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by David Sautter

If you are like me, you are constantly searching for the latest research on health and fitness. You dread the day that your favorite exercise will be listed as the number one culprit for a bad back, worn knees, or strained neck. You hold your breath and thankfully the news never arises. In your studies, I am certain that the squat was the subject of debate for most of the forums and amateur websites out there. Professional bodybuilders and those on the road to the stage will defend the squat as if it were a king in the realm of bodybuilding… Which it absolutely is. Most of the time, the negative feedback that you see plastered on message boards is the result of poor form and a big ego. Do any type of lift the wrong way with more weight than you can handle and what do you think will happen? The squat is a vital exercise. Now let’s review why.

squat photo: Squat squat.jpg

With the squat you get the most bang for your buck. While it predominantly works the quadriceps, the squat also activates the following:
– Hamstrings
– Calves
– Abdominals
– Lower back
– Traps
– Arms (To an extent – Holding up the weight from the keeps your arms tense)

That one move covers most of your body. Not too shabby, eh?

Gentlemen, for those of you who are attempting to add size, look no further than the squat. When you exercise the largest muscle groups first (quads, chest, and back), the amount of growth hormone released is far greater than compared with that of isolation exercises (curls, extensions). Increased levels of growth hormone means you better start shopping for the next shirt size up.

barbell photo: barbell barbell.jpg

Anyone can rave about the benefits of the squat, but it is worthwhile to address the concerns surrounding the negative feedback on the matter. The number one complaint about the squat is knee and back injuries. This is, without a doubt, caused by improper form while completing the exercise.

Two extremely important rules:

1.) Do not let your knees extend over your toes. Slightly over (And I do mean slightly) isn’t a problem but when your knee is double the length of your foot, that’s big trouble. That position alone is already straining the knee as it is. Throw weight on top of that and what you’ve got is the infamous knee pain that inexperienced lifters keep talking about.

2.) Do not arch your back. This should be common sense but you would be amazed at the number of people that you see trying to imitate Elvis while they have 145 lbs on their back. A good way to avoid this: As you are getting into position to lift the weight, make sure that you tighten up your core. This will help stabilize the bar during the movement.

If there were only 4 exercises that you could perform for the rest of your life, the squat should be your number one. It utilizes the greatest number of muscles and gives you the results. As long you are willing to put in the effort, keep your form perfect, and don’t let your head over inflate, the squat will become your favorite exercise.