The old adage that you must squat for big legs is synonymous with eating big to get big or performing cardio for getting lean. Call it bro science or real science; there is some real merit to go along with the notion that squatting in its infamous and various forms is of huge benefit. Back squats, front squats, box squats, Bulgarian split squats, Jefferson squats, Zercher squats, prisoner squats, goblet squats, you name them, they all require a similar (albeit, different transfers of load) biomechanical function to help pack more muscle and strength onto the lower body.
To be convinced of the benefits one must undergo the obligatory rite of passage and experience a true, correctly performed squat in order to reap the ever-sought-after award of more muscle. Additionally, this will take toiling away week after week in the depths of the gym, cranking out rep after grueling rep until true muscular failure dictates when the set should be terminated. And then get back up and do it all over again. Correct range of motion, form and function are all musts so as to not only avoid injury and risk being indeterminately sidelined, but to also gain the strength advantage to do battle another day.
Below are 20 reasons, for all intensive purposes, to squat. Again, not an absolute must in life, but definitely worth your best effort. So, leave your ego at the door, squat right and for possibly the first time on a leg day, have some freakin’ fun!
1. Squats build muscle all over
Not only do they build muscle and strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves, they also create the ideal environment throughout the entire body. Naturally releasing testosterone and growth hormone, squats provide a highly anabolic environment for all other areas to grow when trained. If you want to increase muscle mass and strength in all areas, squatting will help you get there.
2. Squats burn more fat
Muscle burns fat. More muscle burns more fat. Being efficient at packing on muscle mass, the squat is a highly effective way to burn more fat. The more muscle you have on your frame, the more calories you will burn during training and at rest. If you want to get lean, stick to the big compound lifts namely the squat.
3. Squats are functional
Yes, the old school squat has finally been mentioned in the same breath as the uber-trendy term functionality. Once thought of as an exercise reserved for highly trained athletes and top-level bodybuilders, the squat has made its way from the depths of “moves to avoid” to being one of the most real-world applicable exercises of all. The squat can relate to a myriad of real-life activities helping to avoid injury and increasing efficiency in everyday life.
4. Squats help maintain mobility
By simply increasing overall lower body strength, squats help maintain mobility immensely. Furthermore, by performing squats in a full range of motion you can strengthen the leg muscles at all points enabling you to help prevent weaknesses and increase strength during other performance-related, mobile activities.
5. Squats maintain balance
This goes hand-in-hand with mobility. Creating more balance in turn will help facilitate more strength helping you to develop more muscle mass on those wheels. This also translates to other compound lifts as well such as deadlifts, bent-over barbell rows, push presses, clean and presses for upper body and help provide a foundation of balance and function for other lower body lifts such as lunges, single-leg squats and leg presses.
6. Squats boost performance
Not only will squats put on appreciable amounts of size and strength on your legs, they will also increase performance by helping you jump higher and run faster. This is significant for those involved in sports either for the organized team player or weekend warrior. Squats serve to improve performance that covers a wide spectrum of sports (along with balance and mobility). They are truly the universal exercise.
7. Squats prevent injuries
By strengthening an endless number of ancillary muscles of the lower body, hip and lumbar areas squats are extremely advantageous to preventing injury if done properly. The movement forces muscles to work synergistically and in unison for more stabilization and strengthening of weak points along the range of motion so the risk of injury is kept to a minimum.
8. Squats strengthen your core
Squats actually help contract the core, namely the abdominal area, effectively and efficiently. Furthermore, studies have concluded these contractions are more intense than the traditional crunch. So, if you want stronger, tighter abs, be sure to squat.
9. Squats strengthen joints
As stated earlier, squats have the ability, when done correctly, to strengthen joints and prevent injury. The hip, knee and ankle joints all work together to lift the load. This load is distributed across these selected joints for more strength and less stress on any one particular joint. The leg extension, for example, tends to put most of the sheer lifting stress on the knee increasing risk of injury.
10. Squats are practical
Not only are squats functional, they are also practical which can translate to many everyday tasks. Working outdoors, playing with your kids, playing a pickup game of basketball can all benefit from squatting.
11. Squats can be done in many ways
From full-on barbell back squats to bodyweight prisoner squats, the squat has a seemingly endless list of variations to choose from. Also, it is highly adaptable to some very effective intensity techniques such as the use of chains, bands and boxes, high rep training, rest/pause just to name a few.
12. Squats are cheap
Squats don’t require an expensive machine or apparatus to be performed. A rack can be used or even a pair of dumbbells are all you need to get to work. Overhead squats, kettlebell squats, dumbbell squats all require minimal equipment. Heck, even a sandbag or barrel will work!
13. Squats can be done anywhere
Done from your home or in the gym, squats are the ultimate go anywhere exercise. Again, not requiring a gym membership or expensive equipment, routines like 100 rep bodyweight squats, Bulgarian split squats and prisoner squats can be done in the hotel room on trips, on the beach or in the local park as a part of cross training.
14. The squat rack is usually empty
This, of course, is true only if someone isn’t doing curls in the squat rack (see below). Most people in gyms these days shy away from the squat rack and most of the time training legs altogether. Leg training is tough, brutal and requires intensity and focus to reap significant results. The leg press is sometimes taken but the squat rack is usually available.
15. Performing squats will prevent people from doing curls in the squat rack
You’ve seen them: those nitwits doing curls in the squat rack! They are performing an exercise that can be done ANYWHERE in the gym. Just load up a bar, pick it off the ground and curl away. But these geniuses feel they require a overly loaded bar and are too lazy to pick it off of the ground, so they have to have it at a comfortable height while they bend over backwards curling a weight they have no business using in the first place! All the while you wait patiently for them to check their cell phone between 10 minute rest periods. Stop it!
Yeah, we know it’s the smith machine. Just focus on the ass.
16. Squats will increase power
It takes a lot of effort to bust out of the bottom of a squat. Having various points of load along the range of motion, powering past the sticking point will create a unique curve of energy in the lower body generating power and strength which can translate to other movements in the gym and in sports.
17. Squats are the great humbler/equalizer
Do you have an impressive bench press? Can you shoulder press a ton? Do you curl a lot? How’s your squat? If you need an ego check (and who doesn’t) try a true deep squat. You wouldn’t bench press half way down to your chest would you? Would you curl only half way up? Why squat half way down?
18. Squats are universal
The only other move that comes close to working more muscle and having a practical and functional use is the deadlift. Squats are the quintessential movement pattern for the human body.
19. Squats will challenge your posterior chain
You hear a lot about posterior chain development these days and how important it is to not only performance but everyday function and strength balance. Leg extensions do zilch for the posterior chain. Squats work not only the quads but also the hams and glutes to large extend. Equally important are the muscles of the lumbar, upper back, traps and neck.
20. Squats will increase flexibility
Again, full range motion will require flexibility and the need to stretch. The more you increase your range of motion throughout your hips, glutes, knees and ankles the better your squat will be. Working on your form and function will motivate you further to acquire all the tools to perform better.