Many people who lift weights don’t understand the benefits of squats. It’s sad but they just don’t. Many guys make this workout mistake. They weight train using outdated isolation principles. It’s the same mistake many women (and men) make with spot reduction for weight loss. They think that by doing ab exercises they’re going to get six pack abs.
For women they want to lose weight around their hips so they do lunges or crunches thinking that you can target specific areas of the body to lose weight.
Men do the same thing. Although isolation workouts do work a little different for gaining muscle then it does for losing weight. You can isolate muscles but I don’t recommend it 100% of the time. Personally I do about 60-70% full body exercises.
If you’re a women and want to lose weight around your abs, then doing ab exercises will help but not as much as you think. Focus more on weight loss and diet for that. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t neglect core exercises but diet is more important.
If you’ve been stuck in a cave your whole life, let me explain what squats are. There are many different types of squats but generally, a squat is when a bodybuilder will put some weighted plates on a barbell at about chest height (usually Smith Machines are used to rest the weight on them) and then they’ll put the barbell top and back of their shoulders and squat down to the ground using the restistence of the weight to workout their body.
If there were only one exercise I could do for toning and making the entire body strong, it would be squats. Because you’re working your entire body with one exercise, you’re able to accomplish a lot more in a shorter amount of time.
Also the main muscles that squats work are the muscles that are the largest in your body which release the most hormones like testosterone and human growth hormones that help you gain muscle in the other areas of your body that you have previously performed isolation exercises on.
When you rebuild muscle you need to have a certain amount of hormones to do that. The benefits of squats is that after performing them, your body releases the most amount of hormones which helps you build muscle everywhere else in your body, like your arms, chest back, shoulders etc.
No other exercise does this as well as the good old fashioned squat.
When performing squats it’s critical you get the technique right. The benefits of squats are immense, but so are the the injuries you could sustain if you do squats wrong.
Arching the back -
When you have the barbell resting on your upper back and are bending your knees near the bottom, many people will slightly lean forward and roll their lower back muscles ever so slightly opening up the door to pulling the thoracolumbar fascia, erector spinae, external and internal abdominal oblique muscles in the lower back.
Even moving your back 1 inch out of alignment while lifting that much weight can cause serious injury.
Keeping your head down –
A common tendency is to look at the ground when you’re doing squats. It’s important that you keep your back straight as if in a perfect line. Keeping your head looking straight out in front of you will help you see your form in the mirror and keep perfect posture while doing the squat.
Bringing your knees in –
It’s easy to bring your knees in sometimes as you’re lifting the weight up. This helps to cheat just a little bit and redistribute the weight. Avoid doing this at all costs as it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the ACL, meniscus and MCL, ligaments in the knee.
All the weight and pressure needs to be concentrated and focused on the major muscle groups that you’re targeting with the squat. The benefits of squats are amazing but only if you do them right.
If you don’t, be prepared to spend some time away from the gym recovering from injury.
Sports And Performance –
The benefits of squats are endless. But if you’re an athlete then having powerful leg muscles is going to make you stronger, faster, quicker and more explosive no matter what sport you participate in.
Also your reaction time will increase as well. The nerve fibers and connective tissue will be strong enough to support you whether you’re doing endurance training like long distance cycling, marathons or even sports like soccer, tennis or basketball.
Just about every sport I can think of requires lower body strength, endurance, agility and balance. Squats are the number one exercise that will help all of these functional areas.
Gaining Muscle -
Because squats help to release the most anabolic growth hormones and testosterone into your body, you’ll start to gain muscle in your upper body as well. Each exercise will help release these hormones but because the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings are the largest muscle groups in the body, they release the most growth hormone when released. These growth hormones go to work to start building muscle all over your body.
If you don’t do squats or leg exercises regularly, you won’t build as much upper body strength and muscle as you’re capable of. You’re missing out on huge gains, it’s just that simple.
Toning Up –
One of the main benefits of squats is that it is a compound full body exercise which helps to engage and contract just about every muscle group in the body. Squats help you to fully use the most muscles per exercise and is the #1 exercise for toning and tightening your butt, hips, quadriceps, stomach, lower and middle back, calves, hamstrings and shoulders.
Squats are the creme de la creme of all exercises for toning and tightening your entire body.
Increasing Balance –
Squats are an excellent way to improve posture and balance. Because you need to use the proper form, concentration is key. As we age we start to lose balance in the nerve endings and connective tissues in our bodies. This has to do with our brain and a deterioration of communication from the brain and the spine to specific muscles in the lower body.
Muscle memory is key. If you do not want to be off balance as you get older and have the problems many people have from falling and breaking their hips, you need to be doing squats on a regular basis. The benefits of squats are excellent for balance.
I like jumping squats the most to improve balance and stability.
Injury Prevention –
The benefits of squats for injury prevention are critical. Did you know that every professional sporting team uses squats as part of their training program for their world class athletes? Why do they do that?
Well for many reasons but one of the main benefits of squats is injury prevention. There is no other exercise that strengthens connective tissues, ligation, and as many stabilizing muscles as squats. Muscles that stabilize are not primary muscles, they are tertiary muscles that act to support and stabilize the main muscles that do the bulk of the work.
When bodybuilders, weightlifters, and athletes get injured many times the weak stabilizing muscles and tendons are the tissues that get torn or broken. And because most all sports require lower body strength and speed, it’s the lower body that gets injured.
The benefits of squats to prevent injury are second to none.
The benefits of squats are tremendous as we’ve discussed. But you should not perform squats if you don’t know exactly how to do them correctly using the right technique, form and posture. Also you should not do squats if you have lower back problems which many people have.
If you have any lower body injuries such as ankle, foot, calf or knee problems you should not be performing squats. Squats put a lot of pressure on these joints and in order to do this exercise properly, you cannot have bad posture or form. When you have injuries, you tend to compinsate without even knowing it or trying. It’s subconscious. Don’t risk further injury until you get healed 100%.
Heavy Squats –
This is just a basic squat that you’re all familiar with. Make sure to use free weights. Perform 5 sets of 5 repetitions. If you’re using a Smith Machine to do squats, many weight lifters like to use these for extra stability and to keep the range of motion more stabalized. I do them with free weight barbells. But here’s an advanced trick for those using the Smith Machine.
Lift 85% of the weight you could squat doing them with free weights. Then after you lift the weight off have a training partner, put a pin in each side slightly lower than where you initially lifted the weight from. As you’re raising back up from squatting, push with all your strength against the pins for 5 seconds (you will feel your legs burning trust me) and then continue on doing the 5×5 principle. 5 sets of 5 reps with 3 minutes in between sets. This keeps you from fully extending your legs to a completely straight position which causes the most amount of exertion and stress to stay in your legs, hips, calves, lower back and core.
By extending your legs and locking your knees you’re able to cheat and rest just a little bit. The benefit of squats performed this way is that you never give your legs a break and you extend the total amount of time that you’re stressing and contracting your quadriceps.
Jump Squats –
Jump squats are amazing. Take some dumbbells that add up to approximtely thirty percent of the total amount of weight you normally squat. Then with you feet shoulder width apart and palms facing inward, slightly bend your knees like you’re ready to leap. Then explosively jump up as high as you can. As soon as you land jump as high as you can immediately.
On the subsequent repetitions, you can bend your knees slightly more than on the first jump. Do 3 sets of 10 reps with 60 seconds of rest in between. Do this twice a week.
Pause Squats –
This type of squat is my favorite because it works the largest amount of muscle fibers and tendons and ligamints in your legs, hips and butt. Rest the barbell on your upper back just like you would when doing a normal squat, but this time lower yourself to where you quadracepts are paralell to the floor or a little bit lower and then pause in a static contraction for at least 4 seconds and then extend all the way up straight again.
Do this for 8-10 reps for 3-4 sets with as much weight as you can possibly lift.