By the time we have reached the age of thirty, the muscles used to straighten our spines (erector spinae) and keep our shoulders from falling forward (trapezius and rhomboids), have atrophied in the majority of North Americans largely due to a culture that avoids squatting at all costs.
From living a prosperous, sedentary lifestyle, shoulder and back pain are now common in our modern society which rewards us with paychecks for sitting at desks; keeping our arms out in front of us; work that involves mental rather than physical effort; and staring in front of computers for hours each day. Our twenty-first-century economy offers plenty of emotional, but not a lot of physical exhaustion on a daily basis—an unintended consequence of living in affluence.
The 10 Important Reasons to Squat: 1. Squats Correct Body Position
Muscles that hold our spines straight can be developed by putting enough weight on our backs for our erector muscles to strengthen naturally.
So many of us continue “going to the gym,” doing presses and pull-ups thinking that because we are in the accurate position for those particular exercises, our bodies are in the correct position—not true. Those exercises do increase muscle mass but are counterintuitive by creating muscle imbalance.
2. Squats Create a Boost in Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
When we start lifting heavier weights through squats, our large muscles exert tremendous effort which causes damage that must be repaired. As a result, our pituitary glands release natural human growth hormones (HGH) in order for us to mend.
HGH doesn’t just heal muscles; it stimulates bone strength, fat loss, increases energy, stabilizes mood, cell reproduction, and regeneration. The synthetic form of HGH was created in the 1980s and approved by the FDA. However, squatting releases these amazing hormones naturally.
3. Squats Burn Fat
Performing cardio will burn fat for up to two hours after completing our workouts. When we squat with weights, we will burn fat for 18 hours or more after we leave the gym.
Because the largest muscles burn the most calories, high repetition strength training creates what is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is a term used for the length of time our metabolism elevates after exercise. If you want to build or maintain muscle while losing weight, squats is your answer.
4. Squats Slow the Signs of Aging
Squats increase the production of collagen, giving us a tightly toned appearance. An added benefit, by increasing our cardiovascular rate and blood flow, more nutrients are delivered to the skin cells all over our faces and bodies, which slows the typical signs of aging.
Collagen’s main function is to sustain tendons, skin, and cartilage thus providing integrity, and elasticity for our infrastructure, reducing wrinkles and fine lines.
5. Squats Prevent Osteoporosis
Squats improve bone density in our hips and spine. Bone health and strength prevent injuries. There are no warning signs before a first bone break. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need to be concerned with osteoporosis until you are over the age of 40. Promoting bone density at every age is essential.
6. Squats Reverse the Effects of Imbalances
Bones are held together by ligaments. Ligaments attach muscles to the bones. Unless we have strong muscles holding our bones in place, they will continue to move, causing pain. Squatting is the perfect symmetrical exercise, allowing the body to build the large muscle and ligament strength necessary to eliminate pain.
If you are like me, you go to a chiropractor. He or she pops bones back into place, but two weeks later, the pain returns. Why? Because we haven’t created the infrastructure to hold these bones in place naturally, one of the best ways to solve this issue is to load the body in a symmetrical way, which is squatting. I love my chiropractor, but I don’t want to have to see him or her every week to get pain relief.
7. Squats Strengthen Knees
Squats build the muscles (vastus medialis quadricep) that stabilize and protect the knee. Don’t buy into the myth that squatting is bad for knees. Done correctly, squatting is an excellent way to protect and support your knees. Like many of you, I bought into the myth spread by American culture that squatting is bad for my knees. My medical doctor told me I had chronic tendonitis and degeneration in my knees.
“So, what can I do about that?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said. “It’s part of getting older. Eventually, you will have to have a new set of knees.”
Because I didn’t know any better, I accepted that answer. Then I started squatting. I noticed a little bit of new muscle growth above my knees after the first week of squats. More growth after the next week, more, and then a little more.
Now I have big teardrops (Vastus Medialis Quadricep) around my knees, and they are very stable, far more stable than when I was in my teens, and throughout my years of competition in Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, and Grappling. Even if you have degeneration in your knees, squats will assist you in protecting what you still have for a longer period of time.
8. Squats Can Eliminate Chronic Pain
Finding our personal strength balance through squats is the answer to eliminating pain. The strength of our rhomboids and erector spinae muscles must match the strength of our pectorals to be pain-free.
Popular American weightlifting culture has evolved into an exercise of sculpting rather than balancing our muscles. We tend to constantly build muscles that show off our 6-packs while neglecting muscles that are doing the important work of holding our infrastructure in the correct position.
9. Squats Increase Flexibility
Squats increase flexibility in the hips, thoracis spine, shoulders, knees, and ankles. Flexible joints require less energy to move through a greater range of motion decreasing our overall risk of injury while increasing physical performance. This is a fancy way of saying that anything we do physically becomes easier.
10. Squats Increase Your Mind, Body, and Spirit Connection
Just as the rhomboid and pectoral muscles must be balanced in strength to be pain-free, the spirit, mind, and body must be balanced to achieve physical goals.
Some days you are in so much pain that you may only be able to lift the bar. In life, 100% effort may just be getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other to get through the day. Emotional pain is as debilitating as physical pain. The approach is the same. Face it. Feel it.
Give 100% max effort, whatever that is for you, on any given day. Be proud of your accomplishments. Do it again tomorrow. The results will be incremental 1% gains adding up over time.