with the knees bent so that the hips will come in the same line with the heels. The advantage of squatting exercises is that it develops a level of functional coordination between the hip joints, knees, and ankles, meanwhile training the corresponding muscles, which includes the hamstring, quads, glutes, calf muscles, and the muscles of the lower back. Originally it was weightlifters who popularized this exercise, but these days, virtually every sportsmen who indulges in sports with some amount of athleticism does squatting as a supplementary workout routine.
Squatting can be done in several ways – with or without a bar bell, in a narrow or wide stance (in terms of foot position), and with a definite amount of knee flexation (knee angle). The variation in weight or change in position is meant to vary the weight or force exerted on the knees, hips or ankles, to suit the existing physical strength of the person concerned. Elaborating on that point, even though parallel and deep squats produce virtually the same amount of muscle activation, the former is prescribed for athletes who have had knee injuries before, since this method puts lesser strain on the knee joints and muscles. Similarly, those with hip problems are advised to do 90-degree squats for the parallel and deep squats put a definite amount of pressure on the hip joints.
Another popular and most effective squatting exercise is the traditional Indian bethaks or the Hindu bethaks. The plus of this workout is that it does not put too much strain on the knee joints, but actually rehabilitates while building on the strength of the leg muscles. Further, if properly executed, combined with deep breathing, Hindu bethaks also contributes towards building immense lung power and strong ankles. But, it must be understood that this squatting exercise is not that simple a thing to perform. People who normally can do 500 squats might struggle to complete 50. Hindu bethaks itself is testimony to the difficulty associated with this workout. On a realistic scale, hundreds of Hindu bethaks, cannot be done in one go, even if you are Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead, the technique is to work slowly into it, without forcing progress in a hurry.
Other squatting exercises in vogue include back and front squats, overhead squats, box squats, dumbbell squats, pistol squats, ATG squats and Smith machine squats.
From a common man point of view, the choice of squatting exercises must be made based exclusively on the prevailing conditions of one’s knees, hips, and ankles. Hence, it is advisable that instead of randomly starting with any squatting exercise, you first seek the advice of a gym instructor and listen to his/her instructions carefully. It must be kept in mind that a badly done workout can actually bring more harm than any real benefit. After all health is wealth, isn’t it?