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The Right Moves / KAREN VOIGHT

Can You Firm Up by Sitting Down? As a Matter of Fact . . .

September 04, 2000|KAREN VOIGHT

The human body--unlike a machine--is one of the few things in the world that gets better the more you use it. Apply that approach to the look of your lower body and what you come up with is exercise.

The best exercise for shaping, firming and strengthening your buttocks and thighs is squats. You do a version of a squat every time you get up from your chair, get out of the car or out of the bathtub. To strengthen your lower body muscles so these everyday activities are easy, you can train yourself to do squats as part of your regular fitness program.

You can eventually do squats with weights for added resistance, but in the beginning it is critical that you get in the habit of positioning your body correctly. This will give you better results and help you avoid injuries.

*

I like to use a chair when teaching this exercise. For a squat to be effective, your thighs must move parallel to the floor. This activates all the muscle fibers in the hips and thighs, making it an excellent all-in-one movement. The problem that many people run into is that their knees or backs begin to hurt when doing regular squats over and over. But if you try this variation with the chair, you'll find that the chair's seat is right there to sit on as your thighs reach their parallel position. This reduces pressure on the knees and enables you to keep your back in an upright position.

This sitting squat will make your legs, butt and back stronger while avoiding strain on those sensitive areas.

1. Start out by sitting toward the front of a sturdy chair. Make sure the chair has rubber tips on the bottom of the legs so it won't slide. Or place the chair against a wall to keep it from moving.

2. Plant your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Your ankles should be directly below your knees. Point your toes slightly outward.

3. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows held back in line with your ears. Keep your chest lifted and your abdominals pulled in toward your spine. Breathe in to start.

4. On the exhale, stand up without moving your feet on the ground. Keep looking forward as you ascend. Keep your back upright.

5. Now squat down slowly, sitting lightly on the front edge of the chair. Try to limit the amount of forward lean to your upper body. Press down into your heels, and squeeze your buttocks as you return to the standing position.

Repeat this movement for 15 repetitions, continuing to inhale as you sit and exhale as you stand. Gradually build up to three sets of 10 to 15 reps.

If you would like to progress by adding resistance, simply hold a 5- to 10-pound weight close to your chest with your wrists crossed. Make sure your squats are especially slow and controlled when you are using weights.

Doing squats on a regular basis combined with other activities such as hill walking, cycling or stair climbing is the best way to tighten up a soft butt or to firm jiggly thighs. Keep in mind that if you use this squat position every time you get in and out of your chair, you'll be shaping your body all day, every day.

Now that's efficient.

*

Joan Voight, a San Francisco-based journalist, contributed to this column.

* Karen Voight is a Los Angeles-based fitness expert whose latest video is "Core Essentials." She can be reached at kvoightla@aol.com. Her column appears the first and third Mondays of the month.

FO( 2 photos) Start by sitting with your feet flat on the floor and hands behind your head. On the exhale, stand up without moving your feet. Then squat slowly, keeping your body's forward lean to a minimum.

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