If you think squats are just for men, take a look at the picture I posted with this article and on the left, women will benefit just as much. It is of Alicia who used to be on tumblr, but seems to have disappeared , I wish you could read of all of her progress, she did plenty of squats!
For sure, out of all the ‘real’ strength exercises that I have incorporated into my program; dips, deadlifts, pushups, pullups, bench press, dumbell rows and shoulder presses, none has been more nerve wracking nor more powerful than squats. Nerve wracking, because nine years ago I tore my medial meniscuss, doing what? squats! Yep, it is not like I never tried any exercises before in my life before Hashi Mashi. I did, and many times, quite alot of exercise, but I never got the results that I get now.
At that time when I was doing squats, I never imagined trying to do the squats the way that Mehdi of http://stronglifts.com teaches. I was doing them the usual way I had seen, where your hips go down about a quarter of the way, but never below the knee joint. I was also doing my reps and sets the way I had seen done in gyms, first set about 12 – 15 reps, then 10 reps of a lighter weight, then eight, then 6 , and back to twelve or more.
So, way back in 2004, I had read how important squats are to building muscle, and I went ahead and did them the way I just described above. Pop went the meniscuss. My knee swelled up, grotesquely, and for the next six months, I could barely walk, I was in so much pain. I did not want to do the arthroscopic surgery, took a cortisone shot, and eventually, things got a bit better.
Now you know why I have anxiety doing squats. Having said that, when I read that squatting to where your hips are below the knee joint ( a mirror helps!) would not overstress the knees, but rather put the stress on the hamstrings and glutes, I was ready to give it a shot again, with palpitations.
The first time, which was about seven months ago, I used the bar only which is 45lbs. Feet shoulder width, pointed more forward than outward, and I did the first five sets of five. I could feel that when I went below parallel, I could feel the tension mainly in the back of my legs and glutes. My left knee did not give out, nor did it hurt at all which was amazing to me.
The next day, again I could barely walk, but not because of my knee! My hamstrings and rear were so charley horsed that I could barely move. I think that solidified the idea that doing squats this way, hip joint below parallel, lower than the knee joint, would be safe, and I have not looked back.
Fast forward 240 days and I am grateful that I got up to 125lbs today on my last set of squats. I started with 85lbs for the first set, then 95lbs, 105lbs, 115lbs, and all those first four sets were with five reps. I felt strong enough, so I put the weights up to 125lbs and pushed out 3 repetitions.
Another ten pounds and I will be able to put on the 45lb plates on each side of the bar. I remember the first time I went to the squat area of the gym, which does not have alot of traffic. The machines have the highest traffic. The first time I was in this area by the squat rack, I saw a guy doing squats with the 45lb plates and thought that was totally impossible for me, no way! And now, I am getting close, once I get five reps of 125lb, I will move up another 5lbs to 130 and then to 135. Hopefully I can get there in another month or so, no rush, just go gradual, be patient, stay on course.
So, if you are wondering how you can get some great results, think free weights, think squats, and do not bother with the machines!