Squat Pulse: A lower body move missing from your routine

When you practice proper form, squats fire almost every muscle in your lower body, from your quads and hamstrings to your lower back and core.

But if you’re ready to step up the burn, try adding some squats.

A staple of any barre class, squat pulses significantly reduce your range of motion in the squat, which puts constant tension on the muscles, making the movement significantly more difficult.

“Squat pulses are a great way to work on building endurance, especially as you progress in duration,” says Aaron Leventhal, CSCS, former professional soccer player and owner of Minneapolis-based Fit Studio.

Squat pulse: step by step instructions

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides.
  • With your back flat, torso bent at 45 degrees and core braced, lower your body as low as you can without breaking form (focus on keeping your knees wide) and hold there. The goal is to get your thighs parallel to the floor – don’t go past parallel.
  • Bring your palms together in front of your chest in a “prayer position.” If you find balancing a challenge, extend your arms straight out in front, but remember to keep your chest up.
  • Move up and back down a few inches in parallel, establishing a rhythm.

Squat pulse variation

Many people find it better to progress over time rather than reps with squat pulse. So, instead of doing 50 squat pulses, try doing a full minute and go slower for your reps.

If you compromise form at any point, such as leaning too far forward, rounding your back, knees hanging inward, etc., that’s your peak time.

Build from there in your next session, advises Leventhal.

If you can do at least one minute of squat pulses with good form, you can consider progress. Here are a few options:

  • Slow down as you lower into the squat and hold the low position for a two-count.
  • Add weight by holding a weight plate, a dumbbell, or a kettlebell close to your chest.
  • Change to a wide-stance squat pulse, which can be especially effective for targeting your glutes.
  • In a wide-stance squat pulse, raise the heel of one leg for 10 seconds, then switch sides.

“As you’re able to squat for longer periods of time, adding weights or weights will help you increase the intensity,” says Leventhal.

The muscle works by the squat pulse

With squat pulses, that constant tension, even for a minute, engages these muscles.

Quads

Quadriceps muscle  Anatomy of the thigh

Since you’re not sinking below parallel like in a standard squat, your quads are engaged throughout the movement.

Glutes

Anatomy of gluteal muscles  Squats don't make your butt look bigger

You will tighten the gluteus region to maintain stability, especially with a wide stance.

Hamstrings

Hamstring Muscle Anatomy |  Squats don't make your butt look bigger

As with the quad action, your hamstrings need to be engaged to keep you stable.

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We consider this a lower body exercise, but your core muscles will be lit throughout the movement, especially if you add weight, since your core will be working to keep you centered and prevent injury.

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