Benefits of the Barbell Squat

It’s been said plenty of times that the squat is the king of all lower body exercises. With it being 2014, and the whole “strong is the new skinny” revolution taking place, we should reword that statement to read the squat is the king AND queen of all lower body exercises.

Squats should be the staple of any well designed training plan; if you’re not doing them, then you can consider your program a flawed one. Squats get a bad rap for two reasons; the one being that squats are bad for the knees. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Doing squats incorrectly is of course a bad idea, and many people do them incorrectly without knowing. Furthermore, more and more people are having issues with muscular imbalances and structural issues. As a result, people have strong muscles over-compensating for weak muscles (which can cause injuries) along with ankle, knee, and hip problems.

The other reason that squats get a bad rap is the simple fact that they’re hard. Most people avoid them for the fear of hard work and state that an old football injury prevents them from doing squats. Don’t be allergic to hard work – the benefits of squatting are tremendous. Here’s a short compilation on squatting and various goals that can be achieved:

  1. Weight loss – very few moves are as demanding as the squat, and thus the metabolic cost of performing squats causes your metabolism to work overtime for the next few days following your workout. In an interesting study, researchers compared doing a 8RM squat (squatting for sets of 8 reps) against 30 minutes of cycling. What they found was that squatting burned close to the same amount of calories as cycling, but the squat had a higher metabolic demand (1). This means that the squat caused a higher metabolism and potentially more fat burning after the exercise.
  2. Strength Training – Well, this one is pretty clear. The squat is one of the fundamental moves in any strength training programs as well as being one of the three lifts you can perform in a powerlifting meet. If you want to get strong, start squatting.
  3. Muscle Building – Anyone serious about packing on muscle needs to be squatting. Those who fear hard work run to the leg press while those serious about developing a strong physique head right to the squat rack. Of course squatting will develop the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes but the hormonal effect from squatting can help develop even other muscles of the body (2). Squatting can cause a huge increase in your body’s secretion of testosterone and growth hormone. Old school bodybuilders use to tell young guys that if they wanted big arms, to start squatting.
  4. Performance Training- There is no sport that doesn’t feature some form of squatting. You can actually tailor your squat to your sport. For example, a basketball player can utilize the occasional half squat to develop power for grabbing rebounds Dennis Rodman style. If you want to get good at your sport – you guessed it- start squatting.

The benefits of squatting go far beyond what was mentioned in the article- but this should be enough to get you started. So what are you waiting for – go hit the squat rack!

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