Today I'd like to talk about the barbell squat. Along with the dead
lift, it's credited with packing more muscle onto a skinny person
that any other exercise - bar none. I strongly suggest that you
find a way of incorporating squats or dead lifts of some type into
your bodybuilding routines.
Although squats and dead lifts are thought of as lower body
exercises, they're really total body exercises. They affect the
whole body. If you either squat or dead lift at or near your
limits, you can supercharge your bodybuilding progress. Yet so few
people do either exercise - why?
To be brutally honest it's because they are so hard when taken to
the limit. Some people genuinely can't squat or dead lift for
medical reasons, for example back problems. I certainly wouldn't
want to suggest flat out that they're swinging the lead in the gym,
but if you aren't squatting or doing some form of dead lift once a
week, you really should be unless you really, truly
There are some myths about squatting, one of the biggest being that
it's bad for your knees. If you do them correctly they're actually
good for the knees. If you do them the wrong way, then yes, you can
wreck your knees.
About 15 years ago I went all out to improve my squat, because I'd
heard it would help build muscle, but I was too lazy to find out
how to do it right. I used knee wraps, and I allowed my knees to
travel too far forward in the exercise.
The result was that after 2 months of doing the squat 4 times a
week (makes me cringe to think about it now.) My knees were so
painful that I couldn't get up from the floor without grabbing a
table or whatever was nearest. At the age of 33!
I got an exercise technique book and learned how to squat
correctly. Within another 2 months, by getting rid of the knee
wraps and not letting my knees travel so far forward, I'd almost
completely rehabilitated my knees. So squatting is good for the
Another myth is that they spread the hips, and "I don't want my
arse to get too big". This is complete crap! Unless you're still
growing it's physically impossible to spread your hips.
The squat will make your glutes more developed, it's true. But if
you have enormous legs and a non - existent backside trust me you will
look silly! I mentioned in the first issue of this e-zine that the
quickest way to build muscle is to build the biggest muscles in the
body. Stands to reason.
Have you ever seen the guys who are always in the gym, always doing
the bench press or some sort of curl, but you never see them doing
lower body exercise. They will get one of two results:
1) They stay exactly the same size year after year, but they
probably never miss workouts or...
2) They end up with huge arms and a non existent lower body.
Would you want to end up looking like that?
The squat will build the quads (thigh) and glutes (backside)
quicker than anything except the dead lift, and for natural
squatters quicker than any other exercise, period. It will also
build the other muscles in the hips, and it will build the lower
back muscles. These are all among the biggest muscles in the human
The lower back gets built up because although the lower back
muscles aren't being put through a range of motion in the way that
the legs are, you have to use the lower back muscles to stabilise
the entire body as you go up and down. (Known as Isometric
This is sometimes referred to in the exercise technique books as
"staying tight" if that helps you to visualise it better.
Cast your eyes over the short video clip below, this guy's
technique is pretty good:
How To Squat
Points to note:
He sticks his butt out - helps the back to keep straight.
Take a look at his knees at the bottom of the exercise - notice how
they haven't travelled out very far forward past the ends of his
feet, if at all. Protects the knees.
He looks forward and slightly up.
He descends under control.
He breathes in on the way down, and out on the way up. He's only
using a light weight here, as you work up to heavier weights try
and breathe out explosively on the way up, this gives you more
He also makes a very good point about practising the movement
without a weight if you aren't used to squatting, or if you've done
it wrong in the past. To begin with you'll feel silly sticking your
rear-end out as you go down. Hey, deal with it!
Second, doing the movement this way will change your balance. You
may feel like you're going to fall backwards. Stay with it and keep
practising, it will become second nature.
When you get the technique down as above, start with an empty bar,
add weight gradually and this way you will have perfect technique,
which will help you to rocket past your previous best weights in
perfect form without getting injured.
The squat is a brilliant exercise if done properly and with a
proper set up. The old classic weight training programs had warm
ups and then one set of twenty reps - yes, twenty! I've tried this
in a half rack, but didn't dare push it past 200lb because I was so
fatigued by about rep 15 that I didn't want to put myself through
Nowadays I trap bar dead lift instead of squat because I don't have
proper safety equipment to squat hard at home, and the Trap Bar
seems to suit my body better. If I was squatting nowadays I'd shoot
for two sets of 10 rather than 1 set of 20, because I'm a
recreational bodybuilder and 1 @ 20 is brutal.
But the moral of the story is for maximum gains really, really try
to either Trap Bar dead lift, or normal dead lift or squat once a
week for maximum gains - it will really pay off! I know I said it
several times in this issue, it is that important, so do it!
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assume any liability for the information contained herein.
The Information contained herein reflects only the opinion
of the author and is in no way to be considered medical advice.
Specific medical advice should be obtained from a licensed
health care practitioner. Consult your physician before you
begin any nutrition, exercise, or dietary supplement program.