Leg presses. Lunges. Calf Raises. Leg Extensions. There are tons of exercises that add size and strength to your legs. But none are nearly as efficient as barbell squats.
For many lifters, learning how to squat is daunting. Going down with hundreds of pounds can be a lot scarier than standing up and curling or pressing a lot less weight. But let’s face it, along with the deadlift, squatting is one of the best exercises for building total body power and mass.
Additionally, all those leg presses do a great job of targeting your quads. and that’s just about it. With squats, your also getting one of the best upper body workouts and doing one of the best core exercises you can possibly do. This is not only because of the huge amount of weight, but because of the compound movement done in squatting.
As with any workout, be sure to warmup properly, and use proper technique.
1. Balance the bar correctly before lifting the bar off the squat rack.
- Place your feet shoulder width apart and center the bar over your body while placing your hands in a comfortably on the bar. Keep your back strong and straight. Maintain a slight bend in your knees.
- Check the balance by standing up a little under the weight to make sure the bar won’t roll off your traps or tip roll right or left.
2. Inhale and move your elbows toward your body to bring your chest outwards. Keep your eyes forward, and don’t look up or down. The weight and the movement should be pushing your but out as if trying to sit on a low chair or bench. Begin bending your legs, and while keeping your back straight, lower your upper body.
The weight will push you down. Resist the momentum with your legs and core until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement. Explosively power back up by pushing your hips forward.
To build size, try a rep range between 8 to 12 with a weight that makes the last few reps difficult.
To build raw strength, Try 3-5 reps with 80-90% of your one rep max.
When you are done with the exercise, walk the weight back to the rack and carefully lower the weight back onto the cage. And of course, find a spotter if you think you might get crushed.