Corey Grant PT Coach
Shut up and Train

The Mighty Squat

In my first article I dubbed the Deadlift to be the King of all exercises, well I lied, kind of. There are Two kings of the ring sort of speak when it comes to the Iron game and I’m here to introduce the Deadlifts twin brother, the Mighty Squat

Ill begin with a small Poem…

Down this road, in a gym far away,

a young man was heard to say,

“no matter what i do, my legs won’t grow”

he tried leg extensions, leg curls, and leg presses , too

trying to cheat, these sissy workouts he’d do.

from the corner of the gym where the big men train,

through a cloud of chalk and the midst of pain

where the noise is made with big forty fives,

a deep voice bellowed as he wrapped his knees.

a very big man with legs like trees.

laughing as he snatched another plate from the stack

chalking his hands and monstrous back,

said, “boy, stop lying and don’t say you’ve forgotten,

the trouble with you is you ain’t been SQUATTIN’. ”

Yes yes yes, The All Mighty Squat, when you absolutely have to annihilate every muscle fiber in your Legs, accept no substitutes, lets peer a little bit deeper into this wonderful exercise.

What is a Squat?

Well it is basically that. The traditional Squat is performed with the bar across the shoulders and lower yourself to the desired position then return to the upright position, it is the end all be all when it comes to total and complete leg development, do not let anyone else tell you otherwise.

What muscles do the Squat work?

Very similarly to the Deadlift there is almost no single muscle that is left untouched with the squat. The Primary Muscles are very similar to the Deadlift with one new big component. The Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Glutes are the primary muscles hit by the squat. Also the muscles in the hips, the Adductors and Abductors Your Spinal Erectors and Abs also get hit heavily in supporting the weight as well ur calves and upper back for further stabilization of the weight.

So what is the Big Deal Anyways?

The Squat is a huge deal because it works the largest most powerful muscle groups of the body, the Legs

Women: This is your god send. The deadlift works wonders for your backside, the Squat is more of a total leg developer. Allowing you to get stronger and better looking legs. Not only will it improve your quality of life but will also fill your dresser drawer with those nice short Daisy Duke jean shorts you all so love to sport during the warm summer months

Guys: This is your god send as well. I know I know, you want PECS, and ABS, and GUNS!! Believe it or not the Squat can give you better development in the upper body as well, a bit more on that in a moment. Not only will the squat build your legs but it will also build your metal. Nothing reveals more character and intestinal fortitude than strapping some iron across your shoulder and squatting it a number of times, nothing can compare to the results it can give you in the gym

Why Does it Work so well?

Just as with the Deadlift the Squat is a very natural and primal motion. Akinned to bending over and picking something up (deadlift) crouching at the hip then returning to an upright position (squatting) is just as vital a movement in human kinematics. No matter what your goals are the squat should be a staple of your leg routine and fitness regiment.

The reason the squat works so well is because it works so many muscles to such a taxing degree. When it comes to what ever goal, Fat loss, Strength building, Muscle Building, or Athletic Performance the key degree of weight training is muscle stimulation. The Legs make up over 65% of the total muscle mass of your body, sorry guys, ur arms and chest make up less than 10%. After a workout your body goes into a mode of muscle repair. Now while repairing these muscles the body has to release growth hormones in order to repair those damaged fibers. The body has such a massive release of growth hormone that it can carry over to the upper body helping it further grow as well, thats the good news guys.

If your goal is fat loss, you want to stimulate as much muscle as possible to elicit a higher calorie burn to help shed those unwanted excess pounds, my prescription, Squat

If you want to get Stronger you have to build your legs up in order to develop full over all total body strength, my prescription Squat

If you want to build muscle, you want to stimulate as much muscle as possible and elicit as much growth hormone release as possible, my prescription Squat

If you want to perform better athletically you need strong legs, my prescriptions Squat

Ladies I hear you, lets chat…

Ladies, listen to me for a second, kick your guys out of the room, Men skip this section I need to talk with my females at this point in time. Ok ladies, I can sense your fears and concern. You don’t want hulking mounds of muscle, you don’t want to be looking like a man, or those freakish “ladies” you see in those magazines. I have some good news for you, you lack two things that will prevent that from happening. The first is the lack of Testosterone. Testosterone is the Hormone in men that allows them to build muscle more rapidly than women, you only have a fraction of the hormone Testosterone and it is basically impossible for you to get that size. The women you see in the magazines all have artificially injected testosterone into there bodies to build the muscle they have. So unless you plan on injecting some Testosterone into your body anytime soon you don’t have a single thing to worry about. The second thing is genetics. Even tho men have testosterone, very few, I’m speaking in the 1% range have the actual genetic potential to build the large quantities of muscle as the guys in the magazines. Even the guys in the magazines need enhancement of steroids and artificial Testosterone in order to achieve their levels of hyper muscularity. Now what you do have to look forward to is being the envy of all of your friends, while all of your female counter parts are hiding there legs you are showing off your gorgeous set which have been built from doing your squats. Muscle helps burn fat and keeps the body strong and lean and the Squat is a wonderful way to do this. Also as a side note many woman don’t know. The Severity of PMS symptoms is directly correlated to the amount of body fat a woman carries. The more fat, the more severe the symptoms, the less fat the less the symptoms. Some women can actually get so lean there body no longer has a cycle due to lack of body fat, its a biological protection factor Ill delve into in a later article. So don’t worry about becoming ms She-Hulk, All you have to gain is an incredible set of legs and lighter PMS symptoms, is there anything the Squat cant do!!!

The Bio Mechanics of a Squat: (Warning science info, ill keep it simple but still give it respect, if its not your cup of tea, feel free to scroll to the performance section, but if you want to increase your overall knowledge, and i hope you do, feel free to join me)

The squat just like the Deadlift is a Hip Dominant movement. Many people will say “no it hits your quads more so therefore its a quad dominant movement” Let me tell you they are wrong, due to the loading vectors of the lift and degree of hip to knee motion this labels the Squat as a Hip dominant exercise

The two primary motions achieved in the Squat is Hip Extension and Knee extension. As you descend you flex your hips and knee, and when you ascend you “extend” those same joints, pretty easy right? As i explained in the Deadlift article Glutes and Hamstrings are involved in Hip Extension, but now a new player comes in with the knee Extension and its the Quadriceps, which are those big muscles in the front of your legs. Because of this uniqueness this allows the Squat to be a better overall leg Developer than the Deadlift and allows it to illicit so many gains in all areas of your body. Now the science overview is done lets get into how to execute this great exercise.

Squat Execution

1 The Set Up:

There is an old saying “if you fail to set up your set up to fail” Just as with the Deadlift it is absolutely critical to get a proper set up in the Squat. First is positioning the Bar the proper height in the rack, which is generally about your chest level. First grasp the bar with a comfortable grip. For a lot of people this is different depending on the flexibility of your shoulders, Rule of thumb is start with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, and see how it feels until you find a comfortable position. The optimal position is the hands just outside of the shoulders as close to the body as possible. It will take some practice and flexibility work to get the hands as close to the body as possible.

Now with the bar in hand walk yourself under the bar, and you go under pinch your shoulder blades together to create a “Groove”. This is known as the special place you can set the bar on your shoulders in total comfort without pain. Many people think this is on the shoulders, its for most people slightly lower on the shoulders, in some extreme cases it on the upper back, but for most people its on the lower shoulders. Pinching of the shoulder blades together will buff up the Trapezius muscles (upper back) in order to hold and support the weight. The best place for it to be is where it is most comfortable, this will take some practice. Many people will try to go to a bar pad for this, and I do not recommend this at all for one simple reason, Physics. When you place the bar on the pad, you make the bar rest higher, which raises your center of gravity, and makes the exercise more difficult to perform. Now if you just must feel free, but i highly advocate going pad-less

Now you got the bar positioned on your shoulders, then just as with the deadlifts you want to pull your shoulders back and down, creating a good strong natural arch in the back and this will tighten those back muscle to get ready to “shoulder the load” sort of speak. Then bring your feet under you about shoulder width apart and toes pointing straight. Now you fill you abdomen with air and tighten those abs and gently lift the weight off of the pins and proceed to walk back.

The walkout is where so many people lose it. Ive seen people take 5,6,7 steps back for the walk out, they are nowhere near the squatting cage any more and they have wasted a great deal of energy walking back. Your Walk out should be three steps. One step back, other leg out, then the other leg out and straighten your toes. This lessens the energy expended also will keep you within the safety of the cage.

So now you have the weight on your shoulders, your body is primed and ready to go, your ready to do a squat.

2. The Descent:

This is where I see the most mistakes in the squat. People try to squat down and there knees go to far forward and they don’t hit depth and it just looks ugly and painful. The key to remember about the Squat is that you squat back, not down. Envision yourself sitting back in a chair. So the first joint to move should be your hips. Your hips go back as you stick your butt out to start your descent then your keens begin to bend. Lower yourself under control, feel yourself sit back but keep the weight over your center, feel those glutes and hamstrings stretch into the load and feel those quads fire to stabilize that knee. Keep your knees over your feet, be watchful as to not to let them drift past your toes, because this can cause shear forces within the knee which can lead to trouble down the road. As you descend you also want to focus on keeping that chest up. If performed in a mirror you should be able to read your shirt, no excessive forward lean. Also you should be focusing on keeping those abs as tight as possible creating a great deal of abdominal pressure. Remember you want to push out on your abs, not suck in. Pushing out helps keep your torso stable under the load.  Then you lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then you begin to reverse the action.

3 The Ascent:

Now your in the bottom position of the squat, you got the weight on your shoulders, you chest is up and you are at parallel now you have to lift it back up. Start this by driving your feet into the floor, and squeezing those glutes and hamstrings to lift your hips out of the hole, once your thigh comes above parallel you will feel your quads begin to kick in as you start to straighten the knee out, keep driving and keep pushing, squeeze those glutes and quads, all the way up to the locked out position, when at the top, be sure to fully squeeze the glutes through the full range of motion to fully complete the lift. Now repeat steps 2 and 3 for the given number of desired reps, then walk the bar back to the pins and set it down. Congratulations you have completed your first set of Squats!!

Common Myths and Frequently Asked Questions

Albeit as great an exercise the squat is there are a countless number of fabrications and falsehoods going around the fitness world about this exercise, I will do my best to tackle some of the more common ones.

1. “I heard from my Trainer at Planet Fitness that Squats are bad for your knees”

First off get yourself out of Planet Fitness and into a real gym where people want to really do something about there bodies. Second that is flat out wrong wrong wrong. When done properly squats are very healthy for knees. Most of common knee problems stem from hip weakness and squats are a great way to strengthen the hip stabilization muscles and give you stronger healthier knees. Squats hurting knees stem from bad squat execution. Primarily not sitting back into the squat and allowing the knees to go over the toes, creating shear forces and causing knee issues, when done with proper form, squats are perfectly safe for the knees.

2. “I also heard from my trainer at Planet Fitness that Squats are bad for your lower back”

Again get the hell out of Planet Fitness. Also again they are wrong. Just as with the knees when done with good form Squats are perfectly safe for your lower back. That is the reason for the emphasis on keeping a good natural arch, sitting back, keeping your chest up and keeping the abdomen tight. These help protect the lower back and allow them to properly function in their kinetic chain to perform the lift. Now when these cues are not watched and form gets sloppy, you can wreck your lower back, but when properly done squats are safe for that as well

3. “Hey I read in last months issue of Muscle and Fiction that Leg Press is just as good as the Squat”

Sorry to break your little heart, Muscle and Fiction is wrong, the Leg Press does not compare with the Squat for total development for several reasons. 1 The leg press generally has a shorter range of motion which means less muscle stimulation. Even if a guy brings his knees all the way to his chest he does not get the full range he would get from a full squat, not to mention most people do 2 inch knee bends on the Leg Press anyways. 2. Your body is not supporting the weight and losing the advantages of balancing and stabilization as well as neural-muscular coordination. The Squat simply works more muscles. Also in the Leg press the Lower back is fixed against a pad not allowing it to properly flex as it should when deep hip and knee extension occurs, which makes it a highly unnatural movement which increases the risk of injury. Now the Leg press is not a total useless exercise, it has its place to which ill delve into in another article as well, but when it tries to compare to squats its not even close.

4. “Squats suck, they are hard and they hurt”

Well no shit Sherlock. Its a tough exercise, if it were easy everyone would be doing it. You know whats easy? Buying fast food, being on a couch, and watching TV. Squats are hard. Developing a nice body takes some work and some effort, and your hard work will be rewarded if you put the time in with the squat. You will be healthier, leaner, and stronger and have more self confidence than you can ever imagine. Nothing brings out the character of an individual than a hard set of Squats

5. “How low do I need to go”

There is an old Powerlifting saying “Depth before Dishonor”. Basically saying go as low as you can go and keep good form. The base line is parallel to the floor, but if you can go lower and maintain a flat back then by all means. If you can not go that low, work on your flexibility and mobility

6. “Ive been doing squats for a while and now my legs and butt are too full and nice for my jeans”

Quit your belly aching and enjoy the rewards of some diligent squat work, treat yourself to some new clothes, you have earned it.

Well that wraps it up for this article, I covered the main basics, the next article I will cover some squat variations and how to implement them into your routine

I shall leave you with another poem

he Mighty Squat By; Joe Skopec

We’ve come to squat so run and hide

You bicep freaks must step aside

Just take your sissy selves elsewhere

You’ll turn your heads but still you’ll stare

Go right ahead and pay attention

Glimpse into this strange dimension

Yeah you’re still weak and never grow

This world of pain you’ll never know

Your shouts upon the leg-press, phony!

Noodle legs like macaroni

Some day I hope you’ll understand

And wrench free from the poser band

Puny curl bars, leave this spot

The rack named for the mighty SQUAT

Until next time

Ignite the Fire in your life

-Corey Grant

P.S. Go deep or go home

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