Squats: Why You MUST Do Them, & How To Properly Do Them.

SHUT UP AND SQUAT.

It’s safe to say nearly all of us have heard this phrase at least once or twice before.  So, do you squat?

Well if you do not, let’s take a look at why you should.

The squat is typically considered a “lower body” or a “leg” exercise.  However, the squat is a complete body movement that stimulates nearly every muscle group in the body.

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The squat is known as one of the best, if not the best, exercises to increase overall strength and hypertrophy.

For those of you looking to lose weight, it also burns an incredibly high amount of calories in order to perform the squat.

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The squat is one of the most functional movements in our lives.

Squatting is a part of everyone’s everyday lives.  Odds are you squat more than twenty times every day, and you might not even realize it.

As I mentioned above, the squat is an exercise that recruits nearly every muscle group in the body.  Because of this, we call the squat a “compound movement.” 

A compound movement is one that uses more than one joint to complete the movement (i.e. squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, etc.).  These types of movement recruit more muscle groups and are more taxing on the body.

Thus, the squat is a movement that leaves almost no muscle group out of the equation.  And this is why the squat is referred to as the KING of all exercises.

Not only does the squat increase total body strength, it will also improve your bone strength and improve flexibility (when done correctly of course).

Squatting is an exercise that is considered to be spinal loading.  It bears weight on your spinal column and bones in the body, which in return improves overall bone density!

And to top it off, because the squat recruits a large amount of muscles in the body, it also stimulates anabolic hormone production.  Anabolic hormones improve overall muscle strength, size and functionality.

To highlight the main points, the squat is the best exercise for increasing total body strength.  It will also improve overall muscular tone, flexibility, bone health, and so much more.

Some of the best strength building programs around will incorporate squats multiple times per week (and your return on investment will be incredible).

That being said, just “shut up and squat!”

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How to properly perform a squat.

To get your body ready to squat, it is important to determine where you are comfortable with your feet.  Some people prefer to squat with a narrow stance while others may prefer a wider stance.

Several factors can account for where you will be most comfortable with your feet during  a squat.  Personally, I prefer a wider stance with my feet pointed out nearly 30 degrees.  This can be ideal for taller people, especially those with longer femurs.

When it comes down to it, it’s all personal preference.  Do a few bodyweight squats with your feet at different widths, and get a feel for it.  After doing so, you can decide what is the best stance for you.

It is also important to keep your weight toward the balls and heels of your feet throughout the movement.  It is all too common to see people leaning too far forward on the toes and this can be unsafe and very taxing on the knee joint.  Try to keep the weight towards the balls and heels of your feet.

It is also very important to remember to keep your body tight and your core engaged throughout the movement.  There is lots of controversial data out there stating the position your back should be in throughout the movement (slightly rounded, neutral, or slightly hyperextended).  When it comes down to it, keep your body tight and in the same position throughout the movement no matter how your back looks.

When teaching a squat, I always teach my clients to push their hips back to begin the movement.  In doing so, this will help them from pushing their weight on to their toes and their knees going too far forward.  The hips should initiate the movement.

Ideally, the knees should not go past the toes throughout the entire movement.  I also teach my clients to push their knees outward throughout the movement of the squat.  This helps to make the movement more hip dominant rather than knee dominant.  By doing so, you will be squatting in a much safer manner.

As you continue to squat down, keep the body tight and the core engaged.  Once your hips have dropped below your knees, drive back up to the starting position.

Once again, this is where some controversial data comes into play.  You’ll hear several people say you must go to parallel, but your hips should not drop much further below your knees.  Based on the available research, I once again recommend going to wherever you are comfortable.

I personally have great mobility throughout the squat movement and prefer to drop almost all the way to the ground.  However, it is ideal to at least drop the hips until they are at least level with the knees.  Anything further is complete personal preference when squatting.  Anything less than this would be considered a “partial squat.”

For breathing patterns, practice inhaling as you drop down through the movement (the eccentric portion), and as you drive back up exhale (concentric portion of the movement).

Brooklyn Starting Strength Seminar

In summary:

  • Find where you are most comfortable placing your feet throughout the squat.
  • Push the knees out laterally throughout the entire movement.
  • Initiate the squat by pushing the hips back and dropping down.
  • Keep the body tight and core engaged while squatting.
  • Squat to at least parallel to complete a full squat, anything further is your own preference.  No squat is exactly the same, find out what you are comfortable with before going heavy.
  • Lastly, remember to breathe in as you squat down and exhale as you drive back up through the movement.

Also, make sure your nutrition is on point.  If you’re looking for some great information on bulking to help put on some great lean mass, check out this article!

Let us know in the comments below:

  • What do you find the most difficult about performing a squat?
  • Are there any other tips you would recommend to someone who is first learning how to perform a squat?
  • Any other comments or questions?

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