Rather than simply seeing squats as a great exercise to tone up your butt, there are some other great reasons to incorporate this exercise into your workout.
1. Squats are a Compound Exercise
Squats are what are known as a compound exercise. Compound exercises require the use of more than one joint and more than one muscle group. Isolation exercises on the other hand are movements that involve the use of only one joint and one muscle group (for example, bicep curls use the biceps and elbow joint only). If you only have time for a short workout, it is a much more effective use of time to complete workouts made up of compound rather than isolation exercises. Compound exercises will also burn more calories than isolation exercises.
Squats are a fantastic versatile compound exercise you can do to work the major muscles in your lower body and core. The primary muscles squats will work are the gluteus maximus (butt) quadriceps (front of thigh), hamstrings (back of thigh). In addition, squats will also work secondary or stabilising muscles including abdominal, back and calve muscles.
In combination with other compound exercises like the bench press, you can complete a comprehensive workout that targets pretty much every muscle in your body in a relatively short period of time.
2. Squats are a Functional Exercise
Many of the exercises undertaken by people in the gym are exercises that are not analogous to functional activities in life and thus, the benefit of non-functional exercises is limited. Functional activities in life include lifting heavy items, running, jumping, throwing, standing up, pulling and pushing. Whether or not an exercise is a functional exercise can be determined by the extent to which the exercise replicates activities such as these.
Squats are an exercise that you will notice is used commonly in everyday life by people of all ages. For example, people will use the movements involved and muscles and joints worked by doing squats when they jump, get out of bed or a chair, push, lift weights (such as groceries), bend down to pick something up or garden. Rather than simply strengthening muscles in isolation, squats will train muscles to work together interdependently in order to simulate everyday activities. This will assist in improving efficiency and ease in undertaking a multitude of tasks. The action of a squat will assist not only in strengthening multiple muscle groups simultaneously, but also in improvement of overall movement, coordination, posture and balance.
3. Squats are Highly Versatile
Squats can be done in several different ways anywhere at any time and by pretty much anyone with or without equipment. You can undertake squats simply by sitting down in a chair and standing up again continuously. Alternatively, you may wish to hold dumbbells or kettlebells, place a barbell on your shoulders or even use bands or cable resistance to increase the difficulty and strength gains in undertaking the exercise. You can also use a machine such as squat rack or smith machine if you are a member of a gym. If you do not have easy access to equipment, you can vary the difficulty of your squats by doing squat jumps (onto a box or just straight up) or squat bounces. Alternatively, you can just find a weight of any type and use that to increase the resistance when doing squats.
Due to their versatility, squats are a great exercise for supersetting. Supersetting is when you complete two different types of exercise in a row without a break in between. You may choose to use exercises that use the same muscles (such as a chest press followed by a push up) or completely different muscles (such as a bicep curl followed by a squat). The latter allows the muscles used in one exercise to recover while undertaking the second exercise. Supersetting is a good way to increase the intensity of your workouts as well as shorten the workout time required.
4. Squats Strengthen Joints and Connective Tissue
Squats are a resistance exercise which means that they use resistance or an opposing force which requires muscles to work together to contract and overcome the resistance (resistance in the case of squats is simply body weight however this can easily be increased in squats by holding weights such as dumbbells). Resistance exercises assist in building and maintaining muscle strength as well as increasing the strength of joints and connective tissue (including tendons, ligaments and bones). This will also assist in improving balance.
When undertaking a squat, the knee, hip and ankle joints work together to achieve the full motion of a squat. This increases the mobility of these joints as well as building up the strength of the muscles around them that operate them. As the muscles become stronger, so do the joints and connective tissue supporting the joints and muscles. Squats (in particular, squat jumps which involve weight bearing) also assist by increasing bone mass density. This is particularly important to avoid or delay the risk of developing osteoporosis.
5. Squats Improve Athletic Performance
Squats develop power and strength within the lower body and they have biomechanical and neuromuscular parallels to a range of different athletic activities. In particular, when performed correctly, they strengthen one of the largest muscles in the body, the gluteus maximus. The glute muscles play a large part in athletic performance in most sports including running, sprinting, jumping, acceleration, leaping and plyometrics. As a result, performing squats can be of great assistance in developing improved athletic performance in these areas and many more.
In addition to improving lower body strength, squats also improve core strength which is invaluable in pretty much every sporting activity and assists in coordination, agility and balance.