“The Biggest mistake people make with the Squat…Is not squatting enough!”[tweet this].
The Squat is a full body compound exercise, meaning you are getting more “Bang for your buck!” in terms of muscular recruitment, energy output and calories exerted! Not to forget the rewards you can reap afterwards.
Let’s take a closer look:
Increasing your athletic performance!
The Squat trains your body to produce high levels of force through vertical acceleration which is transferable in many sports such as rugby and Olympic lifts. This exercise can also help with dynamic mobility and also flexibility.
The Front squat is great for putting more emphasis on the quads, erector spinae and the rectus abdominis, which can cross over when doing high sprints and jumping. It’s also strict on form in terms of stopping you from leaning too far forwards and throwing the hips back (as you will drop the bar!) The Front squat is also knee friendly compared to the Back squat.
Run faster over Short/Long distances
Being able to run faster is controlled by how much force you can transfer into the ground to propel you forward! Lower body strength is the best way to increase your force.
Whilst running you engage the quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves to produce more force from the ground. Using heavy loads in Squats will engage these muscles and push them past their comfort zones; this will increase strength musculature and core.
A recent study that used eight rugby players on a maximal strength program found the players showed a significant increase in speed and sport specific movements. They employed the following exercises: Back squats; Clean pulls, Deadlifts and Nordic curls, working at 85-90 percent of their 1 RM. Results showed an increase in their maximal Squat by 30kg which transferred to their sprint speed by 6-7.6 % over 5/10/20 meters.
This exercise is not only for the lifters out there but for the long distance runners and sprinters who could generate more power and force through the floor.
Body functionality/mobility and faster walking speed
Suffer from lower back pain? This is an exercise for you! A recent study performed on elderly people suffering from osteoarthritis showed that Squat training resulted in less self-reported pain in the knees, back, better balance and faster walking speed. They also had less evidence of chronic inflammation that is associated with arthritis.
Having a stronger lower body and core will help all populations to move functionally and generally help them experience less pain or suffer an injury.
Increased core and hoop tension (Abs of steel)
Just like your Deadlifts, Squats are great for recruiting the abs more functionally, unlike the infamous Crunches which can do more damage than good. Building a strong core is imperative; you can’t build a temple on poor foundations! Squats will equally strengthen the lower back and the abs, rather that just isolating one or the other which often leads to a “Kink in the chain” which will break if not strengthened.
Other exercises that will get the abs popping include the notorious Deadlift and Pull-ups! (I can hear my clients groaning now…)
Jump to greater heights!
Incorporate full range Squats. This is when your glutes go below parallel and cover the upper portion of your calves. These are essential in improving your height when jumping.
A study was initiated where a group of people only did quarter range Squats while another group did full range Squats. They found over 10 weeks that the group that completed the full range Squats improved their jumping height by 5-8% whereas the group that only did partial Squats only increased their height by 2.6%
So when it comes to training Squats always try aim for a full range of movement rather than leaning towards heavier weights. You will be recruiting more muscle fibres and I guarantee you will find it just as hard.
Not to say partial ranges shouldn’t be used however, if you are looking to get past a plateau in your strength training Partials can be a great boost to your performance…
The Squat is a full body exercise (if you didn’t already know by now) which means many muscles are recruited and needed in order to complete this movement. The more muscle groups we need to use, the more energy we need exert. This ultimately means more calories burnt. Even after two to three days your body will still be guzzling energy and calories in order to get your muscles fighting fit for the next round, the only difference is they come back stronger (if you worked hard enough!). As these muscles are now bigger and better than ever, they need more calories and energy to sustain them, meaning you are burning more calories at rest!
Funnily enough we can complete a full functional squat at a very young age! Its only the years of sitting in chairs and other daily chores that hinder our performance. If you struggle with form when completing this crucial exercise, click the button below and i can show you a few easy steps to help you on your way!
Sean Baldwin is the founder of Tri Force Training, a Personal Training service in Harrogate.