When it comes to working out, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all training plan. However, there are certain exercises that just about everyone should be incorporating into their routine.
Whether you want to build muscle, lose body fat, increase your strength, or minimize chronic pain and injury risk, squats are one such exercise.
Read on to learn all about the benefits of squats and why they should be a staple part of your workouts.
Top Five Benefits of Squats
Some of the specific benefits of squatting include:
1. Build Full-Body Strength
Some people think of squats as exclusively being a leg exercise. It’s true that squats do target the muscles in your legs, but they are also one of the best exercises you can do if you want your entire body to get stronger.
Squats require a lot of core engagement to help you maintain your balance. When you do squats with a barbell or dumbbells, you also have to engage muscles in the upper body, especially the back.
2. Make Real-Life Movements Easier
Squats are considered a functional exercise. This means that they mimic movements that most people perform in everyday life.
Think about it. You do a version of a squat every time you sit down and stand back up. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could sit down and stand up quickly, without having to use your hands for extra support? Adding squats to your workout will help you accomplish this.
3. Increase Calorie Burn
Because they’re a full-body functional exercise, squats help you build muscle mass faster than single-joint exercises (leg presses, hamstring curls, biceps curls, etc.). The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you’ll burn.
4. Reduce Injury Risk
Squats can help you gain and maintain mobility and strength in your legs and hips. This, in turn, helps improve your balance and stability as you age.
If you want to remain strong and mobile as you get older — and reduce your risk of falling and injuring yourself — be sure to do squats regularly.
5. Promote Healthy Joints
Squats also promote healthy, stable joints knee and hip joints.
Whether you’re a young person wanting to stay healthy or an older person who wants to improve their joint mobility, squats are a must.
Even when you simply do bodyweight squats, your body sends extra oxygen-rich blood to the knees and hips. This, in turn, promotes better joint tissue health.
When your joint tissues are healthy, you’re less likely to experience chronic pain and degenerative conditions like arthritis.
Common Squatting Problems
As you can see, there are lots of reasons why you should be adding squats to your workout routine. But, there are also a lot of excuses people give to avoid squatting. The following are some common issues people experience when they squat, along with tips on how to combat them:
Fear of Injury
Squats can be an intimidating movement, especially if you’re new to exercise in general. It’s important to understand, though, that squats are not an inherently dangerous exercise.
The key is to learn the proper form and start slow. If you’ve never done a squat before, you shouldn’t immediately try and get under a barbell. Start with bodyweight or resistance band squats instead.
Some people think they can’t squat because they have “bad knees.” Some people do experience knee pain when they squat. But, that pain is likely the result of poor form.
If you can’t squat without pain, that doesn’t automatically mean you should never squat. You’ll likely be able to improve your mobility and reduce your pain if you work with a physical therapist or personal trainer. When you work with a professional, you can learn proper technique and correct muscle imbalances that can trigger your pain.
It may take a while to learn to squat totally pain-free. While you’re correcting the issues that cause your pain, you can try exercising in a knee brace or applying a cream that provides pain relief for aching knees.
Lack of Mobility
Some people also think that, if they can’t do a full, deep squat, they shouldn’t squat at all. How do you think people get to the point where they can do a full, deep squat? They practice!
With the proper warm-up, plenty of practice — and possibly some extra guidance from a personal trainer or physical therapist — you’ll eventually be able to improve your mobility and your ability to achieve a proper, deep squat. You just have to be consistent.
How to Squat Safely
Before you start doing barbell squats or getting into fancy squat variations, it’s important to master the basic bodyweight squat. Below are some form cues to help you do this:
Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders
Stand up straight and make sure your feet are pointing forward
Bend your knees slowly with your arms extended in front of you
Lower your hips toward the ground until your hips are parallel with the ground
Pause for a second, then straighten your legs and stand back up
There are many reasons to add squats to your workout routine. And, now you know how to safely start practicing them. If you find yourself making excuses not to squat, remind yourself of all the benefits you’ll experience when you do them consistently.