Deadlifts and squats provide a practical way to work on various muscles. Squats are the most basic exercise for training the legs, glutes and the lower body. They can be performed at the gym or home with basic equipment.
Deadlifts are known for yielding multiple benefits. With this exercise, you work the whole body; both the upper and lower body from the shoulders and trapezes to the legs.
Even if you are new to weightlifting and bodybuilding, you will find these two exercises highly beneficial, but you need to follow an effective routine to maximize results. I have seen many beginners progress faster thanks to the adoption of a good routine.
Best Squat Routine
Squats are an excellent bodybuilding exercise that can help you achieve lean muscle gains, build strength and burn fat. Although you can perform squats without weights at the beginning or as a warm-up routine, adding weights increases intensity.
On your first day, it is vital to perform a squat test with your body weight. This allows you to determine the ideal starting level. Also, you can adjust and modulate the repetitions. Universal routines may not yield results since every individual is different. With the test, you perform as many repetitions as possible.
If you are starting with the exercise, the best option is to carry it out without weight. During the first week, you can perform three to four sets of 10 repetitions for a total of 40 squats per day. Rest one day between each workout.
Squats can be executed easily, but the improper technique can cause an injury. It is necessary to start by separating the legs so that you can keep your balance. The feet should be parallel, pointing forward.
The trunk has to remain stretched without overstressing the back. The position you adopt should be comfortable. At the same time, make an effort to leave your arms extended.
Proceed to bend down while keeping the trunk straight although it can be tilted slightly to keep head looking forward. For arms to maintain balance, keep them stretched and clasp hands on your chest.
By the time the thighs are parallel with the ground, you will have finished the first part of the squats. Return to the starting position; do it by reversing the process. The number of squats you can perform is variable depending on many factors.
It is necessary to combine the squats routine with a healthy diet, plenty of water and some aerobic exercise. It is a routine that consists of five different variations of squats each day and as the days progress the number of repetitions will have to increase.
On the first day, you should perform five repetitions of jump squats, sumo squats, pistol squats and split squats. For each day that passes the repetitions will increase by five. Therefore, the second day should be 10 repetitions for each exercise, the third day 15 repetitions for each exercise. On the fourth day, you should rest but make an effort to perform 20 minutes of aerobic exercise at home.
Continue with the exercises but always increase intensity by five repetitions for each day that passes (including rest days). The next break comes five days later but with 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.
Continue with the same routine as before, only this time the rest will be four days later until you complete the 30 days of the routine. Doing so allows you to strengthen quadriceps and abdominals.
The Best Deadlift Routine
This exercise provides significant benefits at all levels of fitness. However, if it is done incorrectly, it can lead to serious injuries. It is one of the few exercises that work for all large muscle groups.
Depending on the type of deadlifts you perform and the intensity of the workouts, you can work the lower back, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps and even the upper part of the back and arms. The exercises can have a considerable impact on trapezius, erector muscles of the spine, hip, buttocks, and hamstrings.
Apart from the conventional deadlift exercises, you can test its variations, such as sumo or other options that focus on the legs. In this way, you will become a master of this exercise. Incorporate these variations to your training routine, and I assure you that when you return to the conventional, you will be stronger and faster.
As with many other exercises, there is more than one type; you should pick the best option that best suits your objectives, strengths, and weaknesses.
Sumo style deadlift. With this variant, you must place your feet as far apart as possible and keep your hands inside. You can do it with an emphasis on your quadriceps or hip, and it involves a range of motion that allows you to lift a heavier weight. To perform this exercise perfectly, you must practice.
Deadlift with hexagonal bar. This type of exercise is done with a bar, which allows you to modify the mechanics of the exercise and lift the weight in a distributed manner. This variant is an Olympic lifting exercise that works mostly on the hamstrings and is good for improving the starting technique with the bar.
The Romanian deadlift with semi-rigid or straight legs is sometimes called a leg strengthener since it focuses on the hamstrings, unlike other deadlift exercises that focus on the lower back. When you perform this exercise, your back must be straight.
Deadlift with a rack can increase or decrease the range of motion used in the traditional deadlift. On the other hand, the barbell squat is a type of deadlift that focuses on quadriceps. To perform this type of deadlift, pass the bar behind the head and place it on the upper back as in the conventional deadlift.
However, the hack lift is known to be one of the trickiest deadlifts since it involves extra work on the knees. For this reason, you should only incorporate this exercise into your training on an occasional basis after mastering the basic deadlift exercises.
The traditional deadlift gives you an opportunity to go back to the original exercise and test your strength and power as well as your improved technique. This variant is the one you should start with if you have never done this type of exercise. When you perform it, keep your hands just outside the feet.
The traditional deadlift is performed with a bar, or a series of weights and the muscles involved are the lower back, the calf, the forearm, the gluteus, the latissimus dorsi, the middle part of the back, the quadriceps and the trapeze.
Now that you know all the variants of this exercise, you can select one that best suits you? It depends, ultimately, on the exercises that you can perform with the best technique and with the spine straight. Keeping the spine straight is undoubtedly the most important factor when performing deadlifts safely.
For beginners, the best type to start with is Romanian. Once you perform it to perfection, the next level is the trap or hex deadlift since it allows you to perform the maneuver perfectly and avoid injuries.
If you cannot perform the trap bar deadlift, your next targets are sumo and conventional. However, the flexibility of the hamstrings can be two factors that prevent you from progressing in this type of deadlift.
The mobility and power of the hamstrings are two essential requirements to perform this type of exercise correctly. The transition from trap to conventional depends on your ability to lift properly and your strength.
When you perform the deadlift, start by separating the feet a little beyond the width of the shoulders. Bend your knees and start using a bar, take the bar above the head so that your shoulders are vertical with respect to the ground. Keep your back as straight as possible, bend your knees while keeping the chest and the shoulder blades directly above the bar.
However, do not squeeze your shoulder blades. When you pass the bar above the knees, squeeze the glutes keeping them behind the bar. When you reach the final phase of the exercise, do not lean back and make sure your chest is firm.
A common execution error is to look up to the sky with the chin raised. The chin must be stuck with the head aligned with the rest of the spine. To return to the starting position, bend your knees, thrust your chest and torso backward while you pull your buttocks.
Also, the weight should be concentrated on your heels and in the middle of your foot. You should be able to move the toes in all directions.
Your body has to move back and forth at the same pace to ensure that your chest and buttocks rise and advance in tandem. Keep your chest elevated and control movement from the heels. Keep your arms straight; their function is to lift the bar but not to bend. Keep the bar attached to the body, watch that you do not go forward.
When you raise the bar, squeeze the glutes. When the bar passes your knees, push the bar with your feet and when it reaches the knees, squeeze gluts under the bar. In the final phase of the movement, keep your chest firm, do not lean forward or hyper-extend your back.
Once you have learned the correct technique of the deadlift, it is easy to perform. However, it cannot be taken lightly as it is easy to injure yourself if executed incorrectly. Due to the nature of the biomechanics and the range of motion, the deadlift should be done with caution, especially for anyone with poor hip flexibility or back problems.
To avoid injuries and errors, you have to know that the correct way to do a deadlift is taking a T-shaped position. First practice without a bar and then with a bar without weight. Once you have learned the technique, increase the weight gradually to avoid failure,
Even though the gym often provides an opportunity to have time to work alone, I recommend that you have someone nearby who will analyze your position and technique. If not, another option is to record yourself and analyze your weaknesses. You may feel a bit ridiculous, but believe me, you will make a fool of yourself if you do the exercise incorrectly and injure yourself.
The descending part of the deadlift should not be disregarded as this part is riskier than the ascending part. It is the movement that will give you more muscle pain after the exercise. Do not drop the bar, lower the bar gradually. To keep the back straight and ensure that all the force is transferred to the bar, the muscles of the back should work throughout the journey.
The body weight must be supported on the heels, never on the front of the foot. The bar should always travel in a vertical line as close to the body as possible, even touching it lightly, both during the ascent and during the descent.
Do not use a lot of weight at first, focus on practicing the technique. Record movements on video if you can and correct your form before loading the bar too much.
Do not release the weight from the final position, return it to the ground in a controlled manner. Do not use the arms to pull the weight, the muscles of the arms must be stressed to hold the load not to lift it.
Breathe deeply into the starting position, filling your lungs with air and holding your breath when ascending, keeping your abs and back tight (like a block). This technique helps keep the back straight, protecting the spine. Do not forget to breathe in the final position (with the body in a vertical position).
Do not use footwear with a heel, soft sole or an air chamber; all it does is destabilize you. The sole should be thin and flat and even better, exercise barefoot like Arnold.
Benefits of Deadlift Exercises
If you want to build muscle mass, few exercises outweigh the deadlift. You can improve your stability and work supplementary muscles, which are not activated if you use isolation exercises on a machine. This is in addition to improving your grip strength, that is, the ability of your hands (and forearms) to hold weight.
In general, the weak link for many people who perform deadlifts is hands. Some use bands around the wrists to help hold the weight, but I do not recommend it except sporadically when you are, for example, trying to break a personal record.
Despite what many people think, deadlifting helps correct back problems as it develops all your muscles, thus protecting the spine. While the focus of this exercise is to increase strength and muscle, the release of hormones and the effect on your cardiovascular system also make it a good workout to burn fat. It is one of the exercises with more applicability in real life.
Many of the back injuries occur when one tries to lift something heavy from the floor or hold a child in the arms. If you practice frequent deadlifts, the chances of injuring your back in daily activities decrease drastically. Your body will be prepared for this.
When you perform these exercises, the technique is important, but you can probably avoid serious injuries even though your form is not ideal. However, when you are lifting a heavy weight off the ground, a bad position can make the difference between being the best muscle building exercise or the best one to break your back, so pay attention.
Benefits of The Squats
Squats help burn fat. Training consumes energy and burns fat. They work your muscles more than any other exercise and have the capacity to burn fat. As a result, the more weight you carry, the more calories you will burn.
Interestingly, you will burn a lot of calories during and after your workout. The caloric expenditure of intense exercise is accompanied by more burning after exercise. Your muscles need to recover from training, and this mechanism of muscle recovery burns a lot of calories, especially if you put a big load on the bar with short rest times.
Squatting is the best exercise to build firm legs and lose weight. However, you have to supplement with a well-balanced diet. One might think that the squats are just an exercise for the thighs.
Your hips and knees bend, but the rest of your body must support the weight and keep you upright. This is how squats work the whole body.
Here are some of the muscles worked during squats.
– Lower body – the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and calves to stabilize the ankles.
– Upper body – the shoulders and trapezes are engaged to keep the bar positioned on the top of your back.
– Abdominal area – your abdomen and lower back work together during squats to help you not to swing on one side. Interestingly, squats recruit the deep muscles of the abdominal strap.
Heavy squatting allows a release of hormones than any other exercise: 200 percent more growth hormone and 25 percent more testosterone than the leg extension. These hormones are of paramount importance because they will cause fat loss and muscle gain.
Squat strengthens the bones. When you squat, gravity attracts the weight, you have on your back down. It compresses everything under the bar. Your spine and bones will adapt to become stronger.
A study conducted in Sweden showed that bodybuilders and weightlifters have a higher bone density. This significantly reduces the risk of fracture and prevents osteoporosis. Squats limit not only the loss of muscle mass but also the reduction of bone density. Your balance and coordination are even higher.
Different Types of Squats
The diversity of the squatting exercises is based on variations in the range of motion. There are many variations of the classic squats that you can perform once you have a good command of the basic technique. On the contrary, there are many variations of the traditional squatting exercise that will be useful for you as a beginner.
As a beginner, you will find air squats useful in the early days and during warm-up sessions. Place arms in front of you, straight (with a slight bending at the elbows) forming a right angle with your bust with palms to the ground.
Do not place your arms on your legs. Now, in a slow, controlled movement, go down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, your weight should be transmitted on your heels as if you were sitting on a chair.
This exercise is performed traditionally with the only difference that your hands are behind your head, hence the name. It is widely used in cardio programs and can be performed with a weighted bag on the back to accentuate the work.
The different placement of hands, a priori trivial, plays a crucial role. It will force the back chamber and abdominal sheathing, in addition to isometric contractions in the back and shoulders.
This variant involves squatting conventionally, but instead of returning to the initial position once down, make small impulses from the bottom up, a few centimeters, quickly.
If you want to impress onlookers or correct a muscular asymmetry, then you must master this exercise. The pistol squat is probably the most difficult movement to master, but it is also the most stylish.
In the classic squat position, grab your left foot in front of you while keeping the leg tight. Squat gently until your buttocks touch your heel and your outstretched leg is a few inches off the ground. Do you think you have done the hard part? Not at all. It is now a question of going up, without falling or using the stretched leg.
Squat with a chair
This is one of the popular squatting techniques for beginners because the chair acts as an assist tool. However, you are not allowed to sit down and take a break. In a classic squat movement, put your buttocks on the chair, keeping the chest firm while pushing your hips backward. Your arms should rise as high as possible.
With this variant, the descent is similar to a classic squat. When going up, you have to throw one leg to the side and contract your glutes. Alternate one leg and then the other. You can vary the amplitude or direction by kicking to the front or back.
Anyone who thinks that squatting exercises are boring should appreciate this challenge. Start by putting your right leg over the left and your right foot will hang at the back of your left calf.
Now, place your right arm under your left elbow and the right hand should be around the left forearm. Once you have the right balance (can take time), squat as low as possible, then return to the starting position.
A well-known variation of the traditional squat, sumo squats increase the spacing between your legs; the toes are pointed slightly outward. You then push the hips backward and bend your knees. Squat until your thighs are aligned with your knees. Either you can pulse once down, or you return to the initial position.
This exercise is performed with the legs apart, at least twice the width of the shoulders. The feet are slightly open on the outside to guarantee a knee to toe alignment. The sumo squat is recommended for working muscles located inside the thighs. When ascending, push back by pressing well on the outer side of your arch.
Plyometrics refers to any movement that causes both feet to leave the ground at the same time. This variant is excellent to work more deeply in the muscles but also to touch on some cardio during your workouts. To raise the intensity level of your basic squats, you can add a jump.
This is a cardio movement will allow you to burn a maximum of calories and work your explosiveness. Get off in the classic squat position, then give a good boost to take off your feet and take a quick jump. You can accentuate the jump with the momentum created by an arm swing.
Plyometrics is probably one of the most misunderstood current training techniques, which may explain why bodybuilders usually do not perform this variant. Unlike many bodybuilding exercises, which tends to require a combination of fast, slow and intermediate fibers, plyometric training mainly recruits fast fibers that produce high power. It turns out that it is the fibers that have the strongest tendency to develop.
Before performing a jump squat, make sure you have a perfect technique. Start squatting without resistance, just put your hands on your hips. When you are ready to add resistance, place a bar on your trapezes and use a load that does not exceed 40% of your maxi squat normal.
Squat box jumps
You stand in front of a box (the most stable) and crouch as if you were doing a classic squat before jumping onto the box and land back in a squat position. Get off the box by jumping again. It goes without saying that one should start with a box of relatively low height, then increase over time.
Surfer squat jumps
Start in a low squat position; the leg should spread very wide with the arms on the sides as if you are stretching on a surfboard. Jump and make a U-turn.
Squat tuck jumps
In a low squat position, jump as high as possible, bring your knees to the top of your chest and touch your knees. Land squat down and start again. Ensure that you never stand between movements. This is the art of burning calories with this movement.
Squat with dumbbells
Squats with dumbbells are perfect if you use lightweight loads. However, this variant is not recommended if you want to carry heavy loads.
Q: What is the best position for the feet when squatting?
A: Do you meticulously position your feet squat to be sure to focus on each part of the quadriceps? Experts from the Sports Science Center in West Sussex, England, tested the effects of slight rotations of the feet on the mode of recruitment of the main muscles during squats in six weightlifters.
Each subject was asked his favorite position during a squat test. Before the study, the researchers drew benchmarks on the ground in the squat cage to indicate an internal rotation of the feet of 10 degrees, 0 degrees (neutral), and external rotation of 10 and 20 degrees.
The subjects then performed three squats in each of the four-foot positions with 65 percent and 75 percent of their maxi.
Fixed on the anterior rectus, the vastus internus, and the vastus externa, electrodes measured the mode of recruitment during each rep and according to each position of the feet.
The researchers found that for each muscle, there was no difference in the level of maximum activity with foot rotation at 75 percent and 65 percent of the MR.
In other words, when the feet are placed in these particular positions, the essential muscles of the front of the thigh perform the same work, whether the toes are directed outward, frontward or inward.
So if you practice squats every week, continue to put your feet in the position that you are most comfortable. If you try different positions, do not forget that stability and safety are key elements of a good squatting technique.
Q: Why is it essential to perform full squats?
A: Full squats have been shown to engage the gluteus maximus properly. With the half squat, the thigh does not descend below the horizontal. It is subjected to increased stress at the level of the quadriceps.
The squat should be executed as I have just described it. However, several variants can be performed to achieve the complete development of the thigh. One can, for example, work with a closed foot position or wide apart but the execution will be the same.
In general, it is not useful to have a belt, except for very heavy loads. In this case, the belt should be wide, especially to hold the abdomen so that the column has a strong point of support in the front.
Q: Should I use a wedge under the heels when squatting?
A: Have you ever wondered why some squat with a wedge under the heels? For most people, it is due to a bad technique, which causes their heels to lift off from the ground or they lack flexibility in the Achilles tendon.
These two handicaps can easily be corrected by getting rid of the hold and learn the right technique. This will prevent your heels from lifting off the ground and develop the flexibility required for the Achilles tendon.
If you use a wedge to isolate certain parts of the quadriceps, do not worry: what you get is, above all, stronger recruitment of the extensors of the back due to the load and the fact that you lean more.
Which muscles are recruited when performing deadlifts and squats?
Extensor muscles of the vertebral column
The column extensors include the lumbar, dorsal and iliocostal. Not only do these muscles achieve back extension, but they work a lot to maintain proper posture, especially at the lumbar and hip level when doing the squat.
Hip extension muscles
The gluteus maximus contributes in a good measure to the control of the descent and is actively engaged when you go up. Another function of the glutes is to hold your thighs when you move firmly.
The quadriceps are the main muscles that work during the squat. They produce most of the power and move from deep flexion to standing. The right anterior, the vastus internus, the vastus externus and the crural are all strongly involved, but the degree of their contribution varies according to the execution. Some of the knee extensors are also hip extensors.
The adductor muscles
The small, medium and large adductors are three powerful muscles located inside the thigh. Their main function is to bring the leg inward from a lateral position and to flex the thigh at the hip. During squats, these three muscles act as powerful stabilizers.
Knee flexor muscles
Femoral biceps, semi-tendinous and semi-membranous muscles are often neglected during squatting because they flex the knee while squatting is primarily a knee extension exercise. However, as you descend, your muscles contract sharply to control the pace of descent. When you ascend, your muscles also contract to help extend the hip.
If you start training quadriceps and you have apprehension with squats, I advise you to try the squat hack that will allow you to perform a similar movement safely. This exercise can also be useful if you have to light back problems because you can flatten your spine against the back and thus limit the risk of rounding the back.
To accentuate the work on the quadriceps, you can do back squat at the Smith machine. There is no need to put heavy loads to feel good.
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