Do you really need to squat? - Fabio Bonanno

Do you really need to squat?

Squats

Prescribed as the Holy Grail of exercises.

Done correctly, they require leg strength, joint mobility, stability and strength, core strength as well as upper back mobility and strength too.

So, do you really need to squat?

Not everyone can

I just touched above on doing an exercise correctly.

That can be left to interpretation.

Not everyone has the same standards and that’s why you see so many variations of squats in the gym.

Some are full range squats with bums touching heels.

Some are quarter squats with the bar loaded and usually a pad on the neck.

You should be able to squat without weight

If you can’t squat normally without weight, why would you add weight?

The prerequisite for doing squats should be that you can get down past 90 degrees at the knee without looking like you have the weight of the world on your back.

To do this, you would need good ankle mobility as well as the rest of the leg, adequate core control and good thoracic mobility too (your spine at your rib cage).

There’s a little more to it than that but this blog isn’t about a full biomechanical breakdown of the squat.

If you can squat then there are some benefits.

Why are squats supposed to be so good?

Due to the nature of having a bar on your back with a lot of weight, squats require your whole body to be working.

Having lots of muscles contracting and working at the same time has been shown to elevate testosterone and growth hormone, two important hormones for muscle gain and strength.

Having more muscle allows you to lift more weight and burn more Calories.

As long as you treat squats with respect and do them correctly, you will reap the rewards.

How to squat

The basics of a squat are as follows (I’ll be talking about the back squat here, there’s a few variations.)

  • Spot the middle of the bar and grab it with a grip around shoulder width, maybe a little wider. Everyone has a different structure so your grip will be individual to you. The reason you do this part first is because shoulder mobility can effect hand placement after you get under the bar.
  • Load the bar on your upper back close to the neck. Pick a position you feel comfortable with.
  • Confidently take 1 step (no more needed, too many people taking 5 steps away and wasting energy) away from the rack and set your feet around shoulder width apart. Again, there’s other variations beyond the scope of this blog.
  • When you’re ready you’re going to take a huge deep breath, filling the lungs with air and brace your whole body, squeezing the bar down onto your back and keeping your core strong.
  • At this point you drive the hips backwards and start the decent.
  • Allow your knees to bend and go as low as you comfortably can.
  • Ensure the knee are tracking in the same line as the feet are facing.
  • When you reach the bottom, drive your weight through your heels/mid foot and return to the top

As I wrote those points I realised how complex it can be.

I just have to put a disclaimer at this stage that you should always consult an exercise professional to coach you through good technique. Injuries are horrible and you should never be lifting weight beyond your physical capabilities.

Is it for you?

If you don’t feel like something is right then it might not be for you.

Ankles or knees caving in,

Can’t keep your back straight,

Pain in any part of your body

Lack of control,

Heels coming up off the ground,

Forward lean.

The list goes on.

The problems can be any number of things from poor mobility to lack of strength in the appropriate muscle groups.

If you can’t squat then there’s plenty of other alternatives.

What else is good?

There’s lot of other good exercises as a substitute to help develop strength.

These aren’t as good as the skills you need to squat but can help.

Things like a leg press can help if squats give you pain. The issue is that you become reliant on a machine to develop strength which is never good.

Machines serve a purpose but if you have issues with squatting then always work on those issues while the machine helps you build strength.

Other exercises like split squats, lunges, leg extension, leg curl, deadlifts and glute bridges can all help build the supporting muscle groups.

What to do from here

If you’re unsure of whether to squat in your workouts, you should hire a goofd PT or coach (contact me here).

If you don’t feel relatively confident, there’s a high chance of injury and it might stop you coming back and making more progress.

Squats can be performed with low reps and high weight (1-5 reps) to lighter and moderate weight for higher reps (5-25 reps+).

It is completely goal dependant and you should put in varieties of squats and rep ranges planned in a periodised and progressive manor to see progress.

To summarise

Squats are great but not for everyone.

If you want an exercise to master that will give you lots of functional benefits through your life as well as positive body composition results, get some squats in your workout.

If you need help, hire a coach that is good at teaching the basics. They don’t have to be an olympic caliber coach, just someone who cares and wont mess you up.

About the Author fabiobonanno

Fabio is a health and wellness coach that changes business mens life without sacrificing the things they love.

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