The humble squat is one of, if not the most, effective exercise you can perform whether you’re looking to build muscle, increase strength, or lose fat. However, this exercise is often performed incorrectly or avoided altogether. While this movement is undoubtedly hard, there are plenty of reasons you should include it in your workout routine right now. This article looks at the many benefits of the squat, and why it’s rightfully known as the king of all exercises.
Whenever you go to the gym, there will often be a fight for the last remaining benches, but the squat rack is often conspicuously empty (or being used by someone doing bicep curls!). It’s understandable in some ways. After all, squats are hard! After a heavy set, your lungs will be bursting, and your legs will feel like jelly. Rookies and experienced gym-goers alike are more likely to make a beeline for the leg-press machine, or conveniently get a flare-up of an old injury when it comes to leg day. If you can push yourself, however, then the benefits of squats will more than compensate for the discomfort. Here are a few reasons that, as long as you do them correctly, the humble barbell squat should be in your workout routine.
1. It’s a Compound, Whole-Body Exercise
Isolation exercises have their place, but if you’re looking to maximize your time in the gym and see some real increases in size and strength, then compound exercises, such as squats that work several muscle groups at once, are the smart choice. The legs contain the biggest muscles in your whole body, and a properly performed squat can work the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and many more muscles—not to mention your core and back, which keep you stable during the movement. You’re not using your stabilizing muscles when using the leg press machine since leg extension, and hamstring curl machines only target a particular muscle group. From a time-saving perspective, why not work all of these muscles in one go?
2. It Can Boost Testosterone
It’s not just your lower body that will benefit if you perform this exercise correctly. Many studies have found that performing intense sets of squats will help give a boost to your natural testosterone production. Since this is the hormone that’s primarily responsible for building muscle in the body, this is a good thing. That’s why you might not think about it, but squats could indirectly help you add an inch or two, here and there, to your chest or arms. It’s not only in the gym that you’ll see benefits from elevated testosterone. It can also impact other areas of your life by fighting depression, increasing libido, and helping give you an overall sense of well-being.
3. It Will Torch Calories
You might think that a few sets of sit-ups will give you those six-pack abs you’ve always dreamed of, but the truth is that definition comes from a low body-fat percentage. You can achieve that with compound exercises that burn a lot of calories. Squats recruit so many of your major muscle groups that they are ideal for burning calories, helping you lose weight, and staying ripped. A few intense sessions of squats will do more for your fat-loss goals than long sessions on the treadmill, or hundreds of crunches could ever do.
4. It Can Strengthen Joints and Prevent Injury
You’ve no doubt met someone who avoids squats because they fear injury. Perhaps, this is true for you as well. Well, as long as you’re sensible and stick to the correct form, squats can reduce the likelihood of injury rather than cause it. The proper squat involves getting to a low enough point where your legs are at least parallel with the ground (i.e., a 90-degree angle) and, if possible, even lower until your glutes are almost touching the ground. While injury or a lack of flexibility might prevent people from achieving maximum depth on the squat, proper warming up and stretching should allow you to get to at least parallel. Stopping at a very shallow depth, however, can put more stress on the joints and put too much stress on the quads, while neglecting other muscle groups. You’ve no doubt seen babies unknowingly performing technically correct squats with ease, so it’s hard to argue that it’s an unnatural or dangerous movement.
5. It Gives You Functional Strength
While it’s true that many exercises are mainly concerned with improving your appearance, movements such as squats are beneficial to your daily life in a way few others are. While you may be happy to work out mainly for aesthetics or strength in a few specific movements, why not kill two birds with one stone and choose an exercise that’s useful outside the gym? Especially as you age, you’ll probably be looking for workouts that will improve your quality of life. Simple acts, such as getting out of a chair unaided or lifting a heavy box, can be a struggle for many people, but you can train for these real-world movements via the squat.
Once you decide to include the squat in your workout routine, focus on proper technique to get the most out of this great exercise. From boosting testosterone and building muscle all over, to efficiently burning calories and even helping to prevent injury, there’s a reason that the squat is known as the king of exercises in bodybuilding and strength-training circles.