Shut up and squat! This phrase is a popular saying in the lifting community. You will find it on everything from t-shirts to website taglines.
Squats have been called the king of all barbell exercises, and I agree. But don't just take my word for it. Here are some quotes about the barbell squat from respected coaches and lifters.
Mark Rippetoe on Squats
"There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that provides the level of central nervous activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat."
Brooks Kubik on Squats
Stuart McRobert on Squats
"The back squat is King for building size and strength....it should be regarded as THE most useful free-weights exercise."
Rickey Dale Crain on Squats
"Squatting is the most superior exercise for weight and strength gains."
8 Popular Excuses Not To Squat
Squats are hard, there is no doubt about it. When using proper form they are no more dangerous than any other barbell exercise. In fact, because the bench press is so often performed with horrendous bro form, I am confident in saying that it is generally the most dangerous barbell exercise.
Let's look at some popular excuses people use not to squat and see if they are true.
Excuse #1 - Squats Are Bad For The Knees
False. Squats done incorrectly are bad for the knees. Any exercise done incorrectly is bad for the body.
Half squats and quarter squats are bad for the knees. These types of squats keep most of the emphasis on the anterior chain of the body. This creates a shear force causing the patella tendon to pull on the tibia moving it forward so it grinds on the femur.
When you squat to parallel, the posterior chain of the body is called into play. This creates a balancing of forces, taking the pressure off the patella tendon.
Excuse #2 - I Don't Have A Squat Rack
I'm sorry, but 99% of the time this is a cop-out excuse. Nearly every town that has a gym without a squat rack has another one close by that HAS a squat rack. Hit the Yellow pages, make a few phone calls and find a better gym. End of story.
If you train at home, purchase a set of squat stands and a few saw horses to serve as safety catches. You could also purchase an inexpensive, but quality squat rack. You will be spending $250 to $350 dollars but the reward is that you can now squat for at least the next decade and be full of win.
You found $350 to purchase an Xbox. Now find $350 so you can squat.
Excuse #3 - I Don't Need To Squat Because I Run
Ok, this excuse is just plain silly.
I was a runner for over a decade. It did nothing for my legs, other than make them perhaps smaller. Running certainly added no muscle size.
If you don't want to work your legs, just be honest. There is no reason to pull punches and pretend that running will build your legs.
You don't "work" your upper body with Yoga or jumping jacks. Why? Because you are trying to add upper body muscle (to them chesticles and bicepts, bro). We all know this. Along the same lines, you can't run and call this "working" the lower body.
Excuse #4 - I Don't Want To Get Strong, Just Big
Really? Last time I checked, the best way to get big was by improving your strength on the best exercises.
Exercises are like tools in your toolbox. To do a job properly, and with the greatest degree of efficiency, you need to choose the best tool. You could drive nails with the flat side of a big crescent wrench if you wanted to, but I prefer a hammer.
There is nothing wrong with using other leg exercises, such as leg presses, hack squats or lunges. But you will still need to dramatically increase your strength on these exercises. No one builds a substantial amount of muscle without dramatically increasing their strength. This doesn't mean you need powerlifter strength, obviously.
You will need to improve your strength no matter what. If you refuse to use your best tool - squats - you are only making the muscle building process more difficult.
Excuse #5 - Heavy Lifting Is Dangerous
And light lifting doesn't build muscle.
Any form of exercise, performed regularly, can be dangerous. On the other hand, sitting on your backside all day long is far more dangerous. Pick your poison.
With weight training, and squats in particular, you have the ability to make the exercise far less dangerous through form research and practice. Heavy lifting with bad form is dangerous. Heavy lifting with solid form builds muscle. No heavy lifting and a lot of couch time eating donuts is the greatest danger of them all.
Excuse #6 - Squats Are Bad For The Back
This is another classic excuse, and comes in second right behind squats are bad for my knees. There are 2 major reasons squats might hurt a lifter's back:
- The lifter has bad form.
- The lifter has a weak back.
If you have bad form, then the problem is with you, not squats. You have the choice to improve your form, or avoid squatting. If your back is weak, then odds are the pain you are feeling is normal.
Muscle soreness is not a reason to avoid squatting. Take your time, try to improve slowly by adding a few reps each week. Your back will get stronger over time, I guarantee it.
Excuse #7 - I Am Not Built To Squat
I'm not built to squat either, yet squat over 600 raw.
Very few of us are built perfectly for the squat. The myth that perfect squat genetics exist, and that those who don't have them are better off avoiding the squat is nonsense.
Even if someone does have "perfect" squat genetics, they still have to work hard at mastering form. Everyone does. Success is more about attitude and mental strength than it is about physical gifts.
Most of the successful bodybuilders and powerlifters I know aren't gifted. They don't care about genetics, but do work their butts off and train wisely.
Either you want to be successful, or you don't.
Excuse #8 - I Can't Hit Depth, So I Shouldn't Squat
Most people can't hit depth because they aren't squatting properly. Most magazines and Internet sites rarely talk about proper form. They often show pictures of feet forward, knees forward squatting. Few people can hit depth with this style of squatting. It's simply NOT good form.
On the other end of the spectrum, many lifters will watch squatting videos on Youtube and immediately think that wide stance squats are the key to all their problems. Wide stance squats are generally a more technical squat variation. Most lifters will have a harder time hitting depth when squatting wide, simply because the mechanics are a tad bit more complicated.
9 times out of 10 when a novice lifter asks me for a squat form critique, they have noticeable flaws. These flaws almost always hinder depth.
Seek out the advice of seasoned squatters who are willing to work with you, watch your videos and help you improve form.
Final Thoughts On Squat Excuses
Squats are hard. If they weren't we wouldn't see people making every excuse in the book to avoid them.
Successful people in life look for ways to succeed. They face the hardest challenges head on, and rush into battle - prepared and confident that no matter what, they will find a way to adapt and thrive. On the other hand, people who fail look for ways to avoid life's hardest challenges.
Squats are king. There is no denying. Now go forth and be king of the squat.