Squats: The Unchallenged King of all Exercises

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Whether you know it or not your fitness journey probably began long before you walked into a gym or laced up your running shoes.  As a matter of fact it began before you could fit in those shoes!  Not long after we learned to walk (and sometimes even before) we squatted.  All of us.  The simple explanation for this is - it was a safer and more efficient way to bend down due to our disproportionate shape. This movement is one of the first connections our brains made to our bodies. Nature was sending us a message. Squatting is a function our bodies where physiologically designed to do!

Now forget, for a moment, about the baby you and let’s look at why the squat simply cannot be ignored in our fitness programming, and honestly our daily life.  A good old fashioned squat is unequivocally, unchallenged, and without a doubt The King of All Exercises, and here are a 5 reasons why.

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1) The Squat is the best TOTAL body workout:

Don’t be fooled by your typical body part splits.  The average gym goer may have this movement at the top of their list for their leg day routine.  As well they should.  But too often we treat the squat as a once a week challenge that unfortunately, many of us dread. But why?  Simply because we just don’t give this remarkable movement the respect it deserves.  The squat is the only movement that trains the entire posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, abductors, lower back) AND the quadriceps at the SAME TIME.  So, for that fact alone, it would make sense to incorporate this movement into our workout more FREQUENTLY.  Play with changing the weight, load points, and repetition range and incorporate a variation of the squat a few times a week and watch how not only your legs, but your total body responds.

2)  The Squat will build the most muscle, period:

As if incorporating the maximum amount of muscular groups and tissue wasn’t enough, the squats muscle activating benefits do not end there.  It naturally raises our hormonal response higher than any other movement preformed in the gym.  While for years the bench press has been thought of to be the gold standard on the surface for power movements, the squat actually has (and always will) reign supreme. To break it down, research has shown that testosterone levels are influenced by the amount of muscle mass activated.  With all variables being equal the bench press while impressive in testosterone spike (7% increase), pales in comparison to the squat (15%)!!!  That is more than double!!!  Combine the increase in NATURAL testosterone and growth hormone with the highest muscle recruitment and you have the best recipe for maximum muscle gains.

3) The Squat melts fat:

Would you like to burn more fat throughout the day without lifting a finger? Start squatting.  As we have established, the squat automatically puts us in a more anabolic (muscle building) state than any other exercise in the gym.  But what does that mean for fat burn?  A lot!  Muscle is an expensive tissue for our bodies to hold on to, and to do so requires more energy.  If we add just one pound of muscle to our current frame our bodies will naturally burn on average 30-50 more calories throughout the day. Imagine adding 5!  That’s a potential to burn 300 extra calories a day… AT REST.  That does not include the calories you will burn during workouts!!!  This is why, as a personal trainer, I recommend squats to EVERY one of my clients. Step off the cardio equipment for just a little while, and start doing some serious squatting to achieve the most EFFICIENT fat loss.  It’s not just my opinion that squatting trumps cardio for fat burning, it’s a fact.

4) The Squat is safe:

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Over the years I have heard statements from clients claiming the “dangers” of squatting.  These are like daggers to the heart.  From, “it hurts my knees” to “I have a bad back” to even “the bar pinches my skin”.  These concerns do not just exist in Jacksonville Beach, I've heard it nationwide.  Yes, I do understand that some individuals have injuries.  Some nagging that have never been addressed, or some that have been repaired but limited their range of motion.  But when coached properly and queued safely, the squat is a low impact, safe, and joint healthy exercise!  Muscle tendons and ligaments get less elastic with age… squatting conistantly can prevents this.  Knees and hips can become weak without use…squatting not only activates those areas, it strengthens them.  These are parts of the body we currently use every single day, and will hopefully use every day for the rest of our lives.  If injuries and pain are preventing you from even attempting a squat right now that’s OK…but with guidance from a personal trainer and practice you should make it your goal to get there.  And if you are a gambler and would like to just play the odds, according to the National Institute of Health, the most common sports injuries are sprains and strains of ligaments due to RUNNING.  Squatting properly however, helps to prevent these injuries by strengthening the injury prone areas.

5)  The Squat is a skill we should never loose:

Lastly, the most common reason I hear for skipping squats during an exercise routine is,” I simply can’t do one”.  There could be multiple reasons a person may give to support this statement, but I believe it really comes down to two.  1) People tend to avoid things they are uncomfortable with and 2 )People insert younger versions of themselves in almost any form of physical activity.  This is human nature.  The ego can play a nasty role in your fitness goals if you let it. But I would challenge you to think beyond your current capacities.  It doesn’t matter if you ever reach a full range of motion in a squat or hit a PR from your past. The point is that you should perform this basic movement and treat it like it is, a fundamental human skill, and not a painful necessity on “leg day”.  You don’t have to push heavy weights, squat a thousand reps for time, or perform one legged pistol squats (OK, that one is cool!!).  All you have to do is practice and reach for your fullest expression of the squat, and reap it’s benefits.  Not just for “fitness”…but for your everyday life!

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Did we sell ya on the squat??  If you like what you read and want to learn more about the squat join us on Instagram or Facebook for “Squatember”: Thirty days of Squats!  Each day in September we will be exploring and demonstrating different tests, forms, and tools that pay tribute to the UNCHALLENGED KING OF ALL EXERCISES!!!