by Martin Rooney
1. The squat functions to improve athleticism. In my 20 years of training and coaching, I’ve seen a lot fewer people get hurt squatting than those dropping weights on their toes. I have, however, seen thousands of athletes lower their 40 times and increase their vertical jumps by squatting.
2. The squat functions to improve cardio. Most people think cardio involves elliptical machines, leotards, and aerobics class. Do some sets of 15-20 squats and see if your heart rate doesn’t spike. Squats will improve your cardiac capacity and mental toughness.
3. The squat functions to add muscle mass. The squat is the absolute best exercise for adding functional bodyweight. If your goal is to weigh more than people think, the squat will pack on muscle in places people can’t even see.
4. The squat functions to get athletes ready for future programming. If you’re a trainer and you have to get athletes ready for college, squatting should be a staple. Single-leg dumbbell crossover step-ups might earn you points for creativity, but if you aren’t making your athletes squat you aren’t doing all you can to prep them.
The big issue with the back squat isn’t weakness – it’s mobility.
Contrary to what you might hear, mobility isn’t age dependent; it’s movement dependent. Stop moving for an extended period of time and don’t be surprised when the back squat folds you in half like a cheap lawn chair.
We all saw that photo of the one-year-old sitting in the hole of a perfect squat. Heck, some of you might’ve posted it on your Facebook page and commented on his “ass to grass” form.
Newsflash: Not many 30-60 year-olds have that level of mobility. Maybe that’s what’s supposed to happen with mobility. Fail to maintain it and you lose it.
If that’s what happens, you turn the barbell squat into a “bad morning exercise,” both during the workout and the next day when you hobble out of bed.
But if you keep moving and maintain or even enhance your mobility as you age, the squat doesn’t have to go. You can greatly improve your mobility for squatting if you work at it.