If you are looking for the best way to boost your overall fitness and improve your training results FAST, look no further than adding squats into your training plan! Squats obviously build your legs (quads, hamstrings, and calves) but also have a huge anabolic approach which will help build all over body muscle.

They can trigger the release of Growth hormone and testosterone which is vital for muscle growth and helps to improve muscle mass in other areas of your body! One of the quickest ways to burn more calories is to put more muscle on! For every lbs of muscle you add you can burn an extra 50 -70 kcals a day, so if you were to put on 10 Lbs of muscle that an extra 500 – 700kcals of fat burning a day!

Another great thing about squats are they can help to prevent injury, as most people who injure themselves would have weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues which squats help to strengthen. Not many exercises work as many muscles groups as the squat, it’s great for toning the glutes, legs and abdominal muscles, furthermore these muscles participate in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and also insulin sensitivity which helps to protect against obesity, diabetes, and cardio vascular disease!

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Below I have written out 7 examples of squats and why they are so good!

1. Front squat

Front squats are easier on your back and knees. Science shows you can work the same muscles targeted as the back squat while saving the lower back and knees. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning concluded that the front squat was as effective as the back squat in terms of overall muscle recruitment, with significantly less compressive forces and extensor moments.

The back results suggest that front squats may be advantageous compared with back squats for individuals with knee problems such as meniscus tears, and for long-term joint health.

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The front squat immediately assesses flexibility and to perform the movement with proper technique you must be flexible in all major joints. Coaches that test athletes’ strength in front squats, by default, create an incentive to train flexibility.

So it goes that gym rats that train front squats consistently are, by default, consistently working on their flexibility. Additional flexibility work, however, is also advised. If the movement requires flexibility, as does the front squat, you must be flexible.

2. Back squat/full squat

Used to be that the deep squat was feared by everyone but the most hard core lifters. People mistakenly thought they damaged the knees and lower back.

Deep squats have since been vindicated as one of the most effective lifts for building fitness and athleticism.

Full squats produce greater overall muscle development in the lower body, optimally hitting the glutes, hamstrings, and quads for superior growth compared to partial squats.

Full front and back squats have many applications for athletes including a better transfer to vertical jump than partial squats.

Training deep barbell back squats can lead to an increase in vertical jump height of 13 percent.

Full range-of-motion squats optimally target the hip and knee musculature, while increasing the transfer of force throughout the kinetic chain for greater jump height.

Full squats build structural balance by training the paraspinal muscles of the lower back in conjunction with the gluteals for greater athleticism and better posture.

According to world renowned coach Charles poliquin , Full barbell squatting loads the spine and has been found to significantly increase bone mineral density. This is protective against fractures and osteoporosis, and it’s of special relevance for female athletes who possess significantly lower vertebrae strength than males.

Not only do full squats strengthen bone and protect the lower back, they are all-around safer for the spine because they require lighter loads than partials. The simple act of squatting with a barbell on your back creates a large amount of force on the spine. This is not dangerous if you have proper technique, but caution is still warranted.

Training for flexibility may not be as sexy as a monster PR, but the reality is that being able to do a full back squat, will make you bulletproof against succumbing to the ailments that affect your non-squatting (or half-squatting) colleagues: low back pain, knee pain, and poor movement patterns.

It trains the body in a motion that humans have evolved to perform with ease and grace. Deep squats also allow for a balanced development of the hip and lower back musculature, while encouraging peak dynamic mobility.

3. Myotatic/1 quarter squats

This one is used for training an enormous development of the vastus lateralis muscles. Squat down for a 5 seconds count until you hit bottom position, come up a quarter of the way at a slow and deliberate pace, go back down and come up until your knees are short of lock-out. That consists of one rep. Performing 4 -5 sets of 4-8 of the one and quarter reps will set your vastus medialis muscles to record growth.

4. Cyclist squats

Olympic level cyclists used that exercise to attain World Record performances in the track events. In this variation of the back squats, you want to use a board to rest your heels on in a narrow stance (4 to 6 inches between the heels). The best type of board for this is wedged, so to that the pressure on your feet arches is minimal. The higher the wedge, the more recruitment of the vastus medialis you will get.

You will also find that you will squat more upright when using the wedged board, so less recruitment will occur in the gluteal muscles. As far as reps and sets are concerned, the German Volume method applies (10 sets of 10 reps), particularly well to this exercise if you are truly motivated at hypertrophying this muscle.

5. Box squat

The benefits of the box squat are many. First on the list is the fact that squatting on a box forces you to pause at the bottom, which causes you to recruit more muscle fibers to get you out of the hole and back up to the top. More muscle fibers recruited equals more strength and more growth. The second benefit is that you can sit back farther than you could if a box wasn’t under you.

This places more stress on the powerful hamstrings and glute muscles, which are key movers in this exercise. A third advantage is that you can accurately set how low you’ll go in your descent, simply by adjusting the box height. Last, but in no way least, the box is a great tool for teaching yourself proper squatting technique — and the heavier your squat gets, the more important technique is.

6. Wide squat

Research from the University of Abertay in the United Kingdom has shown that when a wider stance squat was performed, EMG results for glute activation were significantly higher than with a normal stance. The study also concluded that total quadricep activation was identical in both the wide and narrow stance squatting pattern. Wide stances work more muscles, but this isn’t the only advantage of going wide.

Most of the popularity of narrow stance squats is based on personal opinion and “feel.” There isn’t any data to support the claim that a narrow stance activates the quadriceps to a greater level than any other stance width. Changing the stance changes the movement. Narrow stances require an anterior tracking of the knee. While this isn’t inherently a bad movement, it does place a greater stress on the knee. If the movement isn’t trained in this style in a regular fashion, the recessive forces exerted on the knee could lead to patellar tendon strains or tendonitis.

In order to reach squat depth with a wide stance, the lifter must maintain a more vertical shin position. This places far less stress on the knee and still activates the quads to the same degree.

In strength and conditioning programs, a focus on hip strength and function has moved to the forefront. Proposed quad dominance and weak glutes are a concern for sedentary populations, and hip and core strength are getting some much needed attention. Following this trend of movements over muscles, we need an all-encompassing approach to hip function during training.

The wide stance squat provides the best option for training the hips in all three planes of motion. The wide movement exhibits greater hip flexion and smaller plantar flexion angles than narrow stance squats. It also produces significantly larger hip extension movements.

Wide stance squats are achieved with a posterior tracking of the hips, which leads to greater hip extension to return the bar back up. Further, wide stance squats have been shown to have greater abduction and adduction with greater internal and external rotation of the femur during the lift.

Some argue that the wide stance squat isn’t a functional position and that a more traditional squatting pattern better mimics life applications. However, the goal of a wider stance is muscular development and strength, not increased functional movement. Movement in all three planes of motion develops a stable hip joint that can handle a tremendous amount of stress. In order to handle compressive loads, a strong spine is a must.

The hips are multidirectional joints made for producing force in all three planes of motion, so wide stance squats are the better option for training them. Pushing the knees out to stay in line with the ankles causes rotation, abduction, and flexion and extension with the squatting pattern. Wide stance squats allow for a movement that produces more work at the hips than traditional squats.

Unbeatable benefits of squatting and it’s 7 powerful variations!-03

Squatting to target that perfect tear drop vastus medialis is a waste. Use a squat stance that builds a better body all around. Spread your stance out, open up your hips, and train the movement fully. Don’t rely on feel. Use science to gain strength and size.

Pause rep squat

There are countless tools and variations that an athlete can apply to a traditional squat to help improve their power, efficiency and technique, translating to better numbers not just in the squat—but a host of other movements as well, inside and out of the gym. From box squats to using chains and bands, there are multiple options to choose from. One of the most straightforward yet effective training techniques is the pause squat.

It has been argued that pause squats have several benefits that make them as good as, or even superior to, regular squats. During a pause squat, an athlete comes to complete stop at the bottom of the movement, holds the position for however long is dictated, then explodes out of the hole.

This is quite literally how you perform the movement. You would perform whatever type of squat (overhead, front, back, dumbbell, kettlebell, etc.) as you normally would, keeping good form throughout knowing that you must come to a complete stop at the bottom position, below parallel.

At this point you, can play around with the time you hold the weight, from 1,3,5 or 7 seconds, but it is important that you use a lighter weight than you normally would for that squat as it’s much harder to come out of the hole from a stationary position than it is from one fluid motion. When holding the pause, it’s paramount that you remain tight in the hole. This will require concentration and practice. Getting loose in the hole can lead to lower back rounding and falling forward during the concentric aspect of the squat.

Stopping the squat at the bottom significantly reduces the amount of stress placed on the lower back, but causes the legs to have to work much harder to push back to the starting position. This is because a pause gives the legs greater time under tension, and increases muscular recruitment. As the fast twitch fibres continue to fatigue during the pause, slow twitch fibres (and muscles) are recruited in order to help stabilize the body in that position.

The more you perform pause squats, the more the body and brain gets used to recruiting slow twitch muscle fibres and builds the strength of the supporting muscles in the lower back, hips and abs, which bodes well for your overall squat numbers and strength in other movements. Furthermore, because holding a pause dissipates the stretch reflex (that ‘bounce’ you feel when you drop down and explode up rapidly on a squat) and fatigues the muscles more prior to the concentric portion of the lift. Combining these things all together results in greater muscular strength and more power from having to drive out of the hole.

7. Over head squat

As a trainer, I come across too many people who want to build their body with shortcuts and cheats. Cutting technique corners is one thing, but ignoring important exercises is another.

Gym rats usually shy away from movements that exploit their weak links, sticking to staples like the biceps curl. If you want to strengthen your weaknesses, challenge your entire body, and unlock new growth, the overhead squat is a killer place to start. Overhead squats are arguably the most technically demanding movement in weight training, along with the Olympic lift variations. They have tremendous positive effects on mobility, squat depth, back strength, and stability, especially where it translates to other lifts. You have to practice the overhead squat to master the movement, but it’s damn hard.

Keep in mind that the overhead squat is not a movement to approach lightly. If you have a history of shoulder issues, impingement, or terribly poor range of motion due to some limitation, don’t play around with this exercise, approach your trainer / coach for advice! My name is Brendan Swan and I am a Strength and Conditioning coach in Dublin Ireland, please feel free to contact me to book your free cosultation.

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