‘What do squats do?’ A question I overheard someone ask the gym instructor while getting an induction last week.
I was sooo close to bursting into their conversation and shouting: “EVERYTHING!”
But that might’ve been a wee bit weird. So I left it. Decided to write this blog post instead.
The squat is royally praised as thee King of Exercises. No wonder. This one single movement can have a dramatic impact on that body of yours. Not just your legs, your whole body.
This article will explain six solid reasons why you should be squatting. It’ll also demonstrate how to perform squats properly.
At the end of the article you can also grab the FREE ‘How Not To Squat’ guide, which explains the four common mistakes many people make when doing squats. Make sure you download it so you can avoid those errors and make proper progress.
I’ve got a lot to thank squats for. The number one reason I’m grateful to squats is that they reunited me with my long lost ass!
Yep, I was one of those guys whose ass kinda disappeared at some point through high school. I was always skinny, and the main reason I took up weight training when I was 16 was because I wanted to add muscle to my thin frame.
I didn’t like my skinny arms, but I HATED the fact that I basically had no ass. No curve. Just one big extended back.
It might sound a bit funny now, but I was really self-conscious about it. I would get jumpers and jackets in a bigger size so they could hang over and hide that area.
When I first started weight training I never bothered with squats because I thought they simply built your thigh muscles. When I learned how they work various muscle groups at once – and kickstart muscle growth all over the body – that was me hooked.
And within months my rear reappeared.
The squat builds muscle, burns fat, and tones and conditions the entire body in one single movement. If you’ve also been wondering ‘what do squats do?’ then you’ll want to start including them as part of your workout regime after reading these six benefits.
# 1 Number one legs exercise. Bar none.
The nature of the the whole squatting movement brings every leg muscle into play. In the space of 2-3 seconds you are hitting the calves, thighs and butt hard.
First, as you dip down those muscles are put under strain to prevent you from falling under the weight of the barbell. Next, they combine to create explosive power to push your hips through and return to a standing position.
No other exercise targets your leg muscles in such a concentrated, intense way.
# 2 Number one all over body exercise. Bar none.
Want a bigger chest? A broader back? A stronger core? Then squat. That might sound daft because it seems you are working the lower part of your body.
Squats create an all over anabolic environment – which has a positive knock-on effect on other areas of your body you are not consciously targeting.
It delivers an all-round workout that no other weight training exercise, with the exception of deadlifts, can rival. Here’s why below.
# 3 Supercharges testosterone and growth hormone production.
Squats trigger a natural increase in both growth hormone and testosterone in men. Let’s start with testosterone, the male sex hormone. While women have much lowers levels, both sexes need an optimal supply of testosterone to maintain and build muscle properly. It is also important for feeling vital and functioning properly in everyday life.
Squats have also been scientifically proven to ramp up the production of growth hormone – a powerful anabolic hormone which stimulates the growth of muscle, cartilage and bone. Growth hormone is also crucial to the fourth benefit below.
# 4 Promotes optimal body composition.
Squats promote the development of a natural, well proportioned body. This is down to several reasons. It targets several muscle groups at once (legs, abs, lower back).
It all goes back to the anabolic environment created by the spike in testosterone and growth hormone again. This has the biggest effect on body composition because it not only helps pack on muscle all over, but burns excess fat simultaneously.
# 5 Strengthens your back against injury.
Back problems are one of the most common injuries. Everyone knows who knows someone who ended up with a dodgy back playing football, sitting in an uncomfy work chair, or just getting out of bed the wrong way.
That does not mean squats should be avoided for fear of back trouble. If performed correctly squats can strengthen your back, improve your posture, and actually help prevent against these kind of injuries in future.
Your erector spinae – aka lower back – is central to the whole squatting movement. As you dip with the barbell resting on your shoulders, the lower back works in tandem with your thighs and calves to steady the weight – and prevent you from ending up on your backside.
The process of edging this area outwards in a slow, controlled way while carrying the weight keeps the muscles in this lower region tense and under strain. This first part of the move alone helps strengthen the lower back.
Muscles in this area are further strengthened and developed as you push powerfully back up through your hips.
# 6 …ultimate ass shaper.
Right, let’s be honest, the human species loves a badass ass. Both guys and girls. If you go on a date with someone you generally have copped a look at their bum within 2.3 seconds of first seeing their face.
Problem is, most of us have rear fear. Either it is too fat. Out of shape. Not toned. Or just sometimes the ass has gone AWOL – like mine did.
Enter the squat. This exercise is a miracle worker for sculpting a well-shaped, firmer butt. This is because it effectively targets all three areas of your butt muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
Each muscle is used to some degree everyday life as you stand up, bend over etc. The squat is so effective in shaping and toning your butt because it targets all three areas in one full range of motion.
‘But isn’t it only powerlifters who do this exercise?’ – Powerlifters do squats indeed. That’s why they are strong as hell. But they are also on another level transforming their body – and are actually getting results – include squats as part of their routine. This is down to the benefits listed above.
‘I’m worried I might get injured’ – Firstly, if you have any hip or mobility problems then you should of course seek medical advice before trying squats – or any exercise programme in general. For others, there are steps you can take to make sure you perform the exercise properly and avoid hurting yourself.
‘Can I do squats safely without a training partner?’ – Have you already had visions of you collapsing under the weight of the bar? Stumbling? Somehow losing grip and the bar falling off your back?
Don’t worry – everyone who has ever squatted has had some sort of nightmare scenario running through their mind. This is totally normal but put it out of mind because there are safety measures you can – and should always – put in place at the gym.
There will most likely be two options for completing barbell squats at your gym: a squat rack and Smith machine. Most squat racks have a frame which allow you to put safety bars in place at either side at around waist height. Smith machines have safety catches as standard.
Either setup can then catch the barbell if it somehow falls – so always put these measures in place before you get started.
Proper technique is crucial with any exercise. While increasing the weight and lifting heavy is the ultimate aim, that all becomes pretty pointless if your technique goes out the window. Always go for quality over quantity.
If you are just starting out with squats or are fairly inexperienced with the exercise, then start with a very light weight until you are comfortable with the movement.
>> Warm up for a minute or two doing bodyweight squats, hamstring and quad stretches.
>> Place the barbell on the rack at shoulder height and add the weight plates to each side. Ensure they are locked on using a collar or clamp.
>> Position yourself under the centre of the bar so that it sits on your trapezius. Stretch your hands out and grip the bar at either side at a length that feels comfortable.
>> Lift the bar upwards off the hooks and step back with both feet.
>> Position your feet in a natural standing position, toes pointing forward and slightly outwards.
>> Keep your back rigid, holding the barbell on your trapezius with good posture.
>> Staring straight ahead, squat down in a controlled manner until your thighs are parallel with the floor or just slightly lower.
>> Keeping your eyesight focused ahead, push back up forcefully through your hips and straighten your legs back into the starting position.
You – and everybody else you know – should be doing squats a couple of times per week. The benefits are too good to be missing out on.
If they were previously part of your training regime then get them included again. And always start your weights session with squats because that’s when you have most energy to power through them and make gains.
The satisfaction from completing one of the toughest exercises straight away will also spur you on to have a great workout overall.
If you are just starting out with squats make sure to follow the safety advice and go light at the beginning. Even start with the olympic bar itself, which weighs 20kg, until you are comfortable with the technique and can complete more than 10 reps.
There are four common mistakes you must avoid when doing squats. Make these errors and at best you will limit your progress. At worst you – or someone else – might end up needlessly injured.
Learn how to avoid these mistakes and become a master at squats by downloading this free ‘How Not To Squat’ guide.
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