One day next to the squat rack I heard a familiar conversation. One guy was talking to other about exercise selection. He mentioned that he doesn’t do squats anymore because they are bad for his knees and he can gain plenty of leg mass doing leg presses. The other gentleman concurred and said he never liked them because of his back.
While they both made interesting points, they were very wrong. In fact, if you had been there to see them you probably would have agreed as well. No disrespect intended but both gentlemen were rather average size with skinny legs. They could very much use squats for building mass on their legs as well as their whole body.
But, proper squat form is a key to safety and mass building. If you do this staple exercise incorrectly you can hurt your knees or back and then become soured on the exercise and really miss out on one of the best ways to gain size, much as these two gentlemen had. So instead of falling into this group let’s review why we should do squats as well as proper squat form.
The Purpose of Squats
What many people seem to forget is that the squat, much like the deadlift, is a full body mass gainer. The amount of effort your body puts out when squatting cannot be replicated with leg presses. Aside from the fact that squats are the best leg exercise for working the entire leg but you also get the benefit in other areas from supporting the weight and there is also an anabolic affect. Anyone who is looking to gain muscle size needs to be doing squats and deadlifts.
Here are some great keys to squatting for safety and mass building:
- Practice your form at home in front of a mirror. Some people get embarrassed at the gym and don’t want to look foolish.
- Put a chair or plyo box behind you and practice squatting down until your glutes touch the chair and then explode upward.
- Remember to do 10 to 15 minutes of cardio warm-ups plus light stretching before squats. You need a certain degree of flexibility and range of motion which is easier to achieve with lose, warm muscles.
- Never let your knees travel over your toes otherwise the joint is in a vulnerable position. Squats actually strengthen the knees by making the surrounding muscles and tendons stronger.
- Keep your back flat and abs tight while going down then exhale hard as you explode up. You can use a support belt during sets if you use a lot of weight.
- Try using dumbbells if you have a hard time with the form while using a barbell.
- You can also use a Smith Machine to help practice form.
How to Squat
Here is a reminder of squat basics to ensure you are using proper squat form:
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
- Place the weight bar across the shoulders and traps and un-rack it. Keep the back flat, abs tense, and knees slightly bent. Keep your grip at a wide but comfortable point.
- Pick a spot on the wall at eye height. Keep your eyes on that spot as you do your reps to ensure your head and neck position are proper.
- Squat down by dropping your hips down and back. Sink your butt down until your thighs are parallel.
- Then exhale as you explode upward flexing your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. Drive down through your heels and you push up. Stop before complete lockout.
- Never use a weight you aren’t comfortable with.
If you follow these steps for proper squat form along with the tips from above then you can safely build mass using this great exercise.