Featured Exercise Tip
The Ball Squat
It's hard to beat Squats when your goal is to strengthen and tone your gluteus maximus muscles and your quadriceps (also known as your butt and thighs!). Unfortunately, some of the more traditional ways to perform squats (with dumbbells or barbells) are not for everybody. It can be difficult to maintain the proper form on your own and performing a squat incorrectly can put your knees at risk for injury. The Ball Squat is a less intense and easier-to-perform squatting option that is great for many people.
Have you seen the big, lightweight inflated balls that are now popular for exercise? They are wonderfully versatile, inexpensive, and fun to use! When used for a squat, the ball guides you through the correct range of motion, making it easy to perform correctly, even at home by yourself.
The Starting Position
Find a wall surface that is flat and bare (no doorknobs, light switches, or picture frames!). Place the ball between you and the wall, about waist height and then put your back to the ball. Press the small of your back firmly against the ball. It should feel like the ball "fits" comfortably in the arch of your back. Adjust your feet so that they are about shoulder-width apart and parallel to each other. Make sure your feet are also several feet away from the wall. If your feet are "too close" to the wall, your knees will jut out uncomfortably once you begin the motion. If this happens to you, move your feet a few more inches away from the wall and try again. It may take a few tries to find the right foot placement for you based on your height.
|Do: The correct starting (left) and ending positions|
Slowly begin squatting down by bending your knees and "curling your tailbone under the ball" until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground (approaching a 90 degree bend at the knee joint). You lower leg should remain fairly vertical, which keeps your knees right over your ankles, not jutting out past your toes. Focus on keeping contact with the ball and avoid leaning forward. Once you get to the "bottom" of the range of motion, push straight back up to your starting position. The ball should roll with you right back to its starting position at the small of your back.
|Don't: Incorrect ending position|
How Far Down?
Knowing how far down to go is important and may take some practice. For some people, going all the way down to "parallel" is uncomfortable. You may only go half that distance and that's ok. You may find that as you build strength, you can gradually go further down. Pay attention to what your knees are telling you and only perform the exercise through the range of motion that is comfortable for you. (Note to overachievers: "Parallel" is the most advanced stopping point. It is never advisable to go past the parallel point as this is stressful for your knee joints.)
You may need to start with as few as 4-8 repetitions or you may be able to perform as many as 50 repetitions. The key is to do the amount needed for your muscles to feel fatigued. To increase the overall workload (and the results), you can build up to 2 or even 3 sets of ball squats. (Go to fatigue, rest for a few minutes, then do it again.) If you can perform more than 50, it's time to move on to a more intense exercise!
A Few Words of Caution
- Stop if you feel pain, especially in your knees. You may want to double check to make sure you are using the correct form. But even performed correctly, this exercise may not be for you. Listen to your body.
- If the ball slips and starts to fall to the ground, you are performing the exercise incorrectly. (See the "Don't" photo.) Check to see if you are either leaning forward, not pressing the small of your back into the ball, and/or not curling your tailbone under the ball as you go down.
If you have any questions about performing this exercise correctly, feel free to contact me. Good luck!
Get Fitness InSight! Call Cathy at 301-742-1815 or click here to contact Cathy via e-mail.