To Squat or not to squat…it’s a no brainer! Part 1

As I sit at the gym watching all the regulars come in and do their usual routines I wonder how many of them incorporate leg exercises into their programs….well, programs is a strong word, we’ll stick with routines. And doing a couple of sets of leg extensions then hitting the innies and outies doesn’t count as leg work, I’m talking squats, deadlifts, single-leg work. Well, the short answer is not many “gym rats” include legs in their weekly routines. In this series we’ll look at a couple of reasons why you should include squats and how to implement them into your routine.

The first thing we’ll look at are some reasons why doing leg work, squats more specifically, is important in the short-term and the long-term. Number one is the hormonal effect squating has on your body. There are two different categories of exercises, well, three technically but olympic lifts can be thrown in with multi-joint, multi-joint and single-joint or compound and accessory. In multi-joint exercises you use more than joint (yes, multiple joints) to perform the exercise which means more than one muscle group as well. So for single-joint you use one joint (yes, a single joint, getting to be obvious) to perform an exercise which means one muscle group. Squats fall into the multi-joint, or compound, lift category. The good thing about compound lifts, squats especially, is that they elicit a greater hormonal response than single-joint exercises. The greater the hormonal release in a workout, the higher the chances of hypertrophy (muscle gain). The hormones we’re looking for in this release are anabolic hormones (yes, anabolic…like steroids). The most important of these hormones are Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone. I’m not going to bore you with what eat one does, but let’s just say your muscles love them, why do you think they make synthetic forms of them?!? Your pituitary and adrenal glands naturally produce a certain amount of the hormones which varies person to person depending on genetics, age, diet (we’ll cover this later, just remember, fats=hormones) and other factors. There are a million other benefits of this hormone release but I just wanted to let you know that the process happens and your body feeds off of it….just trust me!!


Next we’ll talk about the effects squatting has on the tendons and joints and how you can benefit in the long run by working hard today. As you age your body loses its ability to do a lot of things, eye sight gets worse, hearing goes bad, hair falls out and so on. At the same time your body is slowly losing muscle, or your muscles begin to atrophy, and your joints are starting to stiffen up. This loss in muscle is due to a couple of things, mainly a slowing of anabolic hormonal production (testosterone, HGH, IGF-1). Without a sufficient amount of these hormones your body loses the ability to synthesize protein, which is basically what needs to happen for you muscles to grow. Do you remember me talking about multi-joint movements and hormone production? Placing squats into your routine will get your body to release these anabolic hormones and hopefully keep them at high levels as you get older so that your muscles do not atrophy. As for the loss of flexibility, well we just become stiffer as we age and our ligaments and tendons become less capable of handling higher loads. Resistance training has been proven to increase the strength of ligaments and tendons through anatomical adaptation, so working your legs will keep your hips strong and flexible so when you’re old you’re able to move around without a cane.


OK, the last reason we’ll cover to incorporate legs into your routine is aesthetics…..yes, aesthetics. Now, I don’t consider myself a shallow person and I certainly don’t think that everyone has to have the perfectly symmetrical body, but let’s be honest, symmetry is what is pleasing to the human eye. Guys, do you really think it’s a good look to have a wide back, big chest, chiseled guns and legs that look like they should be on a 12 year old boy…’s never good when you have trouble filling out skinny jeans but have Tarzan’s upper body. And of course lady’s, where do you think that firm butt comes from (don’t mean to sound too perverted). This one is not as important to me but I figured I’d throw it in there just to keep in the back of your mind.


So we’ve covered a few reasons why squatting is important, physiologically, hormonally, anatomically and….well, superficially I guess. In the next installment of this series we’ll look at different variations of squats and finally in the last part we’ll cover how to implement these exercises into your workout to get the best results!


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