The squat is the most natural of all movements. We have been doing this for thousands of years. Even today, everyone’s done a squat at some point in time. Yeah…sure, you’ve done it as a toddler, with perfect form. But, we somehow struggle with it as adults, especially when we add a barbell to the mix. Sometimes called the “True king of mass builders” only rivaled by possibly the deadlift.
Like I stated in the deadlift post, who really cares. They are both compound exercises, working multiple muscles and provide enormous benefits for overall health and strength (do both). There are many variations of squats, but we’ll stick to the basic back squat with a barbell across the shoulders and upper back. This, I believe, is the most popular one, and is a staple for most. Do it right and you’ll reap the benefits, without injury. Right, let’s get to it and discuss the benefits of squats.
Squats work almost everything It doesn’t do much for the upper body like the deadlift, but it works quite a few muscles simultaneously. The muscles worked are as follows:
Hips: Gluteus maximus
Back: Erector Spinae
Stomach/midsection: Transverse abdominus
Legs: Hamstrings, Gastrocnemius and soleus (calf), Adductor Magnus (inner thighs)
Hips: Gluteus minimus
So it is a good all round exercise similar to deadlift, but it won’t work your shoulders and forearms like a deadlift or your chest. I mean sure you use your shoulders and arms to stabilize the bar, but with deadlifts, you use them even more.
Builds functional strength Just like deadlifts. If you need to pick something up of the floor or move something from a shelf to the ground…you have to do some squatting, even a partial squat. So train your squat, make sure you technique is correct and you won’t damage your back picking up that heavy box.
Testosterone and GH levels? I dealt with this, in the deadlift post. Bottom line, the testosterone and GH produced is fleeting and just not enough to cause any real muscle growth. Besides your body doesn’t use it for that purpose after a heavy lift. What is more important, are resting levels, which research has shown, time and time again.
Helps with cardio Like you wouldn’t believe. It will definitely help improve cardiovascular fitness. If you’re a treadmill junkie, try some squats a set of 8 or 10 reps and then tell me how you feel. Squats like deadlifts will really get that heart rate going. Besides, treadmills can’t give you a better butt.
Helps with bad posture Bad posture usually results from weak (lazy) lower back muscles and core. Squats strengthens the lower back and core which can help with good posture.
Increases your vertical jump Studies have shown that squats can increase your vertical jump and sprint performance [1, 2, 3, 4]. So if you want better sprint power of higher jumps for basketball or some other reason, better go do some squats.
Increases bone density Yes, you heard me. Squats load the joints, and forces a response which not only increases muscle strength and growth, but also increases bone density and formation [5, 6]. So if you want to stave of bone loss and osteoporosis, do some squats. Can you say “Got squat”.
How to do a squat?
There are several variations of the squat. Both loaded and unloaded (Bulgarian squats, back squats, front squats…). Let’s keep it simple and focus on the conventional barbell squat with the barbell placed across your shoulders and upper back.
Step 1 Start with the bar racked in the squat rack. It should be low enough for you to just duck under, so when you stand straight, it rests just below the neck on the traps and clears the rack.
Step 2 Feet should be shoulder width apart with the toes out about 30 degrees. This allows for performing a deep squat or breaking parallel.
Step 3 Pull the shoulders back, keep the chest up with a slight arch in the lower back. Grip the bar as wide as you would for a bench press. Take a deep breath, push the air down which generates intra-abdominal pressure. This helps to keep you stable and support the weight.
Step 4 Squat down as though you are sitting back on a chair. Keep the knees in line with the feet, so they should be pushing out, Never in. The knees will go past your toes and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as your not leaning forward and pushing with your toes, you’re fine. Try to go below parallel if you can, if not, at least parallel. Keep your head neutral throughout the squat, i.e. inline with your torso. Also, Remember the pressure of the squat should be in the heels not the toes.
Step 5 Do not bounce at the bottom. Pause and the push through the heels as you straighten up. Don’t exhale just yet. Start the ascent with breath held in, and as you get moving you can breathe out slowly. Some people hold the breath all the way to the top then exhale at the end. Try both and see which works best for you.
Step 6 Repeat, or re-rack the bar if you’re done.
Squats are an excellent all round exercise for your body due to the many muscles worked. This is an exercise you can actually practice with just the bar to ensure your technique is perfect. Have someone who knows, look at you or have them record your squat and fix your form. Proper form equals no knee or back problems. This means no Smith machines. Squats are not a straight up and down exercise, which is how the Smith machine makes you do it. Get a barbell and a squat rack or get out of the gym! Don’t forget to visit and add me on facebook.
Disclaimer: The Healthy Goat will not be held responsible for any injuries incurred whilst squatting with a Smith machine…Stupidity has it’s own reward and punishment system. How do you think chiropractors get rich (reward) quickly?…Give up?….injured backs (punishment) from using a Smith machine to squat.
P.S. The Annoyed Goat is giving you fair warning. He will head butt anyone who has a membership in a gym that looks like it was decorated by a purple dinosaur. These gyms promote squatting and deadlifting in a Smith machine and discourage the use of barbells and heavy lifting. Besides, how the hell do you promote free pizza, bagels and tootsie rolls in a gym? No wonder the purple dinosaur is so out of shape.