Squats are one exercise which should be part of everyone’s workout routine – regardless of age, gender or fitness goals.
“Squats build strength and power in glutes, hamstrings and quads, which are primarily stabilizers when moving on the field said, Steve Mologousis.” Steve owns The Functional Athlete which is a gym that specializes in personal training for athletes in Countryside, IL. “The move also improves hip extension power, which is essential to increase vertical jump. Squats stimulate muscle-building hormones, which strengthen the entire body. Weighted squats will challenge the body to overcome a force and reap the anabolic benefits.”
They’re not just for legs you know – they benefit the whole body in a multitude of ways. Whether you’re looking to shed pounds, maintain mobility or run faster, the humble squat is for you.
Check out these 18 ways that squats can improve your life.
1. Increase Entire Body Strength & Muscle
Obviously, squats build strong legs which help support the entire body. But they also promote body-wide muscle building.
If you’re squatting correctly, you’ll be causing your body to release testosterone and the human growth hormone, both of which are imperative for building muscle and increasing muscle mass, especially when you work out other areas of the body.
These muscles help regulate glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, playing a role in preventing obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
You don’t even need to squat with heavy weights to achieve these effects – research has shown that deep squats with a lighter weight are more effective at improving bodily strength than are parallel squats with heavy weights.
2. Burn Fat
You may not think that squats can burn as much fat as, say, a five-mile run can – and you’re probably right.
But squats may be a more efficient way of burning fat – as this process occurs even after you’ve stopped exercising…something that doesn’t happen with cardiovascular activity.
After all, one of the most time-efficient ways to burn more calories is to gain more muscle! It’s said that, for every pound of muscle you gain, your body burns around 35-50 calories per day. So, if you gain 10 pounds of muscle, you can burn up to 500 more calories per day than you did when you were weaker!
3. Improve Circulation
If you ever experience a ‘dead leg’, numbness, tingling or a feeling of coldness in your extremities, it could be caused by poor circulation.
The circulatory system relies heavily on the bodily movement to function properly, which is why exercise – including squats – is one of the best preventative or remedial steps you can take for poor circulation.
A few sets of squats every day will see your heart pounding, your blood pumping and those irritating sensations soon disappear.
Try out these other steps to boost circulation too.
4. Get Rid of Cellulite
That horrible dimpled skin on the backs of your legs and butt – delightfully described as being like ‘cottage cheese’ or ‘orange peel’ – can be beaten!
Cellulite can be caused by a variety of factors, one of which is poor circulation. In fact, it’s one of the main causes of cellulite and can seriously impact and accelerate cellulite formation.
When you boost your blood flow through squats, your cellulite will soon start to reduce and may even disappear altogether!
Here are some other tips to help you get rid of that puckered skin once and for all.
5. Increase Flexibility & Prevent Injuries
Flexibility is an important aspect of injury prevention and should be a consideration in any well-rounded workout plan. Our muscles, tendons and ligaments become less elastic with age so doing all we can to slow down this process is a good idea.
If you work at a desk all day, or are pretty sedentary, then you should be especially diligent about maintaining flexibility.
Doing squats regularly will see you limber up and become more flexible as they involve bending and stretching of the leg muscles including the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.
6. Enjoy Better Posture
Walk like a supermodel with squats! No, really – they’ll improve your posture as you’ll need to learn how to hold proper form when carrying out the movement.
Upper body posture is of the utmost importance – your upper back, lower back, chest, shoulders and stomach all play a role in successful squatting.
When you become aware of your form during exercise, this awareness will carry through to your day-to-day activities.
7. Build Core Strength
The muscles, bones, and joints that link your upper and lower body are known as the core. This is probably the most important muscle group in the body and should be the top area to work on when embarking on an exercise plan.
During our normal, everyday life we engage our core constantly – during lifting, twisting, reaching and bending.
Squats are one of the best exercises for a strong core as we must engage the stomach muscles and lower back when performing them.
Once you have a stronger core, you’ll notice your overall athletic ability improve, everyday tasks become easier and that feeling of general weakness will disappear.
8. Tone Your Abs, Legs and Butt
From just one simple exercise you can get a washboard stomach, Beyonce booty and toned pins. In fact, when performed properly there are few other movements that work so many muscle groups at once.
For added toning, try a deep squat over a parallel one as one study discovered that the gluteus maximus is over 25% more engaged during deep squats!
9. A Low Impact Exercise
Many exercises can play havoc with your back, ankles and knees as they are so high impact but squats are the total opposite.
They have been shown to cause no damage to knees if done correctly, with some studies showing that they can even strengthen the knees. This is true regardless of whether you’re engaging in deep or parallel squats – at least according to one piece of research.
10. Remove Bodily Waste
Another surprising benefit of squats is that they help in the removal of waste from the body, while delivering nutrition to all tissues, including organs and glands. They even help the movement of feces through the colon and contribute to more regular bowel movements!
11. Build Healthy Bones and Joints
Physical activity is vital for strong bones and supple joints. And, of all exercises, strength training is key here. Try squatting with dumbbells, a barbell or kettle bell for extra bone-building ability.
For more ways to grow and maintain healthy bones right into old age, check out these top tips.
12. Maintain Mobility And Balance
Because strong legs are so important for keeping mobile, squats are a fantastic way to ensure you stay on the move you age. They build leg strength and muscles, support the core, and help the bones and joints.
13. Make Daily Tasks Easier
Squats are known as a ‘functional exercise’ thanks to their ability to make real life tasks easier.
After all, think of how many times a day people squat – to sit, to lift, to pick up fallen items and even to pet the cat!
Performing squats means that you build muscle and improve flexibility, core strength, bone and joint health, mobility and balance – all of which lead to a more efficient body for real world tasks like shopping, cleaning, decorating and gardening!
14. Better Libido For Men
Squats are a great natural remedy for a lagging libido – which affects 16% of men in their lifetime. Not only do they increase testosterone production as mentioned above, but they also increase blood flow to the genitalia.
15. Run Like The Wind
You may be able to increase your sprint times through squatting according to a 2005 paper published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
The researchers looked at the physical characteristics of the world’s fastest 45 runners at eight distances, who took part in international competitions between 1990 and 2003.
They found that those who excelled at shorter distances tended to have bigger muscles than those who ran farther, as sprinting requires being able to apply more force into the ground.
16. Jump Higher
2003 research on elite soccer players says that squats are strongly correlated with both the ability to sprint faster and to jump higher!
17. Squat For Free!
Squats don’t require any special equipment, a fancy gym membership or even any workout clothing. All you need to squat is a little space and a knowledge of the correct basic squat technique.
If you want to try adding weights to your squats you can do that for free too! Cans of food or filled water bottles work as well as dumbbells.
18. You Can Squat Anywhere
Not only do you need no specialist equipment or clothing to enjoy the benefits of squats, but they can be done anywhere…meaning there’s no excuse not to fit 5 or 10 minutes of squatting into your day.
Try squatting in the breakroom at work, while making your dinner or even when out gardening. Any funny looks you get will be worth it for all the rewards and benefits squats bring!
How To Squat Correctly
As with many exercises, improper form means you won’t achieve the benefit of the exercise and, in some cases, it can be downright damaging to the joints.
To perform a basic squat you should:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes facing forward.
- Place your hands on your thighs, gaze upwards and lift your chest high.
- Bend your knees, placing weight on the heels, and sit back.
- Keeping the head and chest upright, slide your hands down your thighs, ending where your elbows reach your knees (your knees should not go beyond your toes!)
- Hold for five seconds.
- Rise up, pressing through the heels, and straighten out the hips until you’re in the starting position.
- Repeat 15 to 20 times, for 2 or 3 sets for beginners, and at least two to three times a week.
This video is a good resource for beginners as it shows what the perfect squat looks like, and troubleshoots common mistakes:
Remember, if you have any health issues or physical ailments like joint problems or back trouble, always speak with your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine.
For more information or tips on squats check out The Functional Athlete’s Guide to the Squat available in Kindle form on Amazon.