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If you could only have one piece of exercise equipment in your gym, what would you want? You would obviously want the piece of exercise equipment that would allow you to perform the best total body exercise…the squat.
The squat places a large amount of weight across your shoulders. This weight is stabilized by the muscles of the neck, back, chest, arms, abs, and legs. For this reason, the squat is the single best strength training exercise. So why do so many people fail to do them? They are hard! Since the squat works so many muscles at one time, this exercise demands a lot of oxygen; simply doing a set of 10 reps will leave you out of breath. Just when you think you are almost recovered, it is time to begin your next set. While squats are uncomfortable, you can make significant gains in muscle mass if you are willing to go that extra mile and push yourself. It is important to note that for each pound of muscle added to your body, you increase your basal metabolic rate by 20 kcals/day. Thus, squats help fast track you towards sculpting a new lean physique. Always remember to do this exercise properly; many individuals will only bend the knees to approximately forty-five degrees. You are only cheating yourself if you do not come down in your squat and flex the knees to at least ninety degrees. As you are rising from the squat position, be sure to press down through the heels of your feet for proper form. This exercise should be strongly encouraged to trainers at all levels, but with the caveat that they can be dangerous.
Squats carry a higher than average risk of injury, however, all strength training exercises carry inherent risk. A quick search of the web will find numerous squat recommendations and horror stories from so called “experts.” Among the most ridiculous recommendations that have been proposed is setting an age limit for performing this exercise. Squats receive a lot of negative press, probably due to the fact that no one wants to do them and are looking for an excuse. As with all exercises, be safe and know your limits. If you are 50 years old and have never touched a weight in your life, you may not want to perform this exercise. If you are just starting out, keep your weight low while keeping your reps high (12-15 reps/set). Building quality muscle has never been about the amount of weight you press or lift, it is about how you move it through your range of motion. Adding additional weight beyond what you can handle will result in rocking and implicating non-targeted muscle groups. For example, if you are doing biceps curls, you may begin to invoke the muscles of your lower back as you rock the weight to your chest. These actions can easily lead to injury. Thus, to reduce your risk of injury, keep the weight low and keep the reps high.
The squat is a high quality exercise that can quickly add pounds of lean muscle. Make this exercise a part of your leg routine and it will reward you with excellent results. However, be sensible and know your limits. Squat hard, and squat often.
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