Few exercises tone your butt, thighs and stomach like squats. Vary the positioning or form of your squats to target specific muscle groups or use weights to intensify the workout. Combine squats and other toning exercises with cardio activity and a healthy diet to burn fat and developer a lean, mean and toned body.
1. Parallel Squats
Begin your journey to a more toned, sculpted lower body with a basic squat. Stand with your feet parallel to each other. Keep your legs shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward. Bend your knees as deeply as you can without your heels coming off the floor, keeping your knees pointed straight over your toes. Slowly return to your starting position. Target your glutes by making sure your weight stays over your heels as you squat. Intensify the workout in your thighs by keeping the weight over the balls of your feet instead. Vary this exercise by squatting with your feet and legs together. Perform eight to 12 repetitions in each position.
2. Turned Out Squats
Develop the toned inner thighs of a dancer by squatting with your legs externally rotated. Begin with your heels together and your toes pointed away from each other. Bend your knees, allowing your heels to come off the floor to your deepest possible squat. Slowly straighten your legs and return to your starting position. If necessary, hold onto a wall, chair or ballet barre for balance. Also try turned out squats with your feet shoulder-width apart. In this position, try to keep your heels planted into the ground to target your hamstrings and inner thighs. Perform eight to 12 repetitions.
3. Wall Squats
Wall squats offer an intense, effective workout for your quadriceps and abs. Start with your back against a wall and your feet hip-width apart about one foot away from the wall. Bend your knees and allow your back to slide down the wall until your legs create a 90-degree angle. Push yourself back to your starting position or hold the squat position for 30 seconds.
4. Squats with Equipment
Try wall squats with an inflatable exercise ball between your back and the wall to challenge your core and protect your spine. Hold a weighted medicine ball in front of your chest to target your abs, chest and arms as you squat. Using handheld weights to perform bicep or tricep curls or holding a barbell behind your shoulders as you squat tones your upper body and lower body simultaneously.
5. Technique and Form
Using proper form and technique ensures that your squats are safe as well as effective. Always make sure that your knees are over your toes when you squat to prevent strain on your ankles, knees and hips. Keeping your abdominals engaged and pulled in when you squat--especially while using weights--helps protect your back and spine while working your core. Avoid arching or slumping your back. Rather, maintain straight, strong posture throughout the exercise. When in doubt, ask a personal trainer or fitness professional to assess your squatting technique.