All great coaches agree that the squat is one of the best exercises you can train. Squats will make any athlete better, but they also have great carryover to daily life activities. Squats are the perfect movement for everyone to include in their exercise regimen.
#1: Strong, Lean Legs
Squats are a great way to build lean muscle for stronger, great-looking legs. Training them targets the glutes, hamstrings, and quads as prime movers for increased muscle cross-sectional area and greater definition on both sides of the body.
#2: Better Abs
Squats are a great exercise for your abdominal muscles. A strong core means better athletic performance because you’ll be able to transfer greater force from the upper to the lower body and vice versa. Bulletproof abs will also protect your spine when handling heavy loads during athletic movements.
#3: Jump Higher
Squats mimic the jumping motion and effectively improve hip extension strength and power for a greater vertical jump. Be sure to train full squats in which you go all the way down to the point where the hamstring covers the calf. A study found that deep back squat training increased vertical jump height by 38 percent more than when subjects did quarter squats by optimally train the lower body musculature.
#4: Build Bone
One situation in which partial squats are worthwhile is for bone building. Studies show that because you can load quarter squats so much heavier than deep squats, they have greater bone-building potential. There’s no need to abandon full squats—just add heavy partials with a load of 120 percent of your regular full squat into your workout once a week to increase bone strength.
#5: Healthier Knees
A common misconception about squats is that they are bad for the knees. In fact, regular full squat training leads to greater joint stability due to increased strength of the cartilage tissue and ligaments surrounding the knee.
#6: Better Mobility & Less Pain
You’re never too old to squat: A recent study found that even elderly people with osteoarthritis can benefit. After 12 weeks of squat training the subjects had less self-reported pain in the knees, better balance, and faster walking speed. They also had less evidence of chronic inflammation that is associated with arthritis.
#7: Run Faster
Whether you want a quicker first step or are trying to drop your 5K PR, squat training will improve peak speed and allow you to sustain a fast pace for longer. Highly trained runners will increase speed not by driving their arms and legs faster, but by applying more force into the ground with every step.
#8: Greater Fat Burning Hormones
Big muscle movements that use the whole body like squats lead to a much greater release of fat burning hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone. Not only do these hormones help free fatty acids to be used for energy but they also improve protein synthesis for tissue repair and faster recovery.
#9: Age Better
We’ve all seen them: A grandparent or elderly uncle trying to stoop down to pick up their shoes or a newspaper. They bend at the hip, but not the knees, moving slowly as if they are in pain. Squat training can prevent this, keeping you agile, strong, and lean as you age. Plus, the more muscle mass you have, the greater your quality of life and the longer life expectancy you have.
#10: Ease Stress
Everyone knows exercise is a great way to blow off steam and ease the anxiety of everyday life. Squat training is one of the best ways to do this because it increases the release of hormones that boost mood, while often lowering cortisol for less stress. Because squats challenge your coordination and target the whole body, they enhance your mind-body connection, which can have a relaxing effect.
Wondering how to start squatting?
Here is a start-to-finish guide with 10 Tips for A Better Back Squat.