The Shocking Power of Squats
The remarkable benefits of squats changed my physique more than any exercise that I have ever done. Except the deadlift. Changing your body from fat to fit is a more difficult journey without the squat. If you want to get leaner, fitter and stronger than ever before, start a squat workout program today.
Begin with no weight and do air squats, meaning squats without weights, just like you did when you were a kid.
Build up slowly to squat using weights, starting with just the 45lb olympic bar. Keep increasing in weight from there. The goal is not to squat heavy before you are ready. The point is for you to experience the mighty benefits of doing squats.
Do one set of four to six repetitions, every other day with weekends off.
I like doing 3 sets of 8 squats. Don’t worry yet about joining a 500 squat challenge, unless you are at that level.
Focus more on your form than the amount of weight you are squatting. You will prevent unnecessary injury by not squatting heavy. Rather, make sure to squat with great form and always respect the squat.
You maximize the great benefits of squats by perfecting your squat form.
It is worth your time to invest in excellent squat form to prevent injury and increase your strength safely.
How Long Does it Take to See Results from Squats?
I cannot promise that after the first workout you will see results. But I am pretty sure that you will feel the effects. The first time I squatted with just the bar, I could not walk the next couple of days! Try it for yourself, you will see results, for me I saw results within 3 months. I can also say that the squat exercise is the hardest type of weightlifting that I have ever done, besides the deadlift.
Everywhere I looked for the best exercises to build muscle, squats were touted as the king of all exercises. I was unhappy to hear that because I have a torn medial meniscus in my left knee and I was anxious to do squats. No matter how wonderful the benefits of squats claims were, I was very hesitant to squat out of fear of hurting my knee.
When I first injured my left medial meniscus, I could not walk for six months.
Finally, I relented and got a cortisone shot, but did not have the recommended arthroscopic surgery. However, based on many articles, I was confident that if I used proper squat form, I would increase the strength in my legs, overall body and even knees. And that is exactly what has happened since I began doing squats.
How many Squats a Day to Lose Weight?
Do not think of the squat as a weight loss tool only. Sure, you can lose weight, better yet, lose fat from doing the squat. But that is a result of doing something even greater, which is to build muscle. Think of the squat as one of the most effective ways to build strength and muscle all over your entire body. The phenomenal sculpting power of squats and deadlifts will transform your body.
Squats and deadlifts are two of the most powerful methods of changing your physique. You do not need to squat every day to get fitter and stronger. You can even do an intense heavy squat workout once a week and still see results. You might need a week off just to recover from your squat workout. Focus on consistency and form and you will soon see the many benefits of squats.
Squat vs Leg Press Machine
There is a big difference between a leg press in a machine and a squat. In the leg press, I felt like an astronaut, lying on the beach with my coconut water in one hand and then pushing the weights. A little effort, but not much, because the leg press machine was doing a lot of the work and the support. With free weight squats, that is not the case.
You have to stabilize the weight on your shoulder yourself, which becomes an effort as the poundage goes up. Then you have to squat down correctly with good form….and…the big and…you have to get back up! You can feel that your entire body is engaged in the squat. Are squats hard? Yes, but the results are noticeable in only a few weeks.
Are squats more difficult than many other exercises you have done? Yes. Are the rewards of free weight squats real? Yes. Is it worth beginning a squat workout program even if you are over 50? Absolutely. Make sure to get clearance from your Doctor before you begin!
20 Greatest Benefits of Squats – The King of Free Weight Exercise
1. Less Time in the Gym
If all you do in the gym is squats, you will feel like you accomplished. A squat workout can be done in 30 to 45 minutes, if not faster. You can do a few sets of warm ups and then a squat workout of a few sets and spend less than 30 minutes. Squats can reduce the amount of time that you have to spend working out. Do the core exercises like squats, deadlifts and pushups and forget the rest that are not transforming your body the way you want.
2. The Effectiveness of the Squat
For the time put in, squats are incredibly effective. I know that they are harder and less comfortable to do, but that is the point. Squat safely and reap the muscle and fat loss benefits of the squat. Yes, it is a challenge to do squats, but it makes little sense to not do them, they are just too transformative and powerful.
3. Build your Knee Strength
I believe that my legs are stronger today because of squats, including my knees. Do squats with the best form possible as suggested, going below parallel, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Going below parallel means that your hips reach a point a little below parallel to your knees when you reach the bottom of the squat. By ensuring that your hip joint is below your knee joint, you place more of the stress on your big glute muscles. This way of squatting takes a huge load off of your knees.
You should never squat just a little bit with your hips above your knees in the bottom of your squat. Even if you see people doing that in the gym, do not copy bad form, no matter how much more weight you can lift. That is a sure way to stress your knees. Squatting below parallel is the way to go.
Also, never squat in typical gym running shoes which have compressible soles. Doing squats regularly in running shoes will make you more vulnerable to knee injuries. Whenever you squat or deadlift, make sure to use stable and hard sole squat and deadlift shoes.
Here is an excellent video from Mehdi of http://stronglifts.com on squatting below parallel. He speaks about squatting low enough so your hip joint is below your knee joint about 2:30 into the video. This is an excellent primer on how to squat with proper squat form.
4. Gradual Strength Improvement
Every week you can go up by 2.5 or 5 pounds, just like Milo did with his calf that he carried around, so as it was growing bigger, he was getting stronger. For every 5 or 10 pounds increase in squats, you will see the change in your body, everywhere!
5. Build Emotional Strength
Another chief benefit of doing squats is the emotional strength that you can get from squats. What does that mean? It means that as you get physically stronger, you will also become emotionally stronger. Squats give you additional confidence to power through whatever emotional challenges you might be facing.
Being stronger in body, will help you be stronger in your mind.
When your shoulders are loaded with a heavy physical weight, and you can lift it, this will give you the confidence that you can lift other burdens from off your shoulders, even if they seem too heavy to deal with.
And do not forget the improved posture you will experience as a result of squats.
Here are 7 Reasons to Never Neglect Squats
by Jeremey DuVall, M.S., CPT.
6. Squats Increase Testosterone
Total body exercises are potent stimulators for muscle-building hormones like testosterone and growth hormone. Because they involve almost every muscle in the body, the cause a great stimulus for growth.
7. Squats Result in Enhanced Core Strength
Since squats are typically loaded from top to bottom, either in the form of a barbell or a dumbbell, your core has to work double-time to prevent injury and maintain an upright posture. In terms of building your six-pack, heavy compound exercises like squats should be a staple. Include front squats which involve a barbell held in front of your body for an increased core demand and to build insane midsection strength.
8. Squats Improves Your Flexibility
By moving your body through a full range of motion, you’ll not only build strength; you’ll boost flexibility as well. Deep squatting helps to increase range of motion in the entire hip complex. The benefit: reduced back pain and an easier time getting around in daily activities or sporting events.
9. Squats Reduce Chance of Injury
Boosting the muscles surrounding your knees and hips is a quick method to reduce your chance of injury when jumping, running, and doing almost any activity. Squats build your glutes, hamstrings, and quad muscles – primary stabilizers when you’re cutting and moving on the playing field. Include both single and double leg varieties to help bullet-proof your lower body.
10. Build a Stronger Lower Body
This may seem like common sense, but squatting varieties are key for developing lower body strength. Although machine exercises like the leg curl and leg extension may target the quads and hamstrings, squats use almost every lower body muscle in unison building real-world strength.
Since you aren’t locked into a machine, you’re also building stability and exposing potential imbalances between your left and right side. If you notice your hips shifting from side to side during the movement, put aside your ego and work single leg exercises to shore up your hips. You’ll be better off for it.
11. Squats Increase your Vertical Jump
The ability to extend your hips powerfully is a key factor in increasing your vertical. Luckily, squats build hip extension strength. As a bonus, squats not only help you produce power; they also help you absorb it as well. That translates to less injuries coming down from getting a rebound. Include both heavy squats to build strength and lighter, quicker reps to boost explosiveness and see yourself dunking in no time.
12. Improved Workout Efficiency
Forget spending a few hours in the gym hopping from machine to machine in search of a good workout. Introduce a few sets of heavy squats into your routine, and you’ll see what you’ve been missing.
This total-body move will jack your heart rate and leave your legs burning in no time.
You’ll have more time left over to hit your core or add some foam rolling and stretching into your routine. While there are several variations of the squat, there is no reason to get too fancy at this point. Work on getting your basic squats down and keep adding weight gradually.
This is not the time to incorporate front squats or dead squats to your routine, unless you are an athlete. Just in case you are an athlete, and need to develop explosive power in your jump, here is a video of how to do dead squats:
And now, another 8 squat benefits from Dr. Mercola with my comments in italic:
The Top 8 Squat Benefits
by Dr. Mercola
13. The Squat Builds Muscle in Your Entire Body
Squats obviously help to build your leg muscles (including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves). Squats also create an anabolic environment, which promotes body-wide muscle building. In fact, when done properly, squats are so intense that they trigger the release of testosterone and human growth hormone in your body, which are vital for muscle growth and will also help to improve muscle mass when you train other areas of your body aside from your legs.
I should mention here that my testosterone levels have doubled since I began to do squats. Low T levels are dangerous for men, especially as we get older. Having low testosterone doesn’t only affect your sex drive and your ability to have sex. It can cause other symptoms as well. If you have low T, you may notice some of the following symptoms:
having less energy than you used to
increased body fat and reduced muscle mass
14. Functional Exercise Makes Real-Life Activities Easier
Functional exercises are those that help your body to perform real-life activities, as opposed to simply being able to operate pieces of gym equipment. Squats are one of the best functional exercises out there, as humans have been squatting since the hunter-gatherer days. When you perform squats, you build muscle and help your muscles work more efficiently, as well as promote mobility and balance. All of these payoffs from the squat translate into your body moving more efficiently in the real world too.
I feel that walking around the city is easier, my legs are stronger, going up stairs is easier, my entire body feels more conditioned since I began doing squats.
15. Squats Burn More Fat
One of the most time-efficient ways to burn more calories is actually to gain more muscle! For every pound of additional muscle you gain, your body will burn an additional 50-70 calories per day. So, if you gain 10 pounds of muscle, you will automatically burn 500-700 more calories per day than you did before. Burning more fat is one of the key rewards of squats. More squats (with great form and intensity) equals more muscle.
My fat percentage has decreased by 3%, from 22% in december 2012 to 19.5% last time I checked a couple of weeks ago in March 2013. (Update for May 2017, my body fat percentage is now 17%, still shooting to hit 15% which is the top 10th percentile for men over 60.) The main change I had made during that six month period has been the heavier lifting, especially with squats and deadlifts.
16. Squats Benefit Mobility and Balance
Strong legs are crucial for staying mobile as you get older, and squats are phenomenal for increasing leg strength. Squats also work out your core, stabilizing muscles, which will help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls. Squats are the #1 way to prevent bone fractures versus consuming mega-dose calcium supplements and bone drugs.
17. Doing Squats Prevent Injuries
Most athletic injuries involve weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments and connective tissues, which squats help strengthen. They also help prevent injury by improving your flexibility (squats improve the range of motion in your ankles and hips) and balance, as noted above.
18. Jump Higher and Run Faster
Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a mom who chases after a toddler, you’ll be interested to know that studies have linked squatting strength with athletic ability. Specifically, squatting helps athletes run faster and jump higher, which is why this exercise is part of virtually every professional athlete’s training program.
19. Squats Tone Your Backside, Abs and Entire Body
Few exercises work as many muscles as the squat, so it’s an excellent multi-purpose activity useful for toning and tightening your behind, abs, and, of course, your legs. Furthermore, squats build your muscles, and these muscles participate in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity. In addition, squats help to protect you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, all great news for men over 50.
20. Squats Help with Waste Removal
Squats improve the pumping of body fluids, aiding in removal of waste and delivery of nutrition to all tissues, including organs and glands. They’re also useful for improved movement of feces through your colon and more regular bowel movements.2)http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/05/25/darin-steen-demonstrates-the-perfect-squat.aspx
i Br J Sports Med
ii Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1989 Jun;21(3):299-303.
Squat Workout for a Beginner
Here is a beginner squat workout to get you started:
First, make sure that you watch Mehdi’s instructional video on the squat. That video is here in case you missed it above.
Second, start a simple 30 day squat challenge for yourself.
Get a notebook or spreadsheet and record your workouts. Sure, you can use an app as well like jefit or the stronglift app for your iphone or android. Let’s assume that you have your body weight down to a place where you are comfortable to start a squat workout.
For example, when I was hovering around 275 pounds, I could barely tie my shoes, let alone squat. So, I had to take off a considerable amount of weight before I could try squats even without weights. But let’s say that you have followed the Hashi Mashi Reboot Fitness Program that I describe on this blog. Now you are at a body weight that you can do at least one squat with good form without weights. And you have started weight training to increase muscle.
- You might have Monday set aside for bench press or chest.
- Tuesday for deadlifts or back.
- Wednesday for shoulder presses or shoulders.
- Thursday for squats or legs.
- Friday for curls and tricep pushdowns, or arms.
Take the weekend off. That is the basic workout plan that I follow and I think it works out pretty well. I have maintained 170lbs now for the last 4 years. (When I did fall off the wagon, it was because I got sloppy and fat fast. I write about that embarrassing ‘flaring nostril’ episode here where I offer my opinion on how often you should weigh yourself.) Even though I am only working each body part once a week. The best thing is that a squat workout does not have to take you more than 45 minutes.
Beginner Squat Workout
Here is the formula to use and this formula is applicable to any of your major exercises: Think 50 percent, 75 percent and 80 percent. Start doing air squats, even one. When you can do 5, shoot for doing 3 sets of 5 air squats. Once you can comfortably do 3 sets of 5 air squats, start doing dumbell squats aka goblet squats, using a single dumbbell. Here is a great video how to do a goblet squat. Notice how he makes sure that his hip joint always goes below his knee joint at the bottom of the goblet squat.
Increase the weight of this dumbbell squat every week if possible. Gradually go up by 5 pounds a week, doing 3 sets of 5 squats. Once you can handle 25 or 30 pounds, then you can go to using barbell for your squat.
The 50/75/80 Squat Workout Progression
As a beginner, I like the following squat workout progression. You might too. Estimate your 1RM, also known as your 1 rep max. If you think that you can do 1 squat with a 45lb barbell on your back, that is your 1RM. So, let’s say that you think 45lbs is your max for 1 squat. Take 50 percent of that number, approximately 20 pounds. If you have a 22.5 pound dumbbell, you can use that as well. First, do some squat warmups.
2 sets of 5 air squats. Then take your 50% 1RM weight and do 12 squats. Rest a few minutes. Estimate 75% of your 1RM, which in this case will be 33.75 pounds (45*.75). After your rest, do another set of 8 goblet dumbbell squats with 30 pounds. Rest 4 minutes. Now use 80 percent of your 1RM to start your actual workout. In this case, unless you have a 36 pound dumbbell or kettlebell, use 35 pounds.
- First set – 4 squats with 35 pounds.
- Rest 3 to 5 minutes.
- Second set – 4 squats with 35 pounds.
- Rest 3 to 5 minutes.
- Third set – 4 squats with 35 pounds.
- That’s it for the week.
When to Increase Squat Weight?
Once you can do 3 sets of 6 squats with 35 pounds, you can move up 5 pounds to 40 pounds. Keep going just like that. I started with air squats and as of today, I am at 3 sets of 5 squats with 115 pounds. Next week, I will be shooting for 3 sets of 6 squats with 115 pounds. Once I get there, then time to go up another 5 pounds. This has been a very gradual process, you know I am already over 60. So, I am quite grateful I can even do squats, and I am still aiming to go higher.
So has the above motivated you to contemplate squats? Please leave a comment about your experience with squats, whether you are a squat apprentice or squat master. Have you experienced the power of squats? Please share how squats have changed your body and life.
Best Squat Resources
There are two other excellent squat form resources I can recommend besides stronglifts.com:
The first is the best seller basic barbell training book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe:
I got this book several years ago and keep rereading it even in kindle format. This book has given me the cues on how to squat safely and effectively. I keep going back to get clarity for not only the squat, but the deadlift, overhead press and bench press as well.
The next resource is Alan Thrall, a powerlifter and strongman competitor and title holder from California, check out his youtube videos and channel: YouTube.com/c/AlanThrall . The first video on how to squat has been viewed over 1.2 million times.
In this first video, Alan speaks highly of going low in the squat, ATG squats, or as he puts it, “a** to grass” squats. In this next video, he speaks about how he himself is working on correcting his ATG squat, sometimes too low is not the best squat depth. Alan himself says: “Squatting too low is a problem that I am currently trying to fix. Learn why ass to grass low bar squats are not ideal and how to cut your squat depth.”
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