The squat has been crowned as ‘the king of all exercises’ by many because of its undeniable ability to make your muscles grow faster and stronger in less time than other popular compound movements, and this is why it’s a part of the training routines of pro athletes and average gym-goers alike. In fact, athletes from every sport and discipline use some version of this exercise to tone their legs and abs, strengthen their core and improve their overall performance.
Since squats primarily target the legs which are a large muscle group, they create an anabolic environment by triggering the release of testosterone and human growth hormone, which stimulates muscle growth in the entire body. Also, squats work almost every muscle at the same time, engaging your legs to handle the weight, the core to stabilize the trunk and every other muscle to help the torso maintain balance.
Finally, research has shown that squats are amazing for building greater power and mobility, as well as preventing injury in people of any age. Performing full depth squats can help correct a number of imbalances, disorders and weaknesses in the musculoskeletal system, such as weak glutes and a hunched back.
There are many versions of the regular squat that you can include in your training routine to increase your gains in a specific body part and today we’ll discuss the sumo squat, which may be the best exercise for building strength in the glutes and inner thighs.
The sumo squat differs from the regular one in the positioning of the feet, which naturally leads to a different muscle emphasis. When performing a regular squat, the feet are placed hip-width apart with toes facing forward, while during a sumo squat, the feet are in a wide stance with toes turned out. Though both versions work the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and calves, sumo squats place more stress on the inner thigh adductors and glutes.
Regardless of which squat version you choose to do, make sure you perform the entire movement in a slow, controlled manner for optimal results.
Mastering the regular squat
The only way to place the greatest workload on the right muscles, prevent knee and back pain and injury and harness all the benefits of this powerful exercise is by mastering the proper form and technique.
When performing a regular squat, stand up straight and place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, hips stacked over knees and knees over ankles. Roll the shoulders down, straighten your back and extend the arms until they’re parallel with the ground to help maintain balance. Inhale and bend your knees, bringing the hips backwards as if you were sitting back into a chair. Keep bringing the hips backwards until your thighs are parallel to the floor, or even lower. At the bottom of the squat, the knees should be directly over your toes. Also, it’s of vital importance to keep your back straight and neutral (keeping the head facing forward with eyes straight ahead will help you with this) and your feet anchored firmly to the ground all throughout the movement. Exhale, engage your core and press through the heels to return to a standing position.
Upgrading to the sumo squat
After you master the regular squat, you can switch to the sumo version.
Stand with your feet significantly wider than shoulder-width apart and toes turned out at an angle of 45 degrees. Inhale, bend your knees and push your hips back while keeping the chest up, abs tight and back straight. As you lower yourself down, extend your hands until they meet under your chin to help you maintain balance. The weight should be concentrated in the glutes and inner thighs. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, exhale and push your body back up through the heels. Again, don’t let your heels lose contact with the floor, keep the knees parallel with the toes and keep your whole back perfectly straight throughout the entire movement.
Only after you’ve mastered the sumo squat with perfect form, you can use added resistance to increase the challenge and build stronger muscles. You can do this by holding a barbell behind your head and across your upper back and shoulders for a back squat, having the barbell rest on your chest and the front of your shoulders for a front squat or holding the barbell overhead for an overhead squat.
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Another option is to hold one dumbbell with both hands in front of you when performing the sumo squat, or you can hold a dumbbell or a kettlebell in the center of your chest with both hands to perform a goblet squat. Using a kettlebell lets you have a larger range of motion, resulting with a deeper muscle activation.