As always in the fitness industry, things come and go.
The barbell squat, however, is here to stay.
While human nature has a tendency to explore the unknown, some things will always be valid and produce greater results than most current fitness "trends" until the end of time.
So does the squat: A full-body strength exercise like arguably no other.
What is so special about the barbell squat? Why can't we just do lunges, step-ups, or use the leg press machine?
Like no other movement, the barbell squat puts the highest demand on the human body by working its entire muscular, supportive, and structural system to a level which produces superior strength, mental power, and joint health.
SUPERIOR LOWER BODY STRENGTH
The barbell squat works the lower extremity musculature over the longest efficient range of motion in a way it is meant to work "in nature". It allows to load the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, external hip rotators, adductors, as well as to a degree the ankle musculature with a stress that consistently create new adaptations in the human body. Will there ever be a point where there is no more space to put plates on the bar? Heavy squats can be indefinitely loaded and thus produce lasting results.
SUPERIOR BACK HEALTH
The spine loves heavy loads. It consists mainly of bony (vertebrae) and "buffering" structures (discs), both of which respond best to high impact. In its particular case, the LOW BAR SQUAT allows for a more horizontal trunk angle, meaning the thick muscles surrounding the lower back (e.g. erector spinae) develop superior static and eccentric strength in conjunction with the gluteus maximus and hip attachments of the hamstrings, keeping the lower back strong and resistant to pain. The heavier the load, the greater the strength.
SUPERIOR "CORE" DEVELOPMENT
The notion that planks, mountain climbers, and other floor-based bodyweight exercises are best for developing the "core" is still rife. However, the "core" - or in more practical terms: the "abs" - show highest activity in movements that bear heavy loads - such as barbell squats! Due to the heavy loading, the "core" muscles (including the transversus abdominis) have to brace firmly to protect the lower back. As such, a plank can never resemble the impact heavy squat have on the "core". Heavy squatting = superir "core" strength!
SUPERIOR MENTAL POWER
Getting out of the "hole" in a heavy squat takes guts. It is a "danger situation" in which the human body and mind have to mobilize all their recourses for you to come back up again. This sets free new mental power: the ability to deal with highly demanding physical challenges; the completion of a task which requires attention of the highest order; the rewarding feeling of a successful completion and the following desire to "want more". Heavy squats teach us to become more resilient mentally. What we achieve, we perceive.
SUPERIOR MUSCLE BUILDING
Want to grow bigger arms? Squat more! Want to have a bigger chest? Squat more! Want to have a more defined physique? Squat more! The squat elicits physiological demands on the human body like no other movement which creates a highly anabolic (that is: building of tissue) environment. The greater the anabolic drive, the easier it is to build muscle in other areas of the body. One reason for its high anabolic response is the fact that almost every muscle is working extra time when performing a heavy squat. More muscle mass involved means giving the body a reason to produce more of the hormones which repair and build muscle. The squat fulfills just that.
Tough. Efficient. Yet rewarding.
Have you done your squats today?