Powerlifters, bodybuilders, athletes and casual worker-outers all believe in the squat, and that is because they work! Squats are not only essential to building a strong lower body, they also tax the cardio vascular system, work the body’s core stabilizer muscles and improve athletic explosiveness.
Here’s our Top 10 reasons why squats should be in everyone’s workout routine.
1. Squats Enhance Core Strength
The classic squat is top-loaded, meaning a barbell placed across your shoulders behind your neck. To hold the bar in place while you perform each squat, your core has to work overtime to maintain an upright posture and prevent injury. Squats are one of the only workouts that will stress your core in this way, and they are very beneficial for anyone looking to strengthen and tone their lower back and stomach. Although it’s not obvious at first glance, heavy compound exercises like squats are great for building 6-pack abs. To really focus on your core, try adding front squats to your routine.
2. Squats Improve 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. Starting at your lower back, through the hip-flexor and down through the glutes, hamstrings and calves, squatting through your full-range of motion can release tension throughout the body. The added benefit: reduced back pain, looser hamstrings, and more flexible hips will make it easier getting around in daily activities.
3. Squats Reduce Chances of Injury
Strengthening the muscles surrounding your knees and hips is an easy 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 protect your lower body.
4. Squats Increase Lower Body Strength
This may seem like common sense, but squatting is one of, if not the best exercise for developing lower-body strength. Although machine exercises like leg curls and leg extensions may target the quads and hamstrings, squats utilize almost every lower-body muscle in unison, which translates to real-world strength. In addition, since you aren’t locked into a machine, you’re also building stability and exposing potential imbalances between your left and right side.
5. Squats Improve 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 up your heart rate and leave your legs burning in no time. Full-body movements like the squat are perfect for saving time, allowing you to get on with life, or squeeze in a few extra bicep curls (to each their own).
6. Squats Burn More Fat
The more muscle we have, the more calories we burn during the day. Squats strengthen multiple large muscle groups at once and require a ton of energy to properly execute. As a result, squats increase the amount of calories we burn during a workout, as opposed to something more static like leg curls or extensions. Plus, the majority of calories burned from working out come after the actual lifting. Since squats require ample energy and effort, the body will be working harder and longer post-workout to repair itself, which increases total energy expenditure. This results with you burning even more calories post-workout, even if you’re just sitting on your couch watching Netflix.
7. Squats Improve Mobility and Balance
Strong legs are crucial for staying mobile as we get older, and squats are phenomenal for increasing leg strength. And as we noted above, by working your core stabilizing muscles, squats will improve your ability to maintain balance. Squats require the entire body to work in unison, which helps improve the communication between your brain and your muscle groups. Maintaining the body’s neurological communication lines helps to prevent falls, which is one of the best ways to prevent bone fractures as we age.
8. Squats Improve Circulation
If you ever experience a ‘dead leg’, numbness, tingling or a feeling of coldness in your extremities, it could be caused by poor circulation. The circulatory system relies heavily on bodily movement to function properly, which is why exercise – including squats – is one of the best preventative or remedial steps you can take for poor circulation. Adding a few sets of squats to your routine will get your heart pounding, your blood pumping and those irritating sensations will soon disappear.
9. Squats Improve Posture
Walk like a superhero with squats! No, really executing a squat with proper form will improve your posture (capes optional). When squatting, every good trainer will tell you to keep your eyes up, shoulders back, chest out, and to maintain the curve in your back, all things that are also needed for good posture. Although squats are generally thought of as a lower body exercise, the upper body’s posture is of the utmost importance – your upper back, lower back, chest, shoulders and stomach all play a role in successful squatting.
10. Squats are a Low Impact Exercise
Many high-impact exercises that involve running or jumping can play havoc with your back, ankles and knees. Squats are the total opposite. Squats are generally done with two feet firmly planted on the ground, with a slow lowering of the weight, and a faster, but controlled movement back to the starting position. When done correctly, squats have been shown to cause no damage to knees, with other studies showing that they can even strengthen the knees.