Why does the squat win hands down when it comes to the most powerful exercise in the gym for building muscle and losing fat ? The answer is dead simple because the squat and any other deadlift exercises are using more muscle groups subject to a heavy load than any other weight lifting exercises. And what response do we get on the hormonal front when we do the squat ? We get the maximum hormonal response and that means growth hormone and testosterone are peaking when we do these exercises. Studies have shown that when guys do the squat, they are also doing some development of the upper body as well as the lower body, in spite of the fact that upper body movements are not even performed when we are doing this.
I think this shows us clearly that the ultimate exercise has got to be the squat and deadlift whether we want to improve athletic performance or just build a stronger body, gain muscle mass or lose fat. The squat and the deadlift win hands down ! If you are sceptical about this, why not go and join all the gang doing boring cardio workouts. You will find that these guys generally have a weight problem.
Take it from me that the squat and the deadlifts are the real basis for a fitter and more powerful body. Get out your dumbbells, kettlebells or other free weighted objects or just the weight of your own body. Forget the Smith machine or other squat machines.
Remember squats should be done ONLY with free weights. Machines will do part of the work for you like stabilizing the weight for you. That means YOU work less and the results are not going to be so great. There are three types of squat exercise all of which are effective. Actually a combination of all three is probably best in giving you the best results for athletic performance , building muscle and fat loss, although not all gym trainers are in agreement about this.
First we have the barbell back squat where the bar rest across the trapezius muscles of your upper back. Then we have the front squat where the bar is on the shoulders in front of the head. Then we have overhead squats where the bar is locked out in the snatch grip overhead. Some trainers really believe that the latter two squats I have described are less likely to lead to lower back injury and are more beneficial for athletic performance.
I think you may find that the back squat is easier than the front squat and I find that the overhead squat is probably the most difficult. I will deal with overhead squats in another article. Let us say you are used to the back squat ? it will probably take you a while to get into the front squat so it is best to start off with a light weight until you get the feel for this one.
You will gradually be able to increase the weight once you gain in confidence. Here is how to perform the front squat. As you are in a more upright position, you will find that you are using your abdominals much more than when you do the back squat. The front squat concentrates more on the lower body but is also great for building strength and stability into the squatting movement. As some guys have difficulty in resting the bar on their shoulders here are some tips.
There are two ways you can rest the bar on the front of the shoulders. One way is to step under the bar, then cross your forearms into an X position making sure you rest the bar on the little hollow that is created by the shoulder muscle near the bone. Keep your elbows high making sure that your arms are parallel to the floor. You can press the thumb side of your fists against the bar for support and to hold the bar in place. Another way is to hold the bar by putting your palms facing up and the bar can rest on your fingers against the shoulders. Whatever method you use you have to make sure that your elbows remain high so that the weight does not fall.
Also your upper arms should stay parallel to the ground while you are doing the squat. You can work out which method you feel more comfortable with. When you begin the squat, concentrate on the hips by sitting back and down and remembering not to put your weight on the balls of your feet but put it on your heels. As you squat you are aiming for a position where your thighs are going to be parallel to the floor. By keeping your weight towards your heels will help to prevent any knee injury and also make your knee joints stronger and more resistant to injury. Remember that if you do squats correctly, you will be strengthening your knees.
Always start off with an un-weighted bar or at least a very light weight while you are learning to do the exercise. You will be pleasantly surprised when you realise that this exercise works the abs quite a lot once you start doing it correctly. This is because you are in a more upright position than when you do the back squats.
Robert Locke is a fitness writer in Health. Visit to receive your own personalized metabolic rate calculator as well as 4 secret hard-body workout routines - both FREE. Click on the Truth About Abs.