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Exercises to Get Stronger and Build Muscle: #1 The Squat

22nd October 2016

Squats work your whole body. Your legs bend and straighten to move the weight. Your abs and lower back muscles stabilize your trunk while your legs move. Your upper-back, shoulders and arms balance the bar on your back. Many muscles work at the same time, not just your legs. The Squat is the king of all exercises. It works more muscles, with heavier weight, than more popular exercises like the Bench Press. It’s therefore more effective to gain overall strength and muscle quickly. That’s why you’re Squatting 3x/week on the StrongLifts 5×5 workout. Proper Squat form is key to avoid knee and back pain. Don’t do partial Squats by going only half the way down. Break parallel by Squatting down until your hips are below your knees. Push your knees out so they’re inline with you feet. Keep your lower back neutral, don’t let it round.

Squat Benefits
  1. Gain Strength. Strength is your ability to move your body against an external resistance. The bar is on your back when you Squat and gravity pulls it down. Your muscles must generate force against gravity to control the bar on the way down and Squat it back up. Increase your Squat and you increase the strength of your muscles. This strength carries over to daily life and sports because Squats work your whole body.
  2. Build Muscle. Squats work a ton of muscles. Your legs bend, your torso stays tight and your upper-body supports the bar. All these muscles work at the same time to balance and Squat the weight. This releases muscle building hormones like testosterone. The heavier you Squat, the stronger and bigger your muscles become. This delays the loss of lean muscle mass (sarcopenia, 2.5kg/decade over 25y on average).
  3. Burn Fat. You lose fat when your body burns more energy than you eat. Your muscles burn energy to lift weight. Squats burn more energy than any other exercise because they work more muscles and with heavier weights. Heavy Squats also increase your metabolism for hours post workout (EPOC). When you combine this with proper nutrition, Squats will help you burn fat and achieve six pack abs.
  4. Increase Fitness. Your heart is a muscle. Squat strengthen your muscles, including your heart. It makes it more efficient because any activity takes less effort. Walking up stairs or running put less demand on a stronger heart. This decreases your heart rate and blood pressure over time. This in turn increases your cardiovascular fitness. Squatting is good for your heart unlike what some doctors will tell you.
  5. Increase Endurance. Squats strengthen your legs. They make you run faster and longer because each step takes less effort. This doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly run a marathon. But a 5k will be easier. Squats won’t make you slow and bulky. You will gain muscle mass when you double your Squat. But you’ll never gain enough to slow you down. Squatting is more like putting a bigger engine in your car.
  6. Increase Explosiveness. Explosiveness is your ability to generate force fast. In physics this is power: how much work you can do in a given time (P=W/t). Stronger legs can do more work in the same amount of time. The more work you can do in the given time, the more power you have. Squats build explosiveness for sports by increasing power. They don’t make you slow for sports, they make you faster.
  7. Strengthen Bones. Gravity pulls the bar down when you Squat. This compresses everything under the bar. Your bones are living tissues (they heal if they break) which react to this vertical compression by getting stronger. Squats don’t stunt growth. They increase the density of your bones. They make them stronger and less likely to break. This protects you against falls and osteoporosis.
  8. Strengthen Joints. Squats strengthen the muscles around your knee joints, hip joints, ankle joints, spine and so on. It also strengthens your tendons and connective tissues. This creates support for your joints and spine. It protects them against injuries. And it can help you recover from lower back or knee pain. The key is to Squat with proper form so you strengthen your joints instead of stressing them.
  9. Increase Flexibility. Squats won’t make you inflexible and “muscle-bound”. Most people who Squat for the first time realize they’re inflexible because they haven’t Squatted below parallel for years. Squats can’t make you inflexible because you must be flexible to Squat. Squatting each week moves your legs through a full range of motion. This maintains proper hip flexibility which can prevent lower back pain.
  10. Improve Balance. Squats train you to balance the bar while your body moves. This improves your balance and coordination. It also increases your ability to feel your body move through space (proprioception). Squats make you better at sports and learning new skills. They make you less likely to fall when walking up stairs or in the dark. Don’t Squat with machines. Squat free weights so your balance improves.
  11. Build Discipline. Squats are hard. Doing hard things, even when you don’t feel like it, trains the muscle between your ears: your mind. This builds discipline and mental fortitude which is crucial to get results in the gym. It also build discipline that transfers in other areas of your life. It helps you sticking to good nutrition habits, going to bed on time, doing the work, and so on. Squats build discipline.
How to Squat
Squat in the Power Rack for maximum safety. Set the horizontal safety pins so they can catch the bar if you fail to Squat it. Don’t Squat in the smith machine with the bar attached on rails. Machines are ineffective for gaining strength and muscle. And their fixed bar path can injure you. Squat free weights instead using the Power Rack, Squat Rack or Squat Stands. Here’s how to Squat in five simple steps…
  1. Setup. Face the bar. Grab it tight with a medium grip. Put it on your upper-back by dipping under the bar. Raise your chest.
  2. Unrack. Move your feet under the bar. Unrack it by straightening your legs. Step back with straight legs. Lock your hips and knees.
  3. Squat. Take a big breath, hold it and Squat down. Push your knees out while moving your hips back. Keep your lower back neutral. Break Parallel. Squat down until your hips are below your knees. Thighs parallel to the floor isn’t low enough. You must break parallel.
  4. Squat Up. Break parallel then Squat back up. Keep your knees out and chest up. Lock your hips and knees at the top. Breathe.
Squat five reps and then rack the weight. Don’t try to Squat the bar straight into the uprights. You could miss them. Finish your set first by holding the bar with locked hips and knees at the top. Then walk forward until the bar hits the vertical parts of your Power Rack. Your feet will be right under the bar. Now Squat down by bending your legs. The bar will land safely into your uprights.

Read more: http://stronglifts.com/squat/
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