Squats have never been such a popular exercise as they are right now. Every where I look, men and women everywhere are taking up all the squat racks and Smith machines just squatting their lives away. There are booty building guides that have you doing sets after sets of nothing but squats. And still, after all my time in the gym, squats are some of the most incorrectly performed movements I’ve seen, setting people up for injury. And even after all those damn squats…I always hear people complaining about lack of results. So what TF gives?
Let’s start off how I love to start off everything: with the basics, baby. The basis of the squat move is pushing your body away from the floor, extending up from the hip and knee joints. So, going from low to high. Sitting to standing. Sounds simple right? Like, Grandma Edna who is 80 can go from sitting to standing. Now add into that…
- The range of motion of your ankle joint, making sure that your heels NEVER leave the ground (and I mean NEVER, even if you’re doing a heel elevated squat where your heels are on propped on plates, your heels should not leave contact with the plates).
- Focusing on pushing your hips back as far as they can go (this will ensure that the movement is firing your glutes and hamstrings as much as it fires the quadriceps).
- Engaging your core as you lower AND as you rise.
- Flexing and squeezing your glutes at the very top of the squat as you stand back up.
It’s a lot to think about, guys, I know. When done correctly, squats are a fantastic movement for determining strength. I mean, it’s the cornerstone movement of many Olympic lifts such as the snatch, cleans, and jerks for a reason. It is a super effective movement for developing strength and size in your lower body…just maybe not so much for your butt.
Studies have shown that the basic squat is actually activating much more of the quadriceps than the hamstrings and glutes, the areas we really want to target. It’s no wonder that those who have only been squatting in hopes of butt gains aren’t usually satisfied with the results. Please don’t get me wrong, squats are GREAT, but for the purpose of booty gains, there are better options out there to help you achieve your goals more effectively.
Instead of squatting like a basic fitness commoner, a study in 2015 (and results I’ve seen IRL) have shown these movements to be more effective in gluteal activation during an EMG test: a single leg squat, a side step up, and hip thrust. I explain the correct way to do each of the moves below. If you’re a beginner, don’t add weights until you’re comfortable with the movements of each exercise.
Single Leg Squat
- You can use the assistance of a TRX rope to help you move through this exercise.
- Standing on one leg, flex your other leg so that it is more parallel to the ground in front of you. This way it’s not touching the floor, so you’re not cheating yourself.
- Push your hips back and begin to bend the standing knee like you’re sitting in a chair behind you.
- Pushing from your HEEL, slowly push yourself back to standing.
- Stand right next to a bench or elevated step. The leg closest to the step will be the one working.
- Stepping laterally, push up on the heels to lift yourself into standing position on the step.
- Slowly lower, keeping your working leg on the bench.
- Lying on your back, place your feet on the ground, knees bent.
- Driving up from your heels (sense a pattern here?), lift your hips straight up into the air.
- Engage your core to stabilize yourself and prevent OVER-extension of the lumbar (that’s not doing you any favors, don’t be extra).
- Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground.
When it comes down to it, squats are a great exercise, they just aren’t doing exactly what you want them to. No one likes to waste time at the gym, so it’s all about figuring out which exercises are the most efficient in terms of meeting your goals. Try these other ones out, and you might finally get that Instagram-model ass you’ve been squatting toward for years!
Images: Giphy; Unity Intensity; Gfycat
Getting in shape isn’t always easy. And let’s face it, you may never have perfectly sculpted abs or toned arms, no matter how many times you go to hot yoga or lift things up and put them down. For whatever reason, so many people are hesitant to reach out for help when their workout routine just ain’t cutting it. So we connected with Matt Sauerhoff, the founder and CEO of The LIV Method, to share five reasons why having a personal trainer is actually beneficial for achieving the results you’ve been dreaming about, but not seeing IRL.
1. You’ll receive a completely customized workout plan according to your unique needs and goals.
NEWS FLASH: What J.Lo does at the gym isn’t guaranteed to work for you too. That’s because celebs have…wait for it…personal trainers! Everybody (and every body) is different. Personal trainers are literally trained to make sure you’re working out to the best of YOUR ability to get maximum results based on YOUR body type and goals.
Your first session with a personal trainer is usually complimentary (it always is at The LIV Method), and it’s basically just a casual hang sesh, so don’t be scared or expect to go full-force right away. Matt says, “At The LIV Method, we have a 15-minute chat as a preliminary meet to best understand what our client’s wants, needs, and challenges are, so we can best prepare for their first session. No one’s workout is ever the same, as no two people are the same. Our sessions are as unique as our fingerprints.”
“It’s also an opportunity for you (the client) to see if this person is someone you like and want to invest in. While knowledge is power, chemistry is EVERYTHING.”
2. You’re frustrated and don’t understand WTF you’ve been doing wrong.
You’ve been going to the gym for a year now soooo like, where the f*ck are your abs?
So many of my friends who do yoga are super thin and toned. Other friends of mine lift weights and have arms to literally die for. But when I took yoga classes and weight trained at the gym, I basically stayed physically stagnant (probably because I didn’t know what I was doing, but still).
People who usually go to Matt and The LIV Method fall into two categories: 1) active and frustrated, or 2) inactive and frustrated. Just because you’re working out doesn’t mean your workout is productive. So what are we doing wrong?
“While classes can be a great outlet and workout, there isn’t enough consistency or progression on a week-to-week basis to allow the body to adapt in any specific way. Trainers utilize a variety of science-based principles to remove the guesswork from exercise. Everything we do has a purpose and is part of a larger plan.” Yay, science!
3. You’ll learn what to do inside AND outside of the gym to get optimal results.
It’s not just what you do inside the gym that drives results. It’s actually everything you do, including how many pints of ice cream you eat after your workout, and the amount of delicious, sugary margaritas you drink on the weekends.
“The biggest impact we can have on our clients is OUTSIDE the gym where they spend the majority of their time,” Matt told us. “There are 168 hours in a week, and we are lucky to be able to see our clients for more than one to two of them, which is why we focus so heavily on education and empowering our clients to make better decisions on their own.”
Simply hiring a personal trainer does NOT mean you will automatically see results. At the end of the day, it’s entirely on YOU. But the knowledge you gain from them will last a lifetime, which is what makes training with a professional 100% worth your time all the time (whether you use it or not).
4. You’ll have someone to hold you accountable, and help you in your fitness journey every step of the way.
You can’t find a treadmill at the gym on January 1 if your life depended on it, then the parking lot is back to its usual half-empty self come February 1. You buy an influencer based workout DVD and expect to look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel after week two, then give up because life gets in the way.
You know the deal. While motivation comes and goes, a personal trainer is always there to keep you accountable and consistently working toward your goals.
“When chatting with any new client, we always take our time to help our clients identify not just the “what” but most importantly the “WHY” so we can continue to remind them as to why we started in the first place.”
“Most people start their journey with a high level of motivation, and full intentions to achieve what they are setting out to accomplish. But seeing results is not an immediate thing. It takes will power, grit, and determination to have the longevity necessary to see it through.”
5. You’ll become your best self – mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Working with the right personal trainer can be a life-changing experience that’s worth every penny. If visible results are what you want, and you’re not getting them on your own, then it might be time to consider hiring someone to help you.
I asked Matt to give me one thing personal trainers wish that regular gym-goers knew about their services and how they can help, and his answer really hit home for me.
He said, “If self-improvement is the objective, then hiring the RIGHT personal trainer is a game changer. I have built my life around helping others become the best possible versions of themselves. The LIV Method is my mark on this earth and my mission to help as many people as I can to realize their full potential. I have surrounded myself with the best trainers in the industry who all share a common vision and purpose and who look forward to showing you what LIVing is all about!”
I’ll raise a glass of wine to that! Or a salad? IDK. I’m just a writer who works out a couple of times a week, and I clearly need a personal trainer. #SOS
Images: Pexels, @thelivmethod / Instagram (5); Giphy
I hate endurance running, and I know I’m not alone. If my clients come to me and tell me they hate running, I will never make them run. I am a strong believer in making fitness NOT torture, so I will never force clients to do something they absolutely have an aversion to. My own personal reasons for making running my absolute last choice (and I mean LAST, like this is if I was stuck on some desert island and all I had to work with was a track to work with. Actually, not even then, I would just do some sprint/walk intervals instead of running for straight 45 minutes) of cardiovascular activity go much further than just my own personal distaste for the sport. Here are some reasons why the only time you’ll see me run is chasing after a 6’4 emotionally unavailable man.
1. Endurance Runners Have A Higher Chance Of Injury
I think running itself is so high impact in nature, that the prolonged impact on joints is bound to cause some kind of injury sooner or later. This particular systematic review shows runners can have up to 79% greater incidence of a lower extremity injury, with evidence suggesting that long distance running is a risk factor.
I mean, I’m not surprised. All it took for me was a single incidence of shin splint to reaffirm my faith in my non-running ways and say adios to pavement pounding forever. Currently, my cardio routine consists of the elliptical, walking on an incline (hill walks or hikes gives you the same benefit if you want to take this outside) or walking the stairs with nary an injury in sight!
2. Endurance Running Raises Cortisol Levels And Belly Fat Storage
Cortisol is the product of your body’s response to prolonged stress. It is a hormone released by your adrenal glands, and because endurance running (and any other activity that is taxing on the body for a long period of time) is a stressor to the body, the body reacts to this by releasing cortisol.
Now, cortisol is not always a bad thing, but chronic elevated levels of cortisol can actually lead to storage of belly fat, which will end up being counterproductive if you’re running to try to get in better shape.
Huge disclaimer here: this is not exclusive to running, as ANY type of exercise for too long will also cause this stress response. However, because running is an activity perceived by many (including yours truly) to be a very stressful form of exercise, and this stress response is most studied in runners.
3. Endurance Running Can Make You Lose Muscle Gains When Done Wrong
Okay. Let’s get a little technical here, I’m going to bust out some kinesiology basics for you guys. Your body has different types of muscle fibers. They have different qualities, and they all actually end up looking different, because one is more prone to hypertrophy than the other. Different types of training will work and develop different types of fibers. Endurance activity such as long distance running will develop these leaner fibers that are fatigue resistant but have less power. Explosive activities, such as squatting, sprinting, or box jumping will developing these thicker fibers that are fatigue prone but are more powerful.
Now let’s say you want to build a butt. When you run too much or too long, you’re developing the leaner muscle fibers that aren’t attributing to any muscle fiber size growth, which is key for muscle mass gaining. You’re also depleting the energy stores in those muscles to be able to lift heavy enough to build muscle, because to gain mass in muscle, you need to reach that point of fatigue during lifts. So if you’re already pre-fatiguing the muscle by training the leaner type of muscle fibers, there’s nothing left in the gas tank for you to even train the fibers that contribute to size gains. Better options are instead of endurance running on flat ground, add some incline to the routine so that there’s a natural resistance focused on your glutes, hamstrings and quads. If you want to add even more incline, then you don’t necessarily have to even run. Try walking, and try focusing that tension on your glutes.
4. Running Might Make You Look Older
All current evidence I’ve been able to find on this has been anecdotal so I’m not saying this is a fact, but as someone who recently spent $250 on skincare at Sephora, I felt I should give it a mention anyway. There’s something called “runner’s face” where apparently the repeated running motion can actually cause your skin to sag and wrinkle prematurely. You mean I wasted all that money on La Mer’s “miracle broth” bullsh*t just to run it off, literally, into the ground?! IT’S A COLD WORLD OUT HERE.
Like I said, though, I’ve dug around on the internet for any type of scientific evidence of this phenomenon, and I haven’t found it. So while I mentioned it, take it with a grain of salt. Honestly, I think skin care should be a huge deal if running outside is a part of your routine because that’s a lot of sun exposure. The hyper-pigmentation, Lord! Enough to stress me out! Please put on some sunscreen if you run outside.
I may sound like a huge hater, but please note: cardio is still an amazing component to an exercise routine. Just because I agreed to not make my clients (and you readers) run for miles, that doesn’t mean I’m giving you a hall pass to skip the gym. I’m just saying there are better options to work with. I understand the appeal of running: you can kinda just zone out, it’s free and you don’t need any equipment, you can do it almost anywhere. But you could get in just as good a cardio session if you just walked the stairs. You could get in just as good a cardio session going on a hike. If you’re limited to the gym you could get just as good a cardio session using any other machine that’s less taxing on your joints. This article was meant to inform running haters that running isn’t your only option for exercise and it shouldn’t feel like it has to be. If you LOVE running and that’s your steez, don’t burn me at the stake. Do you and prosper! You have my full support, just make sure you are in a safe environment, especially if you’re running outdoors, and make sure you taking proper precautions to avoid injuries.
Images: Seth Macey / Unsplash; Giphy (4)