This fall, I’m walking the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain with friends. While my overall health is good, I need to bolster my lower-body strength to make sure the long days are enjoyable – and not sheer hell.
Tim Irvine, co-owner of Totum Life Science, a fitness facility in Toronto, says one of the best ways to strengthen our quads, glutes and hips is squats: a basic exercise that might not seem to hurt much at the time, but comes back to bite us (in a good way) the next day.
“People in our business call it the king of all exercises,” Irvine says . “It helps build a stable base which has a huge impact on all aspects of our lives, whether it’s something as simple as getting out of a chair or removing groceries from the back of the car, to playing golf, riding a bike or going for a long hike.”
He calls the squat the “pathway to the posterior chain.” Doing squats on a regular basis trains the posterior from top to bottom, which helps with posture and counteracts all the negative repercussions of sitting at a desk all day.
Proper form is key. Toes should be slightly turned out, with feet hip-width apart. Reach backward with your bum, like you’re going to sit down in a chair. (Irvine starts newbies off using an actual chair, just touching your bum to the edge of it). Straighten to standing and repeat the motion (making sure your knees don’t extend past the front of your toes, with 60 per cent of your weight in your heels). Do three sets of 15 squats.
“When we’re young, we have good bone density. As we age, we have to work at keeping our bones strong, especially people who are preosteoporosis,” Irvine says . “Loading your skeleton is an excellent way to slow down the burn of mineral density in our spine as we age.”