For those of you who happen to take your training seriously, you’ll likely fall into one of two categories:
Category one will be that you hate leg day and can’t wait to get it out of the way so that you can get back to training chest and arms.
Category two will be that you love leg day, you love the crippling leg DOMS the next day and you can’t wait to get your upper body training out of the way so that you can get back to training your legs and lower body.
Leg day for a lot of people is either a training day that is loved, or loathed, and regardless of what you think of it, it’s a day that must be included in any training regime in order to get the most from your workouts.
You can’t talk about leg day without talking about squats, which is what we’re going to be looking at in today’s article as we’ll be listing 17 sensational benefits of squats.
- 1 What Are Squats?
- 2 A Brief History Of Squats:
- 3 What Are The Health Benefits Of Squats?
- 3.1 1. Squats Burn Fat
- 3.2 2. Squats Are A Functional Exercise
- 3.3 3. Squats Build Up Your Legs
- 3.4 4. Squats Help To Prevent Injuries
- 3.5 5. Squats Build A Shapely Booty
- 3.6 6. Squats Can Be Done In A Variety Of Different Ways
- 3.7 7. Squats Can Be Done With Free Weights Or Machines
- 3.8 8. Squats Build Overall Strength
- 3.9 9. Squats Will Help You With Your Other Lifts
- 3.10 10. Squats Do Not Require Any Additional Equipment
- 3.11 11. Squats Can Be Done At Home
- 3.12 12. Squats Promote Mobility
- 3.13 13. Squats Can Strengthen Your Core
- 3.14 14. Squats Make You Look Like A Beast
- 3.15 15. The Squat Rack Is Nearly Always Empty
- 3.16 16. Squats Will Prevent People From Curling In The Squat Rack
- 3.17 17. Squats Promote Muscle Growth
- 4 Final Thoughts:
What Are Squats?
Okay, so we’ve bigged up squats quite a bit already, and have talked about how wonderful they are on leg day, but precisely what are squats and what makes them so great on leg day?
There are many variations of squats, but the variants we’re talking about today are known as high bar squats, or sometimes barbell back squats.
Basically, these versions of squats are a compound lower body exercise designed to work your hamstrings, your glutes, your quads, and even your calves, while improving overall strength and power.
Basically, the participant will place a barbell across the trapezius muscle located across the top of the shoulders, and then in a slow and controlled manner, will squat down with the bar across their shoulders, and then slowly stand back up again and repeat over again for as many reps as required.
A Brief History Of Squats:
Known as the ‘king of lower body exercises’ the squat is a compound exercise included in virtually every bodybuilder and weightlifter’s routine.
But where did squats originate and why are they so popular now?
Well, let’s go back to the 1800s, and find out more about a certain Eugene Sandow.
Eugene Sandow is known as the father of bodybuilding, and despite being famous for his overhead pressing and power exercises, he also reported squatting.
He wrote an 1894 book called ‘Sandow’s System of Physical Culture’ in which he wrote about performing a then-unknown exercise which we now know as the squat. He reportedly learned how to squat from his mentor, a strongman, and teacher known as Professor Louis Attila.
The key difference between Sandow’s version and the high bar squat is the fact that Sandow performed his with dumbbells hanging by his sides, and with very light weights for a high volume of reps.
A German wrestler and strongman by the name of Henry ‘Milo’ Steinborn, was probably the first man to glamorize maxing out with squats, and really pack weight onto the bar to develop muscle mass and strength.
Steinborn developed the ‘Steinborn squat’ which is a variant of the squat whereby the lifter stands a loaded barbell up vertically, tips it onto their back, squats for reps and then tips the barbell back over onto the opposite side.
He lifted over 500-pounds for reps, which is still today an incredible feat.
Incidentally, the current world record holder for this variant of the squat is 2019 World’s Strongest Man winner, Martins Licis, who squatted an unbelievable 565-pounds.
By the 1970s, most bodybuilders from the Golden Era of bodybuilding were squatting heavy for leg development, including bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ed Corney, who would regularly pass out while training for the Mr. Olympia contest with Arnie.
It is perhaps Tom Platz, who really showcased the importance of the barbell high bar squat for leg development, however, as he had arguably the best set of legs in the history of the sport of bodybuilding, and he was a firm believer in squats.
Platz learned to squat from Olympic lifters, and placed an emphasis on perfect form and getting plenty of depth with each rep.
It obviously worked for him, as his legs were insane!
What Are The Health Benefits Of Squats?
If you don’t yet do squats, here are several reasons why you might want to start including them in your workouts asap.
1. Squats Burn Fat
Unless you’re blessed with a metabolism like a furnace, chances are that despite how fit and healthy you may be, you’ll have wanted to lose some weight at some point in your life.
The simple fact of the matter is that people struggle with their weight and it’s unfortunately much easier to gain weight than it is to lose it.
If you are looking to lose weight, though, don’t assume that you simply need exercise bikes and treadmills to get leaner because it turns out that squats are also very beneficial.
One of the main benefits is the fact that exercise is so effective for people who are looking to burn fat and get in shape.
Squats are physically demanding as they recruit several muscle groups at once, which means that you work harder, and if you work harder you burn off more calories.
2. Squats Are A Functional Exercise
Another of the sensational benefits we’re going to look at today is the fact that squats are considered to be a functional exercise.
A functional exercise is basically an exercise that can be deemed helpful outside of the gym in the outside world.
As an example, a bicep curl may look impressive, but there aren’t too many everyday activities that will require you to perform a bicep curl.
Squats, however, are a different story.
We perform squats when we bend down to tie our laces, we squat down to pick things up, we squat down to sit down, we squat to go to the bathroom, and a whole lot more besides.
Performing squats in the gym will therefore improve your functional strength and fitness.
3. Squats Build Up Your Legs
As we mentioned in the intro, you can’t talk about training legs and not talk about the many benefits.
Squats are synonymous with leg training for a very good reason.
That reason is that they train the legs hard.
When you perform squats, you’ll work on your hamstrings, your glutes, your quads, and your calves which, over time, will help you to build a set of wheels that Tom Platz himself would be envious of.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but you get what we’re trying to say.
4. Squats Help To Prevent Injuries
Another reason to consider performing more squats on a regular basis is because of the fact that squats can help to prevent injuries.
Squats are a functional movement, as previously mentioned, and doing them can help to strengthen muscles and joints in the body which would ordinarily become susceptible to injury.
Athletes for example, often pull or tear their hamstrings, yet if you do squats you can strengthen your hammies to reduce the likelihood of an injury.
5. Squats Build A Shapely Booty
Whether you’re a guy or a gal, squat booties are officially in fashion so if you want to build a booty that would help put last year’s ‘rear of the year’ to shame, go ahead and perform more squats.
Squats help to target your glutes, aka your butt muscles, and over time, squats can help you to build around and shapely peach-like behind that would look out of this world in a pair of leggings or pilates, yoga, and Zumba pants.
6. Squats Can Be Done In A Variety Of Different Ways
When you think of squats, which variation do you think of?
For most people, it’s the barbell behind the neck back squat that springs to mind, and while that is indeed a popular choice, there’s so much more to choose from.
Each variation of this exercise is useful because it works on a slightly different part of the anatomy and provides slightly different benefits to the ones we’re usually used to.
7. Squats Can Be Done With Free Weights Or Machines
As we just spoke about, there are plenty of different squats variations to choose from, which is why people find them so beneficial.
Barbell back squats are the most popular and are the most likely to be seen done by bodybuilders, strongmen, CrossFit athletes, and powerlifters when training, though you can also use other pieces of kit to do them.
You can do kettlebell squats, dumbbell squats, hex bar squats, safety bar squats, and a whole lot more besides, and that’s just with free weights.
In terms of machines, you can perform hack squats, you can use a squat machine, or you could even use a smith machine if you can nail your form correctly.
8. Squats Build Overall Strength
When people talk about the benefits, they often focus solely on the aesthetic benefits, rather than the strength and functionality-based benefits.
Squats are fantastic compound exercises for increasing overall strength and power.
Squats help to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers in the legs which generate explosive speed and power.
They also help to strengthen your core and core stabilizer muscles, which help generate overall strength and power.
There’s a reason why powerlifters and strongmen perform squats on a weekly basis, and it isn’t to show off and show people how much they can lift.
9. Squats Will Help You With Your Other Lifts
Another of the awesome benefits we can’t overlook today is the fact that squats can serve as an amazing accessory exercise that will help you with your other lifts.
If for example, your overhead press is lacking, training squats is hugely beneficial because squats help strengthen your legs.
Many overhead presses and similar lifts require a certain amount of leg drive to help thrust the bar overhead, and the more power the legs can generate, the more power you can generate to press the bar.
Squats will also help you to lift more weight with your legs, so you’ll be able to leg press more weight, hamstring curl more weight, and lunge with more additional resistance.
10. Squats Do Not Require Any Additional Equipment
Okay, if you want to perform hack squats, or squats with free weights, you will need some equipment, but what about if you don’t have access to this kit at a gym and you don’t have the kit at home?
No problem, just go ahead and perform bodyweight squats.
Bodyweight squats basically require you to squat over and over with nothing but your own bodyweight for resistance.
It sounds easy, and to start with it will feel easy, but the more reps you do the stronger the burn will feel, and before you know it you’ll have leg DOMS that will rival those achieved at any regular gym.
11. Squats Can Be Done At Home
If you enjoy training at a gym and have access to a gym with plenty of gym kits, great, your leg training days will rock.
If not, though, you can still train your lower body with squats, from the comfort of your own home.
As mentioned, you can perform bodyweight squats, but if you want to add some weights, you can do dumbbell or kettlebell squats, or even barbell squats at home.
You can purchase free weights for use at home for very reasonable prices, which will work just as well as an expensive kit down at the gym.
Just note that it is worth investing in a power rack or squat rack if you are planning on squatting fairly heavily at home.
Remember, safety should always come first when training.
12. Squats Promote Mobility
If your mobility and range of motion are lacking, you may want to include some more squats into your everyday training regime.
Squats help to enhance lower body strength, as well as core strength, which in turn means they’re great for mobility.
Not only that, but squats also help to strengthen the joints which can prevent joint issues that would also hinder mobility and range of motion.
13. Squats Can Strengthen Your Core
We’ve mentioned how squats strengthen the core a few times already, but now we’re going to elaborate on that in more detail.
One of the biggest benefits is the fact that they strengthen your core by recruiting core stabilizer muscles during the movement.
This will not only help to build a strong and powerful core, but it will also help you to work on your abs so if your body fat gets low enough you’ll also be able to rock an awesome six-pack.
14. Squats Make You Look Like A Beast
As you progress with your squats and get bigger and stronger, you’ll find that you can lift more weight and put more plates on the bar.
Sure, being able to bench 3 plates a side is cool, but squatting upwards of 4 plates a side is really where it’s at.
As the saying goes ‘if the bar ain’t bending, you’re just pretending’ and while that saying isn’t true, it’s certainly cool to be able to squat several plates and it’ll certainly drum up a few likes on Instagram.
15. The Squat Rack Is Nearly Always Empty
As you know, finding an empty bench for bench pressing on a Monday is like trying to find a healthy meal in a fast-food outlet.
Finding a free squat rack, however, is much easier because the simple truth is that a lot of gymgoers will rarely train their legs and if they do, squats will likely not be a part of the itinerary.
When you’re looking to bench press on a Monday and are in a rush, a lack of free benches can be annoying but thankfully when you squat, you won’t have to worry about that as the squat rack is nearly always empty.
16. Squats Will Prevent People From Curling In The Squat Rack
If you really want to tick off an OG powerlifter or bodybuilder, just head over to the nearest squat rack, pick up a barbell, and start busting out a series of bicep curls in it.
This next example of one of the benefits is only a bit of fun, but if you take up the squat rack and start squatting in it like you’re supposed to, you’ll prevent a chicken-legged gym bro from curling in the squat rack.
Also, you can discover more about Squat Vs Deadlift differences.
17. Squats Promote Muscle Growth
It isn’t just your legs that will become bigger and stronger when squatting, as it turns out that so too will the rest of your body as well.
Squats are ideal for people looking to build overall muscle mass as they’re a compound exercise that recruits multiple muscles at once.
Furthermore, squats have also been linked with an increase in hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, which are both highly anabolic and both play a key role in muscle growth and recovery.
So, that brings this look at the sensational benefits of squats to a close.
Hopefully, now that you can see just how effective this exercise is, you’ll stop neglecting your legs and skipping leg days and will start to perform more squats as a part of your weekly training regime.
Squats are tough, but the pros outweigh the cons hugely, so go ahead and see for yourself.