Training

8 Reasons to Squat (Frequently)

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Whether you're male or female, looking to gain or lose weight, improve athletic performance, or just boost your aesthetics, squatting should be the center piece of your routine.

Squatting often divides the serious trainees from the “exercisers” simply looking to see and be seen.

This exercise takes time to learn, produces tons of soreness in the beginning and is just plain hard work.

On the plus side, it'll give you far greater, and faster, results than any other activity, no matter what your goals may be.

I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t fallen madly in love with this exercise after putting in the work to learn how to perform them correctly.

Below are my top reasons that you should be squatting – a lot:

1) Your ass will get huge (in a good way)

Creating a strong pair of glutes has a laundry list of benefits. Aside from making your backside look better, building up this body part will make your waist appear smaller, balancing out the entire physique.

This is true not only for women, but men as well.

Have you ever heard the phrase “the guy with the biggest butt lifts the biggest weights”? This was said by Paul Anderson, a world champion Olympic lifter who was able to overhead press 400+ lbs back in 1955.

Even some of the most fierce men in the Iron Game know that a man with a big ass is strong as hell. Another saying I like is “girls who look good in yoga pants do more squats than yoga”. Spot on.

2) Squatting is a total body builder

The fastest way to a bigger set of arms is a stronger squat. Sounds like complete bullshit, I know.

The trouble with the human body is that it likes to grow as a whole. If you’ve seen the skinny guys blasting their guns 5 days per week with little to show for it, you know what I’m talking about.

It's almost impossible to force the biceps to grow independent of the rest of the body (without large quantities of drugs).

Through analyzing body weight and arm measurements of bodybuilders, it's been calculated that you can expect to add 1 inch to your upper arm measurement for every 15 lbs of lean body mass gained.

The easiest way to add this muscle mass is to gain over the entire body and squats work more than half of that equation by themselves.

Add in some heavy pushing and pulling movements and you'll be bursting your sleeves in no time.

3) Squatting transfers to real world strength

Squatting is a good replication of holding a heavy weight while on your feet, stationary, or walking.

And since we rarely lift heavy things while seated or lying down, the squat (along with the deadlift) is one of the best exercises to accomplish this.

Can you imaging someone sitting in their office chair struggling to press a heavy file box overhead when they could easily stand up and place it on the shelf?

4) It helps prevent back and knee injuries

Back injuries are a result of muscle weakness and a general unawareness of spinal position.

One of the most difficult things when working with an untrained client is getting them to flatten their spine.

Even when given a direct cue, they typically make a minute movement, then stare at you with a C-shaped spine (picture a vomiting cat).

Learning how to squat correctly teaches you how to hold a flat spine against a load and minimizes the chances for injury in your everyday life.

Knee pain is caused by weak muscles and joints paired with incorrect technique. When the average adult squats down, they are up on their toes, putting tremendous stress on the knee.

If I bend down like that, it hurts instantly and I typically squat 2-3 times per week pain-free. Studies show that people who squat have more robust knee joints and stronger muscles to support them.

5) You'll develop mental toughness

When you un-rack the bar and the weight threatens to crush you, it takes a bad SOB to accept the challenge and get on with it.

After years in the gym, I've found that the people who accept the challenge are able to consistently achieve their goals, and the people who don’t tend to give up easily.

As a bonus, finding the motivation to file your TPS reports correctly will seem like small potatoes compared to what you do in the gym.

6) It replaces a bunch of other exercises

Squatting works more than half the muscles in the body – actually closer to all the muscles of the body.

From the top down, your upper back muscles support the bar (like a shrug) while your chest helps you hold the bar against the back.

Your entire core (spinal erectors, abs, and obliques) is fighting to keep your spine in place.

Your glutes and hamstrings are controlling the hip joint and your quads are working hard to extend the knee.

Your calves have to work overtime to keep you balanced.

Not much left to be desired besides some arm and deltoid work.

It's important to note that you won’t notice this effect with a broomstick across your back though, adequate weight is required.

7) You'll experience less soreness

Let me know if this scenario sounds familiar.

You blast your legs with squats, leg presses, leg curls, and leg extensions. Then you have to take the elevator for the next six days until, yep, it’s leg day again.

Believe it or not, squatting more frequently produces much less soreness. If I squat 3 times per week, I get almost zero soreness.

Seriously!

Squatting 2 times per week and I’m just sore the day after.

Squatting once per week and I’m scared I’ll fall if I allow a slight bend of the knee at any point during the day (aka the Herman Munster walk).

With more frequent training, you can split up the volume across multiple workouts per week and avoid those crazy sore days.

In fact, unless you have aspirations of becoming a professional bodybuilder, you could get away with just doing a few sets of squats at the beginning of every workout regardless of what other muscle group you're working that day.

Just think, never having a “leg day” again!

8) You'll improve for any sport

At one point, I made it my priority to increase my squat strength over a period of about 4 months.

I performed only sets of 5 reps, including warm-up. As a result of increasing my 5 rep max by over 100 lbs, a bunch of other stuff magically happened.

I went from being relatively slow to being able to run the 40 yard dash in roughly 5 seconds.

My vertical leap rivaled that of lifelong athletes (I’ve never played a sport in my life, by the way). And what do you think happened to my endurance as a result of all that low rep training? Well, I was able to perform 20 reps with my old 5 rep max!

Bottom line

Squatting increases strength. Increasing strength increases everything else!

What's more, if you’re an athlete and you don’t squat, you either need to get serious and get squatting or get ready for a lackluster career.

So have you fallen in love (with the squat)?  Share your squat victories in the comments below.

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39 Comments

  • Reply
    Vincent
    February 9, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Up until 6 weeks ago I don’t think I had used the squat rack in my entire life. My fiance and I joined a new gym and I am using a program which has me squatting 3 times a week now. At first I was hesitant b/c I thought I would be sore all the time, I was the first week obviously. After that though I felt great and I think it might be my favorite thing to do now. I guess that’s my squat victory story.

    • Reply
      Nate
      February 9, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      Spot on! Thrashing your legs once per week leaves you in agony for 6 days. Starting light and squatting 3 times per week produces almost no soreness at all. I’m guessing you’re doing Starting Strength or Stronglifts? Let me know how you like the program.

  • Reply
    Vincent
    February 9, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    I am using stronglifts and have just started week six. So far its great, I have worked out a lot in the past off and on before. I didn’t want to just wander around the gym doing different machines everyday though. This program is easy to follow and the app makes it dummy proof. I would recommend it to someone just starting out or to anyone just looking to try and get back into a good routine at the gym.

    • Reply
      Nate
      February 10, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Stronglifts is great for beginners. The’ll learn the basics through frequency and repetition. I use it as a “reset” program when I wander too far into pumping-the-guns territory.

  • Reply
    Amar
    February 15, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Nice, adding squats 3 days a week now. Love this article, but you might want to check that 40 yrd time again! The fastest 40 ever recorded was 4.24.

    • Reply
      Nate
      February 15, 2015 at 10:57 pm

      Squatting frequently is where it’s at. Haha, I’m not trying to make outrageous claims or anything, just had a buddy time me at the gym one day. I had no idea what the world record was. I should change that to a more reasonable number.

  • Reply
    Chase Power
    March 22, 2015 at 12:52 am

    Nice post. I agree, heavy squats seperate the men from the boys in a sense. I am a powerlifter myself, but even the best bodybuilders who ever lived would squat OFTEN and squat HEAVY! (ronnie coleman) I am squatting twice a week now instead of once and all of my lifts are moving right along with it. A lot of truth in this post

    Best Regards,

    Chase Power

    • Reply
      Nate
      March 22, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      Thanks Chase. You’re right, the squat should be at the core of any lifters program regardless of goals. Recreational exercisers, bodybuilders, athletes, and powerlifters can all benefit tremendously from this single exercise. Good luck with the twice per week squats. Also, if you’re get bored of twice per week, you could try adding a third squat session with light weights for active recovery and technique.

  • Reply
    Tony
    July 13, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Cool beans Nate. Awesome article that I wish everyone could read. Been on Stronglifts for a few years and just PRed at 435, at age 55! I needed to shake it up a bit and now going with the 70’s Big routine.

    Sad how all these guys are doing isolation’s. They don’t realize this is to sculpt muscles for bodybuilders that are on steroids. Squats, Deads, Bench, Overheads and Rows and some pull-ups, that’s it. Biggest and best shape of my life….abs, adonis lines, etc….and yeah, got the butt thing going on too.

  • Reply
    Ramin
    July 21, 2015 at 2:12 am

    Love squats!!! They’re so much fun to do. But tough as hell. Like you said it helps all your lifts. Best Damn exercise in the world.
    Great article!

    • Reply
      Nate
      July 21, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      You’re right! We go to the gym to challenge ourselves and there aren’t too many exercises that are a challenging as squatting to your strength limits.

  • Reply
    George
    July 24, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    I have a straight neck syndrome (acquired it after an injury while training on my own) and now that I joined a gym again, my trainer says I shouldn’t squat but use the leg press instead. What’s your thoughts on that?

    • Reply
      Nate
      July 25, 2015 at 10:14 am

      Without knowing the nature of the injury, I have to say that you should avoid anything that aggravates it or could cause further harm. If you can leg press without pain, by all means make that your main lower body movement.

  • Reply
    Brandon Ramlal
    July 27, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Ahh, that feeling when you do your old 5 rep max for a set of 20! It always pays to keep a training log.

  • Reply
    Andy
    August 8, 2015 at 2:35 am

    I squat heavy followed by RDL’s on Mondays and Fridays. Deadlift followed by Front Squat on Wednesday. After that, I do some combination of presses, dips, rows and pull-ups. I occasionally throw in some isolation work like flys and laterals in to mix it up. Works for me and I’m adding weight to the bar weekly cutting on 1600 calories a day.

    • Reply
      Nate
      August 8, 2015 at 10:23 am

      That’s outstanding! Everyone tries to get stronger on a cut, but you’re actually doing it. That sounds like a solid full body routine.

      How long have you been lifting lifting?

  • Reply
    Andy
    August 8, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I lifted a lot when I was younger and while in college. Life has got in the way since. I have the typical excuses; work, kids, injuries, etc… I starter back a few months ago to hopefully get my lumbar in better shape. I have no interest in looking like Frank Zane or anything. I just want to look good at the beach and to be stronger than I look.

  • Reply
    Daryn
    August 22, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    About 30 weeks ago my squat was very weak with 70kg being my 5 rep max, at the time I weighed 61 kg. I started squatting 3-4 times a week and now weigh 70 kg with 105kg 5 rep max and a 120kg 1 rep max. It is by far my favourite part of training now and I squat almost every time I go to the gym

    • Reply
      Nate
      August 22, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Excellent! I’m guessing that 9 kg weight gain wasn’t just in your quads either. You’re a perfect example of how squatting should be the foundation of every training program.

      It does become addicting as your form improves and the weights you can handle go up. At my university gym I was know as “the squat guy,” haha.

      Are you on a specific program or have you designed your own?

      • Reply
        Daryn
        September 9, 2015 at 11:38 pm

        Hi Nate sorry for the delay in answering, no it definitely wasn’t just in my quads my upper back has devolped a nice thickness I’m glad to say. I generally do a lot of squats, then leg extensions then leg press. I wouldn’t say I’m on any specific routine whatever I can get my hands on really,some days it’s just squats, but for now I’m still making progress, I’ve recently invested in my own rack and Olympic weight set,as you say it does become addictive. Hope to pack on some serious size in the near future.

  • Reply
    I Love Mondays - Horton's Club
    November 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    […] I began lifting more instead of focusing on cardio workouts. (Iron and Tweed) […]

  • Reply
    Brady
    November 16, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Nate – What’s your opinion on Goblet squats? Am I wasting time working these in the routine as compared to just sticking with traditional squats?

    • Reply
      Nate
      November 16, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      Goblet squats can be great for working around a lower back injury or as a conditioning exercise, but they’ll never match the back squat for overall effectiveness. Just think about the amount of weight you’re able to use with each lift. Most likely you’re able to lift at least 3-4 times as much weight with a barbell. Use goblet squats for variety or as an accessory exercise, just not as a replacement.

  • Reply
    Mario
    January 11, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Squat is one of the top exercises to perform either at Gym (weights), at home , or on HIIT programs (body weight) to achieve a better muscular performance and health.
    I run 10km for fun, but I keep challenging myself focusing on improving time. I followed B&D 30day of Discipline in which it is included the “task” of doing 100-150 squats per day (bodyweight). After only 2 weeks it made a huge difference on my time running 100m, 400m, 800m and definitely the 10km. Probably I was able to reduce my time by 1 to 1.5 minutes.

    Squat is the way to go to get better on physical and mental strength.

    Regards from Mexico Nate.

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 11, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      You’re illustrating exactly what I’m talking about, Mario! Improving your squat performance has a HUGE carryover to other aspects of sports and life in general.

  • Reply
    Shobhit Choudhary
    January 28, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Squats and deadlifts makes you a man.
    Here’s what I have been doing recently-
    1. Free squats 20reps * 2 sets
    2. Weighted squats 4 sets of 15-6 reps
    3. Free squats 50reps * 3 sets (this is dope) have you ever tried this ? I have noticed tremendous increase in legs strength.
    Ps – I hit legs every 4th day.

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 28, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      That’s awesome! I used to do body weight squats around the 50 rep mark at home when I was in high school. Talk about pain, haha! I primarily squat around 5 reps but have pushed my 20 rep max in the past and that was brutal!

  • Reply
    Shobhit Choudhary
    January 29, 2016 at 12:12 am

    That’s incredible man, it takes a lot of mental strength to do that. Respect!

    I have been doing these 3 extra sets of body weight squats past 2 weeks and I already feel the new found strength not only in legs but also in lower back. I am sore through out the week.. haha
    Sometimes I take my 8RM and do 10sets of 5-6Reps.

    Any quick tip for taking the game to next level ?

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 29, 2016 at 7:06 am

      Thanks! You should try it. Take whatever weight you can get for 10-12 nice and smooth reps and do a set of 20 with it. The key to getting all of the reps is to take 3 deep breaths between each rep, even the first few. The set will take you well over a minute and you’ll be completely spent. Then the next workout do the same thing with an additional 5 lbs.

  • Reply
    Rob
    February 2, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Great Article, very true – I always train Legs (10-21 Squats included in every one) twice a week, sometimes three and it makes a massive difference! I have a love/hate relationship with legs but I always kill every session….. Its true what they say, Squats will make you a goddamn sexual Tyrannosaurs, just like me! I love the website by the way. Keep up the great work. Rob

    • Reply
      Nate
      February 2, 2016 at 10:54 am

      Haha, glad to hear it, Rob! I’m not certain about the correlation between squats and sexual appetite but I can see how the second most manly activity know to man can increase your desire for the first.

      • Reply
        Rob
        February 3, 2016 at 5:08 am

        Hahaha I saw a t shirt the other day that said it and thought it would fit the article pretty well….. Plus women love a big booty…. and what better way than squats….
        On a serious note though its great to see someone blogging the exact information that I’ve been telling guys for years, I’m exactly the same body type as you and I have to literally push myself to the limit to get any gains at all. I eat and train big and its hard work. I used to eat ‘clean’ and got no results, I switched to eating to fit your macros and got leaner and bigger. Now I can have my cake and eat it (literally)….

        • Reply
          Nate
          February 3, 2016 at 5:23 am

          Haha, yes they do! I know exactly what you mean. People tend to see a “fit” physique and assume that you simply “exercise.” The reality that I’m eating and training to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger every single day of my life. It just so happens that this is the result. I’m glad you’re getting results on IIFYM.

  • Reply
    John
    May 10, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Should you do ass to grass squats or half reps where you are parallel to the floor on each rep? Also thanks a bunch on the style advice from your casual style guide.

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