No other lower body exercise in existence delivers more bang for the buck than a basic barbell squat.
It’s one of the most primitive movement patterns known to man and is without question the most productive leg exercise available for increasing overall muscle size, strength and performance.
While they certainly aren’t mandatory in order to build your lower body effectively, the benefits of squats extend to such a wide variety of different areas that I would definitely recommend including them in your plan as long as you’re physically able to.
Be prepared for a challenge though, as squats are one of the most physically and mentally demanding lifts out there. It’s no coincidence that the squat rack in most typical gyms remains empty gathering dust a good portion of the time.
The results you’ll achieve are well worth the effort though, and here are 6 reasons why…
1. Squats help build muscle. They don’t just help you achieve wonderful, toned legs; they promote body-wide muscle building by creating an anabolic (muscle building) environment in the body. They work up your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abdominal muscles, lower back and your butt too. Not many exercises can claim to recruit so many muscles at the same time!
2. Squats burn calories fast. Because they help you build muscle, you’ll become more efficient at burning calories so you can get to that slimmer physique faster. Add weights to your squats and you’ll burn the calories even quicker.
3. Squats help improve flexibility. Improving your flexibility should be part of any well-rounded training plan. Our muscles, tendons and ligaments become less elastic with age so doing all we can to slow down this process is a good idea. Squatting regularly will see you limber up and become more flexible as the exercise involves bending and stretching of the leg muscles.
4. Squats help with mobility and balance. Strong legs are essential for staying mobile as you get older, and that’s where squats come in. Not only do they develop leg strength, they also work out your core, stabilising muscles. These muscles help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls.
5. Squats help strengthen your lungs and heart. The effort required to squat helps strengthen your cardiac muscles and improve your lung capacity, especially once you start adding weights.
6. Squats can help prevent injuries. Most athletic and workout injuries involve weak ligaments, connective tissues and stabiliser muscles (muscles that aren't directly involved in a movement, but work to keep you steady so that your primary muscles can do their job). Squats actually help to strengthen these supportive tissues, which can mean the difference between an injury or not. Remember, though, technique is paramount when performing any exercise – including squats – in order to avoid injury.
How to Do Squats Properly
Squats have long been criticized for being destructive to your knees, but research shows that when done properly, squats actually improve knee stability and strengthen connective tissue.
Good ways to do squats…..
- Warm up
- Stand with your feet just over shoulder width apart
- Keep your back in a neutral position, and keep your knees centered over your feet
- Slowly bend your knees, hips and ankles, lowering until you reach a 90-degree angle
- Return to starting position -- repeat 15-20 times, for 2-3 sets for beginners (do this two or three times a week)
- Breathe in as you lower, breathe out as you return to starting position
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