It’s no secret that most of the guys and gals hitting the weights in the gym NEVER even train their legs at all let alone do squats. There’s always some sort of excuse; “I’m too tired today.” “I’ll do them next week.” “I don’t want to get hurt.” The list of excuses goes on and on. Some of them have never even approached the squat rack. They probably think it’s called the curling station. But let’s face the facts; if you really want to make gains in the gym or perform better at your sport, squats are an absolute must to any training program, so Do Them!
So why do you need to squat? Squatting provides many important benefits including some of the following:
Overall Muscle Growth
Squatting is a compound movement, meaning you use multiple joints and tons of different muscles to perform the action. Research shows that the more muscles you engage during training, the more hormones will be released in the body to stimulate growth and recovery. Your body naturally releases hormones such as testosterone and Human Growth Hormone during hard squatting sessions. These hormones will help the muscle fibers in your legs rebuild, recover, and grow bigger. However, the large release of hormones can also help to improve the recovery and growth of other muscles in your body that have been broken down from training.
Increase Strength and Power
More importantly for performance athletes, squatting helps to improve full body strength and explosive power. Without getting technical here, squatting heavy weight under control causes your body to recruit more motor units. Greater motor unit recruitment results in increased strength. When you can call upon more motor units during heavy squatting sessions, you can improve your body’s ability to activate more fibers come game time, making you stronger and more powerful than your opponent.
You’d be blind not to see how the whole core-training fad has been blown out of proportion in the last decade. Now I’m not saying that core training is not important, in fact I feel that it is crucial to the development of any athlete. What I am saying is not to buy into the hype of the new “Core Training” gizmos and gimmicks out there today. The simple key to core training is core muscle activation. One of the best ways to activate the core muscles is during squatting. When you squat, your bodies own natural weight belt kicks in, stabilizing and strengthening your core so that it doesn’t collapse into a pile of muscle and bone. Of course, I recommend also doing a variety of different core exercises for overall development but I always emphasize focusing on keeping a tight core during squats. But what about those people who wear weightlifting belts to squat? Honestly, unless you’re a serious powerlifter going for extreme lifts, leave the belt for your Hulk Hogan Halloween costume. Weightlifting belts can actually inhibit core muscle development, which can lead to higher potential injury long term. So ditch the belt and focus on keeping your core tight during squatting.
Believe it or not, squatting can be a great way to accelerate the fat loss process. As we all know by now, muscles are metabolically activating tissues in your body and the more muscles you can activate, the more metabolic action they can produce. Like we talked about before, squatting activates a ton of muscles in your body, which means a ton of calories are being burned. Sets with higher rep ranges (10-20) and shorter rest intervals are your best option for maximum fat torching during squatting. Now remember, you are creating a calorie deficit here which is great for fat loss, but that doesn’t mean you can go chow down on a giant cheat meal after every session. That, my friends, will defeat the purpose.
Squatting is one of the greatest exercises you can do. So stop making excuses and start doing them! Here are a few tips to make the most out of your squatting sessions. First, be sure to schedule your squatting workout as the first workout of the week to avoid making excuses and pushing it off. Second, take your time and learn the proper technique before trying to lift a ton. Learning good form first will help prevent injuries and allow you to develop and make better gains at a faster rate. Third, find a good, reliable training partner. A good training partner will help to motivate you, watch your form and spot you for the big lifts. Don’t under estimate the power of the squat; it’s one of the most important exercises of all so get busy doing them! Here’s a little inspiration for you from world champion weightlifter Vencelas Dabaya front squatting 440 lbs with perfect form: