No other lower body exercise in existence delivers more bang for the buck than a basic barbell squat.
It’s one of the most primitive movement patterns known to man and is without question the most productive leg exercise available for increasing overall muscle size, strength and performance.
While they certainly aren’t mandatory in order to build your lower body effectively, the benefits of squats extend to such a wide variety of different areas that I would definitely recommend including them in your plan as long as you’re physically able to.
Be prepared for a challenge though, as squats are one of the most physically and mentally demanding lifts out there. It’s no coincidence that the squat rack in most typical gyms remains empty gathering dust a good portion of the time.
The results you’ll achieve are well worth the effort though, and here are 5 reasons why…
1 – Powerful muscle size and strength builder.
This is the most obvious one on the list of squat benefits, but it certainly has to be mentioned.
Squats allow you to handle a large amount of weight and are an incredibly effective means of stimulating size and strength gains throughout your entire lower body. In fact, performing this one lift alone would allow you to develop a very impressive lower body even if you never included any other exercises at all.
Research has shown that strength is gained the fastest on the movement that is positioned first in the workout, and I’d suggest placing a basic barbell squat into this slot in order to get the very most out of the exercise.
2 – Highly efficient.
While the quadriceps are the primary targeted muscle here, squats hammer a wide variety of major muscle groups all at the same time.
What do squats work? Along with building size and strength in your quads, you’ll also be significantly activating your glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors, abdominals, obliques and even your calves to a degree.
There’s simply no other exercise out there that allows you to train your lower body as efficiently as a basic squat will.
Because of the many muscles that are involved, squats allow you to achieve progressive overload at a relatively fast pace in comparison to other lifts, which is the most important factor of all when it comes to adding muscle size.
This is especially true if you’re a beginner, in which case you should be able to add more weight to your squats pretty much every single week for a fairly lengthy period of time before reaching any sort of strength plateau.
3 – Reduces injury risk.
Long gone are the days of avoiding squats because they’re “bad” for your knees and lower back. In fact, as long as you execute your squats using proper form and technique, the literal opposite is true. This is one of the many important benefits of squats that is often over-looked.
The majority of athletic injuries occur as a result of weak connective tissues, ligaments and stabilizing muscles, and squats help to strengthen all of these smaller structures to give you a strong and sturdy foundation that is less susceptible to injuries.
Any serious lifter should focus on strengthening both the muscles and the supporting structures as a long term strategy for consistent, injury free progress.
4 – Improves core strength.
Throughout an entire squat, the muscles of your core are forced to work extra hard to keep your body upright and to support your lower back.
This improves your overall core strength, which:
– Carries over to improved strength and performance on other compound exercises. – Protects your lower back from injury. – Stimulates muscle growth in your abdominals and obliques.
5 – Increases mobility and flexibility.
Full range of motion squats not only add muscle onto your entire lower body, but they also improve overall flexibility and mobility as an added bonus by increasing the range of motion of your ankles, knees, hips and lower back.
This improvement in flexibility and mobility will carry over to many other exercises and regular day to day activities, which further reduces your chances injury and improves overall performance.