Squats: Are They Really That Important?

Updated September 23, 2009

These days, it seems like everyone “already knows” how important squats are.

And yet, it’s still incredibly rare to see anyone performing full squats in most gyms. And it’s even more rare to see someone working HARD with the barbell on their back.

On some level, I get it. Hard work will never be popular.

But everybody loves RESULTS, right? And given that so many people aren’t seeing results from their efforts combined with the fact that the squat rack in most gyms is mainly used for bicep curls… I can’t help but wonder if people are under-estimating just how important squats are.

So in this article, I’ll give you five reasons why you should not only be squatting, but you should be working hard at squats.

(Granted, I know most of my readers are already painfully aware of the value of correctly-performed full squats, but if you could see my email inbox you’d understand the vast majority of guys out there are still looking for ways to get big and strong without hard work on the heavy exercises.

So I might be “preaching to the choir” with this post, but if you’re one of my regular readers perhaps you might consider forwarding this article to a friend in need.)

Reason #1: Squats are a full-body exercise.

Many guys skip out on squats because they mistakenly believe that squats are just an exercise for your legs. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Your body uses over 200 different muscles when performing squats. And getting stronger on squats often has the somewhat “magical” effect of making you stronger on other exercises.

For example, it’s not uncommon for guys to add 50lbs to their best squat and suddenly discover that their bench press went up 15lbs as well.

Reason #2: Squats boost favorable hormones

Squats are the one of the best exercises (deadlifts being another good choice) for stimulating a favorable hormonal response. Meaning that heavy squats trigger the body to release testosterone and growth hormone, two crucial chemicals for building muscle.

And although I can’t track down the exact source, I’m told there are university studies that show an increase in UPPER body mass gains when squats are included in a training program. This is most likely because squats boost muscle-building hormones which help to build your entire body.

Reason #3: Squats built strength in your hips and core.

When you think about building muscle and strength, you probably think about biceps and pecs. And developing those muscles are great for looking good on the beach.

But strength and power originates in the hips and core. So if you want to increase your overall strength and power, work hard on an exercise that strengthens your hips and core. By this point, I’m sure you can guess the best exercise for developing strength and power in the hips and core. You guessed it: The squat.

To put it another way, the guy who can squat 405 pounds for reps has a huge advantage on the football field, in the octogon/wrestling mat or even in a common street fight.

If you’re looking for some anecdotal evidence, consider Adrian Peterson — star running back of the Minnesota Vikings. Why is he so good? Well, part of it’s his speed, part of it’s genetics and instincts.
But he squats over 530lbs at a bodyweight of 215.

You might never run like Adrian Peterson but I guarantee that once you can squat 2.5 times your bodyweight like Adrian can, you’ll be a formidable force in any sport.

Reason #4: Squats build overall muscle mass.

If you want to gain MASS, then you’ve got to squat. As we discussed already, squats trigger the results of favorable growth hormones which contribute to gains in muscle size.

But squats are also great for stimulating the appetite.

Many guys who can’t gain weight complain that they’re just never hungry. But heavy squatting sessions will fix that in a heartbeat. Eight hours after a brutal squatting session I sometimes find myself unable to get full no matter how much I eat.

It’s like my body is sending a never-ending signal to shovel down the food and provide the energy to repair the damage from the heavy squats.

Reason #5: Squats build mental toughness.

This part might get a little weird, but I firmly believe that America (or any country for that matter) would be a better place if every male could squat at LEAST 225lbs. 315lbs would be better.

Because squatting builds mental toughness. Ask anyone who’s ever done a true session of the infamous 20-rep breathing squats. That’s when you take your 10 rep squat max and grind out 20 reps by taking as many breathes as you need between reps.

It sounds impossible… but you can do it. It’s quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. At the age of 19 I squatted 135lbs for 20 reps. I added 10lbs to the bar every week and before long I was squatting 225lbs for 20 reps. The numbers aren’t impressive by any stretch of the imagination. But the experience changed me forever.

I’ve done 20 rep squats a few times since then. And I think it actually gets more brutal every time.

But I can honestly say I’m a lot tougher today for having this experience in my back pocket. To this day, whenever things get rough I can’t help but think “Well, this is a crappy situation but I’ve done 20 rep squats and by comparison, this isn’t so bad.”

So there you have it.

Do your squats. Because yes, they ARE that important.

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