Date: 15th December 2018
Author: Mark Wood
If I could only ever do one exercise for the rest of my life to get maximum results, what would I choose? The squat! The squat is a fantastic exercise; it targets all the muscles in the lower body whilst also adding some strength and stability to the abdomen and lower back area. The squat also gets a large amount of upper body muscles engaged too. Here are just a few benefits to show why everyone should be including squats into their training routine.
Increase strength & power
Squatting should be one of the fundamental exercises for anyone looking to increase their strength. They have been proven to significantly increase lower body strength and power. This can have a whole range of benefits from those looking to improve sporting performance to those just looking to improve their lifestyle so that everyday tasks such as climbing stairs become easier.
If you want to run faster, whether you are a distance runner or a sprinter, then you should be squatting. The speed at which you run is heavily influenced by your ability to apply force into the ground. To run faster, you need to apply more force. The best way to do this is to strengthen the lower body. Using squats to train the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes will allow you produce more ground reaction forces. For those who are distance runners, if you increase you 1RM on a squat then you will also improve you run time. Think of it this way. If you weight 70kg and have a 1RM back squat of 70kg then you are going to have to recruit more motor units and create a higher energy cost in order to propel yourself forward when running compared to someone who also weights 70kg but has 1RM on a squat of 120kg.
Increase muscle size
Squats are a great way to increase size of muscle tissue, not only in them legs, but also all over the human body. Developing muscle mass heavily relies on hormonal responses from exercise. Testosterone and growth hormone are two of the major muscle building hormones in the body. Squatting heavy and engaging the large muscles around the hips will mean you begin to produce huge amounts of testosterone. This release will also have a positive impact of other muscles as it flows through the blood stream. Combining this with some lighter load and higher reps will mean you start to feel a burning sensation within the legs, this burning sensation come from the build up of lactate within the muscle. When the body produces a build up of lactic acid you subsequently get a release of growth hormone. This just like testosterone is fantastic for this individuals looking to gain some muscle mass.
Torch calories and body fat
I want you to try something for me. After completing a thorough warm up, walk into a squat rack, load the bar with what is the heaviest amount of load you can possibly lift for 5 reps. Complete 4-5 sets of 5 reps whilst only taking around 120 seconds rest between these sets and tell me how you feel. I guess you are going to feel extremely worn out and needing to sit down for a few minutes ‘to catch your breath’. Completing this type of session will make the body move away from its safe environment of homeostasis and enter into EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption) meaning the body will need to take on additional oxygen to help you recover. This is accompanied by elevated consumption of fuels, particularly from fat stores. Using a tabata protocol for squatting (20secs all out / 10secs rest x 8) has been shown to elevate EPOC for up to 48 hours post exercise.
Here are list of squat variation exercises you can try to help you. Also included is a strength continuum chart to help you ensure you are working at the correct intensity, with the correct load, at the correct pace and with adequate amounts of rest depending on what you goal is.
Bulgarian Split Squat
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