Kim Kardashian’s bootylicious pic may have recently broken the interwebs, but to have great rear curves without the supposed handiwork of Photoshop, you simply need to squat. OK, maybe your butt won’t be just like Mrs. West’s–genetics do play their part–but if you want a sweeter seat, squats really can make a big difference to your bottom line.
But it doesn’t end with the rear end. Squats may seem to be all about the lower half, but it’s really a full body exercise that can also help to tone up your legs, butt, back, and abs. The more often you squat, the better your posture and blood circulation can be. And let’s not forget that the combo of strength training and cardio (do a set of squats and you’ll feel you heart beating a bit faster) is an awesome fat burner.
To get all of the amazing benefits that come from squatting, you might think that it’s all about your strength, but more often than not your flexibility and range of motion are more important. Why? Because things such as tight hips and stiff ankles can cause your form to suffer–and poor form leads to injuries. Never fear–you can correct these concerns by getting more limber. Below are 6 simple stretches that can help improve your squat form, making this most of this amazing exercise.
Butterfly Stretch: Sit on the floor with a straight back. Bring the soles of your feet together, allowing your legs to butterfly out to the sides. The goal is to ease your knees closer to the floor–don’t force them down. If this position is uncomfortable, sit on a yoga block of a small pile of blankets. Breathe in and out deeply. With each breath in, find length in the spine. With each breath out, let your knees sink a little closer to the floor.
Frog Pose: Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Walk your knees out to a comfortable position, about shoulder-width apart. Rest your ankles straight back from your knees and turn your toes to the outer walls. Bring your forearms to the floor so that your elbows are below your shoulders and your palms face the floor. Sink your hips toward the back wall, making sure to breathe deeply, as this will be an intense stretch in the hips, groin, and inner thighs.
Kettlebell Squat: If the muscles in your groin and hips are tight, sinking into a squat position can be difficult. Use the weight of the kettlebell (a dumbbell or barbell plate also work well) to help pull you down into a lower position. Start with your feet hip width apart and hold the weight with two hands and at chest level. Lower your butt back and down, allowing the weight to ground you. Think about tucking your butt under, and tilting your pelvis toward the front wall. Keep your chest up, and if you’re low enough use your elbow to press the inside of your knees open.
Hip Flexor Wall Stretch: On a padded surface, place your left knee about eight to ten inches from the wall. Slide the top of your left foot onto the wall. Plant the opposite foot on the ground, creating a 90-degree angle with your knee, making sure that your knee doesn’t bend past your toes. Sink into your hips, placing your hands or forearms on your knee. Repeat on other side.
Feet on Wall: Sit perpendicular to the wall, and scoot your hips close. Lie down on your side, keeping your butt touching the wall. Roll onto your back, allowing your legs to go up the wall. Bend your knees toward your shoulders, and place the soles of your feet on the wall so that you feel a deep stretch in your hips and groin.
Ankle Stretch: For tight ankles, kneel on a mat with knees about hip width apart. Extend your feet straight back from your knees, with the tops of your feet on the floor. Sit back onto your heels, stretching out the tops of your feet and front of your ankles. Focus on using your butt to add resistance to your heels, using your arms to support your upper body.
Add these stretches into your warm up and cool down routines, and your squat form will improve, allowing you to reap the benefits of a better body…and booty!
What is your favorite lower body stretch? Share with us in the comments!