You’re Robbing Yourself If You Aren’t Squatting
It’s no secret that i’m very passionate about the exercises I choose to perform. I’m very opinionated in this regard—I think there are some exercises that are virtually a complete waste of time and some that you should be performing most if not every time you visit the gym. The squat is one of these exercises that falls in the latter category.
The squat is beautiful in so many ways. You may as well call me a squat evangelist because I think you’re literally robbing yourself if you aren’t doing it. Are there valid reasons why you might not be doing it? Absolutely. Injury, mobility issues, and muscle imbalances are all huge issues with the squat. In fact, I’d argue performing the squat correctly requires:
- A relatively high base level of strength and stability
- Well developed balance and spatial awareness
- Good knowledge of your body mechanics and how to adjust your squat stance accordingly
- Huge focus on form if you want to get stronger
It’s probably a little ironic that I write about the squat being so important and how much I like it. I mean, it’s my (relatively) weakest lift among the big 3. I think this is why I’m so fond of it though—I’m really bad at it compared to the deadlift or bench press and all I can think about is getting better at it! It’s only recently that i’ve discovered the vast array of benefits you get by doing it, and hopefully I can shed some light on those benefits here.
Squatting isn’t just a leg day exercise
I’m sure you’ve heard something to this affect before—and honestly, it’s true. People think squatting just works your legs, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Squatting with proper form will develop your ENTIRE core, quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, upper and lower back, and shoulders. In fact, you won’t even be able to get the barbell in a good position for squatting without good shoulder mobility.
Give it a try—watch a GOOD form video on squats (I like this one by Alan Thrall), practice, and I can almost guarantee you’ll have some shoulder soreness the day after, especially if you haven’t been squatting with great form. You might find that you actually have a lot of difficulty squatting with a narrower grip, I definitely did.
“Bull****. Squatting might help your upper body but it’s still mostly a lower body exercise”
Ok, that’s fair. It IS mostly a lower body exercise. If you did nothing but squat, you’d probably look like a dinosaur:
To be fair, though, you’d probably be a LOT more functional than someone who does the opposite and only works upper body. I can guarantee you’ll be faster and perform a lot better at most sports. Your balance and coordination will be a lot better, too.
Squatting is lower body dominant, but your lower body is where most of your power is generated. If you care about being legitimately strong, you squat—no ifs, ands, or butts (haha, see what I did there?). There is no better developer of absolute strength than the barbell squat!
Squatting fixes imbalances you didn’t know you had
“Squatting is bad for your knees”
No, just no. Your shitty form is bad for your knees. I can’t even begin to describe how hard I cringe when I see 80% of gym goers try to squat. Instead of loading up 3 plates on a barbell and moving it a few inches—drop your ego, lower the weight, and learn how to perform the movement.
Have knee or lower back pain? Tight muscles? One side of your body stronger than the other? The squat will expose (and correct) this. Contrary to popular belief, the squat isn’t BAD for your knees—I’d argue it’s actually good for them. Squatting with proper form will:
- Get your knees tracking OVER your feet which is what should be happening from a physiological standpoint.
- Force you to activate as many muscle fibers as possible if you want to move the most weight
- Brace through your core to remain balanced throughout the movement
If one side of your body is weaker than the other, you’ll find out once you start squatting. This can often present as shifting weight from one side to the other. By forcing yourself to maintain an even and balanced posture, you’ll start correcting this quickly.
Squatting makes you better at everything
This is a bit grandiose, sure, but there’s also a lot of truth to it. Start squatting if you don’t already, and pay attention to how you feel throughout the day. I bet you’ll find you have more energy than usual. Moving around becomes easier. You’ll feel lighter on your feet. You’ll run faster and for longer without getting tired. You’ll start skipping TWO steps when you climb the stairs (incredible, I know).
Don’t forget about the mental gains either. You’ll start to develop an iron will if you squat! I think the mental aspect of training hard is so easy to overlook, but if you squat frequently, you’ll be much better prepared to take on life inside the gym and out.
In case these couple of tidbits didn’t convince you, take it from the man himself:
“There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that provides the level of central nervous activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat.” –Mark Rippetoe
So, what are you waiting for? Go hit the gym and start busting out them squats! Oh and check this out if you want to be convinced on why you should be deadlifting, too.