By Tyler Murphy, BEd, CPT
I’m sure that you’ve seen people at the gym or on the internet putting hundreds of pounds of weight on a barbell, stepping underneath it, and lifting it over and over again. What in the world are they accomplishing with this exercise? So much more than you think.
Known as the King of Exercises, the squat is first and foremost an exercise to gain strength in your legs. But it is so much more than that. It is a relatively simple exercise that requires little to no equipment to perform, can be done virtually anywhere, and trains more muscle groups throughout the entire body than just the legs.
This movement is one that should be implemented into nearly every exercise routine for the following benefits:
- They build muscle through the entire body
The benefits to your legs are pretty evident, but squatting creates an anabolic environment, boosting muscle growth all throughout the body by releasing testosterone and human growth hormone (hGh) that are essential for muscle growth. When done properly, squats can help to improve strength in both upper and lower body muscles.
- Functional activities make life easier
Functional movements are those that help to create real-life simulated exercise, and the squat is one of the best of them. Humans have been squatting as long as humans have been human, and building strength in your squat can help to improve mobility, range of motion, and flexibility in your everyday life.
- You burn more fat
Increased lean muscle mass on the body has been proven to burn more calories at rest than one that does not. Training with resistance, like squatting, can burn calories for an additional 24-48 hours after a workout.
- Prevent injuries
Most athletic injuries, or injuries sustained during movement, are due to weak stabilizer muscles. Squats help to prevent these kinds of injuries by improving range of motion and flexibility as stated above.
- Boost your athletic performance
Lower body strength, as well as increased core strength, helps make you run faster and jump higher. For this reason, the squat is in every professional athlete’s training program.
- Tone everything!
There are few exercises that recruit as many muscle groups during a movement than the squat, making them perfect for toning and tightening buns, abs, and of course legs. Muscles are also crucial in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, helping you to avoid obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Now that you have gotten some of the benefits of what makes the squat such an awesome exercise, you should be aware of how to properly perform the movement. Take a look at this diagram and use the tips below to help you properly perform a squat.
3 Tips to a Better Squat
- Stabilize your midline
Prior to dropping down into your squat, take a deep breath in and brace your core (tighten everything up). Hold this brace as you descend into your squat, keeping your core tight throughout the movement, then exhale as you come up from the bottom of the squat, also known as coming out of the hole. A stable core during squats can help you to move the weight more efficiently and safely.
- Watch those knees
One of the most common issue that I see with squatters at the gym is, when coming up out of the hole, their knees sinking in. This is known as a dynamic valgus or, more commonly, knock knees. The best way to fix this issue and avoid injury is to think about splitting the floor between your feet. As you come up out of the hole, push out through your heels, engaging your abductors in your hips and driving your knees out. This movement pattern will feel a little strange at first, but once you have gotten used to it, your strength and gains will skyrocket.
- Move backwards to move forward
The squat movement is obviously a drop from a standing position to a squat position, but the best means of accomplishing the end goal of a squat is to initially move backwards. What I mean by this is to initiate your squat by hinging at the hip and pushing your butt backwards. Exaggerating this motion will help to keep your knees behind the toes as well as maintaining a straight back, all the things that make an efficient squat possible.
Benefits of Squats