The king of the throne in the weightlifting realm is by a long shot, the Squat. This exercise, if done properly, can transform your body and improve your athleticism in no time at all.
If you’re looking to follow the pareto principle (80% of the results come from 20% of the inputs), then you need to immediately add squats to your weekly routine.
What are Squats? Squats are the one of the most primal movements we possess. They are a compound, multi-joint exercise that stimulates a ridiculous amount of muscle recruitment. This crucial exercise is the reigning champ in the fitness world and has profound full body effects. Ranging from full body strength gains to fat burning, this should be a stable in everyone’s weekly routine.
Secondary Muscles worked
- Spinal erectors
- Lower back
- EVERYTHING, your entire body will improve.
Why Squats are Special
Before we get on to how to perform this essential exercise, let’s look at a few of the benefits you can look forward too from implementing squats into your life.
- Increased Testosterone and Growth hormone: The more muscle fibers stimulated, the more your body increases production of these anabolic hormones. Therefor squatting can benefit the growth of all muscles and ligaments.
- Increased Vertical Jump: Squats pack explosive vertical power as well as aid in the absorption after a jump. This means higher jumps and fewer injuries.
- Sports Performance: Overall athleticism is drastically improved, including running speed and agility.
- Core Strength: Squats work your core muscles (Abs, lower back, etc.) in a functional manner.
- Mobility and Balance: Squats increase balance and muscle coordination allowing improved motor skills.
- Flexibility: This aids in back pain, injury prevention, and mobility.
- Fat Burning: Wait sitting down burns fat?? Not directly.. but with each pound of muscle mass your body will burn roughly 60 more calories per day and squats are the reigning champs of muscle building.
- Ladies: Toning of lower body and behind
How to Perform Squats + Variations
START SLOW! Don’t just run into your local gym and throw on some weight, first master the body weight squat. Here is a quick tutorial on performing body weight squats.
Key points: Looking in the mirror while you air squat will help you iron out form errors.
- Do not arch your back. Your spine should be erect and straight the entire time. This can be made easier by looking slightly up, pressing your chest out like a lion, and flexing your core throughout the movement.
- Feet should be shoulder width, with toes slightly pointed outward.
- Breath. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Never hold your breath.
- Always Warm-up. Adequate warm up is essential for injury prevention and flexibility. Jog or hop on the bike for 5 minutes before squatting, and do multiple light weight warm up sets.
- Knees should never pass your toes.
- Stick your butt out.
- Press from your heels, not your toes.
Once you have mastered the air squat it’s time to hit the gym. This funny and informative video runs through proper bar squatting technique and explains how to correct common mistakes.
Squat Variations, Progressions, and Regressions
Front Squat: This variation of the squat is performed with the barbell on the front of your shoulders as opposed to your back. Front Squats utilizes more back muscles, improves balanced leg strength, and strengthen your core drastically. This variation is perfect for overcoming plateaus. Here is an in depth front squat tutorial.
Dumbbell Squat: Dumbbell squat is an easy way to squat without requiring much balance and coordination. Simply perform a perfect bodyweight squat while holding dumbbells by your side. Don’t swing the dumbbells.
How can I add Squats into my Exercise Regimen?
Depending on your goals, squats can be added differently to your exercise program. For a basic weight training program that focuses on compound lifts check out my other post here.
For a sample advanced bodybuilding workout check this out.
For a beginner/intermediate ladies workout check this out.
Things to Remember:
- Warm up adequately before squatting to prevent injury. (jog, bike, sauna, ect)
- Progressive overload principle
- Start Slow
- Perfect your form first!
Throw squats in your weekly routine and watch the transformation begin.
Photo credit: Gregor Winter /