Squatting – The Greatest Exercise You Can Do
Today’s post is about one of my all time favourite exercises (actually I like all the big compound exercises and my favourite will change amongst them frequently). Few other exercises come close to the squat in terms of recruiting muscle. Few exercises come close in helping you build functional muscle that has a direct impact on your enjoyment in life. Few other exercises are frankly this fun or will have you screaming so loudly to get out that last rep!
[Naomi Kutin is my squatting hero, she doesn't squat the most by any standard, but then she is only 9, and can squat more than most of the guys at my gym!]
Why is the squat such a powerful exercise?
First off we need to look at the muscles joints recruited to help you perform the exercise. Generally speaking the more recruitment the more effective the exercise is and the more gains you will get from it.
It would be a long list indeed to list every muscle the squat got you to use. A simpler way would be to say it uses everything. If not directly like the core, the quads or the glutes then indirectly through the process of radiation, which is basically where contracting one muscle helps you contract another. To try this out try flexing your bicep with your hand relaxed and see how well you can do it. Next trying flexing your bicep with your hand curled up into a fist. What you should notice is that in contracting the muscles of the forearm this radiates to the bicep and helps the contraction there. Which is nothing other than being interesting is further evidence to show that the body should be trained as a system not as individual muscles.
Joint wise most of the power for the squat comes from the hips as you move out towards the extremities less and less power is generated.
The question then is not should I train or not train with the squat, barring serious injury everyone who’s in anyway interested in health, fitness and strength should be training it. The question is how? This is going to come down mostly to what your ultimate goals are.
If you are after gaining mass there is probably no more effective way that to train with single sets of 20 reps. This is brutally painful way to train but the benefits outweigh the pain by a long shot (you may even grow to look forward to the pain). You should train to add weight each and every workout and be using a weight that you struggle with when you get to about 10 reps, the last 4 or so should be near impossible to complete.
If you’re after a more strength focussed approach I would recommend the Reverse Pyramid Style. This is how I currently train. Do about 3 warm up sets working up to your 3 rep max weight. Your first work set will then be your 3 rep max weight for 3 reps, rest 3-5 minutes, drop the weight by 10% and aim for 4 reps but do more if you can with good technique, rest 3-5 minutes, the last work set will then be 10% lighter again and aim for at least 1 more rep than what you achieved in the previous set. Again aim for increasing the weight each and every workout.
Interestingly the best squatter I have ever seen is my 2 and a half year old niece. Though children don’t get trained for them squatting is something they do naturally as a way of exploring their environment. As we grow older we unfortunately seem to favour the rounded back method of getting close to the ground…. which is something we will regret later in life.
My final word for this post is this: learn to back squat properly and you will never NEED to use another exercise for the rest of your life.
That’s all for today folks, let me know your comments!