The squat is an important functional movement. Every time you sit down or rise from a chair you are performing a squat. Every time you bend over to pick something up you should be doing a squat, though many of us don’t. If you walk up stairs, jump or land this is the same motion as the squat, and even running can be seen as a series of small single leg squats.
There is no ‘one perfect squat’, but rather a set of simple rules to follow to ensure that the forces through the body are evenly spread. It is important to maintain a neutral spine by bending through the hips rather than flexing through the lower back.
From the point of view of a Physiotherapist working with people with back injuries, this is often the most important piece of advice I can give. When lifting or bending forward, bend your knees, bend your hips but don’t bend your spine!There are many variations of the squat that will help you strengthen your core, your legs and improve your technique when bending and lifting.
Need another reason? OK, well the squat is also a compound movement, which means that many muscle groups are being exercised at the same time, giving you more ‘bang for your buck’, strengthening many muscles at the same time in a coordinated way. A compound movement is the opposite of an isolated movement such as a bicep curl, where we are deliberately working a single joint through a range of movement. Think of the total amount of muscles, tendon ligament tissue that is being stressed by a bicep curl, and compare it to the amount under load in a squat. Which one is really worth your limited time in the gym?
Lastly, forget about spot reduction – you don’t exercise the stomach to lose the fat from that area – it just does not work that way. To get to see your abs under the layer of flab, there needs to be less flab! By elevating your heart rate, placing loads through multiple joints and stressing multiple muscle groups, the squat will burn more fat than almost any other exercise, and you can do it anywhere anytime using just your body weight.
So, why so many squats? Give me another 20 and I’ll tell you again.