Squats have widely been called the “king of all exercises,” and there is a good reason for that. The squat is one of the best compound movements that will build serious muscle mass across the entire body as well as being one of the most functional lifts out there. Squats are not just for the quads, although they are great for the quads. Depending on the variation of squat, the main target will be different muscles, but most variations are useful for any bodybuilder.
Squats promote a strong base and core while developing lower body strength and mental toughness. They can also be difficult to perform with a full range of motion, but performing squats with perfect form are well worth the effort because the benefits are endless. Performing a squat incorrectly will also lead to injury very quickly.
Mastering the Fundamentals of the Squat
Let’s start at the beginning. How do you improve your squat? The simple answer is to squat more, but to get a little more detailed, watch how others squat and record yourself squatting. You will be surprised at what you see in many cases. To attain perfect form, you need to know where your weak spots are. Perhaps you are not going low enough. Perhaps your back is not in good alignment. Without seeing the evidence firsthand, you will never know. Using a mirror can also help, but I would suggest taping yourself and looking at the result without having a barbell sitting on your back.
The easiest way to master the squat is to practice without any weight. Also, as with every exercise, you should warm up to your maximum weight. I still start every set of squats with the barbell only and then another 2-3 warmup sets before getting up to my repping weight.
The Importance of the Squat
If you only performed one exercise, the squat should be the one. Let’s take a look at the benefits of a properly performed squat, and by properly performed I mean:
1. Feet shoulder width apart
2. Toes pointed out ~15 degrees off center
3. Heels glued to the ground
4. Lower body to a position where the thighs are parellel to the floor.
5. Head and Chest up with shoulders depressed.
What the squat tells us if performed correctly is this:
1. Proper mobility of the ankle, knee and hip joints.
2. Adequate flexibility of calves, quads, hamstrings, and hip musculature
3. Appropriate control of your core.
4. Muscular balance of right and left sides of the body.
The benefits of the squat:
1. Stimulates the central nervous system more than any other exercise.
2. Improves balance and coordination.
3. Stimulates improved bone density.
4. Stimulates muscular development.
5. Improves connective tissue development.
6. Challenges the mind and builds toughness.
7. Whole body conditioning.
Common Squat Variations
I love the barbell squat, but that is not all that that can do. Let’s have a look at the various squat types available to us.