You probably associate the squat with 20 stone bodybuilders, the image of a grunting leviathan with the weight of a small house delicately balanced in his back will be well known to those familiar with fitness literature. It is this perception of the exercise that causes many to shy away from what is, without a doubt the most useful and effective tool in the box when it comes to building lean muscle and dropping body fat.
So why are so many people scared of squatting
Well, the Squat is a scary exercise. Having to balance the weight across your shoulders is a feat in itself, let alone descending into oblivion with twice your bodyweight’s worth of iron on top of you. Granted squats are a dangerous exercise and can do some serious harm if you get them wrong, getting them right however will reward you and it’s worth putting in the effort to nail them.
What squats aren’t
Most people start weightlifting because they want big biceps and a big chest, hell I did. The problem is, if you only focus on these areas you’ll end up spinning your wheels and your efforts will be a complete waste of time. Now, I’m not saying that doing squats will give you big biceps, what I am saying is that in order to build the strong core and posterior chain that facilitates the use of progressively heavier weight when performing exercises like the bicep curl, squats are indispensable.
Ok, when was the last time you saw a guy with huge biceps and skinny legs? Erm, how about never. If you don’t build up a sturdy base with squats, you have little hope of ever curling 50kg. Why? Because your body simply won’t be able to support that kind of weight.
So while the Squats = Big Biceps equation is misleading, it does hold some truth.
So we’ve established that you need to do squats, but how many should you do, and when should you do them?
Squats are such a versatile exercise with many different variations that they tend to fit neatly into any workout plan, I do squats as part of my weekly leg workouts, usually 4 sets with a weight I can perform around 8-10 reps of, which is currently around 135Kg. Squats can also form a key part of a whole-body program, but I’d recommend doing them no more than three times per week. Squats work well as part of an overall leg development program, but should not be paired with other demanding lifts like the Bench press, Clean and Press or Deadlift.
Ok, I’m convinced, but how do I squat?
Squatting is something that’s instinctive to some and nigh-on impossible for others. I’m not going describe in detail what is, in effect, simply bending your legs, but here is a video that should give you some pointers -
Foot position for me is something that comes down to personal preference, and as you squat more you’ll learn how your foot positions influences exactly which muscles are worked. Something that should remain consistent however is the actual squatting motion – stick your butt out as much as possible and make sure you knees stay in line with your toes at all times.
Just Do It
It’s all very well speculating for months on end about how to squat and the relative benefits of the exercise, but you’d be far better off in the gym, practicing and getting underneath some serious iron. I still get apprehensive about doing squats but I know I’d be cheating myself out of some amazing gains by neglecting them. You NEED squats in your program.
Oh and one more thing… Ditch that that pathetic piece of foam padding that ‘protects’ your shoulders! It’s doing you no favours and more importantly, making you look like a girl!