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Nutrition & Fitness Tips

The Definitive Guide to Squats


how to squat

The squat. No other exercise strikes as much fear into the hearts (and quads) of weightlifters. Some people want to work on their arms and chests, but ignore the squat. That nasty test of full body strength. But don’t skip the squat. No other exercise can offer the amazing results that it can.

The squat is the best muscle building exercise you can do. But squats offer a host of other amazing benefits beyond just getting strong. In this guide you’ll learn:

  • The Benefits of the Squat
  • How to Maximize Your Squat
  • How to get the most out of every squat

Why Squat?

The squat rules as King of Exercises. It builds amazing legs and glutes. It contributes to muscle growth throughout your entire body. And it significantly enhances your athletic performance.

Squatting helps build almost all major muscles of the body. It works your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and back. That’s because you have to get support from almost every muscle in the body to help support the weight.

Want big legs? How about a big, round butt? Both are great goals. Both require that you master the squat. There is simply no substitute for this essential exercise. Bodyweight squats are fine for warming up and learning proper form. But weighted squats are what will give you that big, curvy butt.

Beyond the physical benefits, the squat offers other amazing benefits:

  • Burn Fat. Squats work nearly every major muscle group in your body. That means they take a lot more energy to execute. More than almost any other lift you do in the gym, squats are great for burning fat and losing weight. Combine a fat burner supplement with regular squats and you’ll see results fast.
  • Build Endurance. Some runners think that lifting will just bulk them up and slow them down. Not true. Squats are essential for endurance athletes, including distance runners. Building your maximum squat will make you a faster, better runner.
  • Strengthen Bones. Osteoporosis and other degenerative bone diseases are a serious problem for older adults. Prevent these diseases and improve your bone density with squats. A 2011 study found that “24 weeks of resistance training, including squat and deadlift exercises, is effective in increasing bone mineral density in young healthy men.”
  • Another study published in October 2013 tested maximal strength training with squats for osteoporosis. The results? Improvements of “skeletal properties in postmenopausal women with osteopenia or osteoporosis.” The researchers concluded that squats “can be implemented as a simple and effective training method for patients with reduced bone mass.”
  • Stimulate Hormones. Squats engage tons of muscle groups and stimulate your production of hormones, including testosterone and growth hormone. A 2014 study of resistance exercises found that squats were better than leg presses for testosterone production. It concluded that “free weight exercises seem to induce greater hormonal responses to resistance exercise than machine weight exercises.”

The Definitive Guide to Squats

How to Squat

Squatting on a fundamental level is a very easy exercise. But to master it takes a lot of time and patience. When you’re putting heavy weight on your back, you cannot afford to have bad form.

You may have heard bad things about the squat. Maybe you’re concerned that you’ll get hurt doing this exercise. The truth is injuries are almost always because of bad form. If done properly, the squat will take your body and athletic performance to an entirely new level.

These are the three main key components of a perfect squat:

Toe Position

  • Get under the bar and align yourself in the middle. Unrack by balancing the bar right at the bottom of your neck where it meets the shoulders.
  • Step away from the rack and get in a neutral stance. Your toes should be pointed just slightly outward. Squat down as if sitting in a chair
  • Squat all the way down until you are just slightly below parallel. Going parallel or slightly below is better mechanically and will not harm your knees.
  • Make sure to keep your knees slightly pointing out as you go down. They should be in line with your toes. Do not bow your knees - this leads to injury.

Back and Chest

  • Keep your back straight and tight as you descend. Bending or compressing the spine is bad. This brings major stress to your vertebrae and can cause major back issues.
  • Your chest should be straight on, not pointing at the floor.

Glute Activation

  • Lower you butt slightly below-parallel to your knees. You must activate your butt to drive yourself back up.
  • Squeeze your glutes together. Push up with your glutes first. Then use your legs.
  • Maintain a straight back and keep your chest up as you drive up.

Physical Exertion

Real talk: Squats ain’t easy. You’re going to feel this. It gets intense. Squats require a lot of physical exertion. But you shouldn’t feel pain similar to breaking a bone or pulling a ligament.

Whether doing light weight or heavy weight, the squat can be a difficult exercise. There’s a discomfort threshold you have to push past. Be prepared and know that this pain means the most gain in the gym.

Should You Use a Belt or Knee Wraps?

Both can be helpful in specific situations. But we don’t recommend either unless you’re a professional power lifter.

A squat is meant to help strengthen the entire body, especially the back. Using a weight belt keeps you from working this core muscle. In reality, you wind up at higher risk of being susceptible to injuries.

Knee wraps can help when you’re trying to max out your squat weight. But if you use them regularly, they prevent you from strengthening muscles and tendons around your knees. You need to develop those to build your squat and to improve almost all other leg exercises.

Leg Press Vs. Squat

This is a common debate. Which is better for muscle development – leg press or squat?

In reality, they’re both very similar. But there are slight differences that may be important to you if you’re focusing on very specific goals.

  • The squat is a total body exercise.
  • It better activates the glutes.
  • The leg press isolates the quads.
  • If you have back problems, the leg press is a great alternative to the squat.

If you want maximum muscle and strength, there is no competition between these two. Research proves that the squat reigns as king.

Squats Get You the Results You Want

You’re already working hard to get the body you want. You use muscle building supplements and control your diet. So make sure you get the most out of every trip to the gym by including squats in your workouts.

Squats will help you develop muscle throughout your body. Your other lifts will improve. Your athletic skills will get a boost too. It’s all good.

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