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The Truth About Building Muscle
You Ain't Squat 'Till You SQUAT!
By Sean Nalewanyj
Simply put, squats are
the most difficult, intimidating and painful exercise you could possibly have
in your arsenal. They require massive amounts of discipline and willpower to
perform correctly. After you have performed a set of squats to failure, you'll
know exactly what I'm talking about! They are also a challenging exercise to
master from a technical standpoint. All this aside, they are also the most
productive. Squats have packed more muscle onto skinny frames than any other
lift out there. Because of the degree of difficulty, squats also force your
body to release higher amounts of important anabolic hormones, such as
testosterone and growth hormone, thus resulting in total body muscle growth. In
addition, squats also cause what is known as a "spillover effect": a
strength gain in almost all of your other exercises. When I started squatting
to failure, my bench press increased by 20 pounds! If you're looking for
serious muscle gains and you don't already squat, you'd better get started.
Quite simply, they really, really work.
people have yet to experience the benefits of heavy squatting. Why? It seems
that people will come up with just about any excuse they possibly can in order
to steer clear form the squat rack. How many times have you heard the all too
common "They're too hard on my knees", or "I heard they stunt
your growth." What do I say to that? Nonsense! With the exception of a
very small population of lifters, everyone can squat! The main reason
that the squat rack seems to collect dust faster than any other piece of
equipment in the gym is simply due to the amount of intensity one must generate
in order to squat effectively. In addition to that, many myths have come up over
the years that have convinced people to steer clear of this exercise. Let's
take a look at these myths and clear them up once and for all.
#1: "Squatting will ruin your knees"
Just as the muscle tissue
in your body strengthens when exposed to stress, the tendons, ligaments and
other connective tissues in your body will also thicken in response to
weightlifting. Because of this, heavy squatting can only increase knee
strength. By strengthening the supporting muscles around the knee, you will
also end up with much greater knee stability and strength. Knee problems when
squatting will only occur through improper form, namely relaxing in the bottom
position. When you relax the knee joint, it separates slightly, placing it in a
compromising position. The solution? Don't relax in the bottom position! It's
that simple. Keep everything tight and flexed and you'll have no problems.
#2: "Squatting is
dangerous to the spine"
Again, weightlifting will
only strengthen ligaments and connective tissues. If you like, you can use a
weight belt when performing heavy, low rep sets, but otherwise you won't need
it. Some lifters find squatting uncomfortable to the cervical spine (your neck)
because of the bar resting there. Most lifters get used to it, but if you find
it to be a big problem you can simply place a towel or pad underneath the bar.
#3: "Squats are
dangerous to the heart"
exercises restrict blood flow due to long periods of muscular contraction.
Elevated blood pressure will result from this, but it is only temporary and
isn't dangerous. The heart, just like all other muscles of the body, will adapt
to the stress that is placed upon it. Therefore, squatting will help to
strengthen the cardiovascular system. However, just to remain on the safe side,
those with coronary diseases may want to consult a physician before beginning
any kind of weight training program.
#4: "Squats will decrease your speed"
It is a well known and
accepted fact by exercise physicists that the stronger a muscle is, the faster
it will contract and the more force it can apply off the ground. Therefore,
speed can only be increased through the use of squatting. I was a 100 metre
sprinter in high school, and when I incorporated heavy squats into my weightlifting
routine I was able to cut a full second off my time.
Well, so much for those
myths! The important thing to remember is that any negative consequences
brought on by squatting are the result of improper technique and not the
exercise itself. Squatting is safe and hugely effective. So if you're one of
those people who fears the squat, quit being a wimp! Gather some courage and
drag your ass over to the squat rack. Well, what do you say? Do you want to get
huge? I mean really, really huge? Then continue reading and be prepared for
some mind-blowing gains.
Still with me? Awesome; let's learn the proper technique.
For safety reasons you
should always perform your squats in a power rack or cage. This way you can
adjust the height at which you clear the bar, and you can drop the bar on the
safety pins if you need to bail. The safety pins should be set at just below
the depth you are squatting and the J Hooks should be set at about the level of
At all times during the
squat your head should be pulled back, your chest raised and you should have a
slight arch in your lower back. You should always be looking straight ahead,
and at no time should you be leaning too far forward, or be looking up or down.
Step up to the bar,
placing your hands at about the same width as a bench press. Before clearing
the bar, make sure it is placed evenly along your traps. The bar should rest on
the lower portion of your traps and across your rear delts. It should almost
feel as if the bar is going to roll off your back. Now that you have cleared
the bar, take only as many steps back as necessary. Most squat injuries occur
when backing up, so make sure that you only back up as far as you need to. Your
feet should be placed about shoulder width apart or slightly wider, and they
should point out at a 45-degree angle.
Take a big, deep breath,
and make your descent. You should not lower yourself straight down, but rather
as if you were sitting in a chair behind you. At all times your knee must
remain in line with your feet, and they should never bow in. Lower yourself
until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground. If in doubt, go lower!
As soon as you have
reached the bottom position, rise up immediately. Do not relax in the bottom position!
Drive up with your heels and straighten your back as quickly as possible.
Once you are in the
upright position again, take another deep breath, and continue the lift until
you have completed the desired number of reps. How many reps should you perform?
It depends. There are many who say that 20 rep squats are the most beneficial.
Others say 12-15. Some people might use 6-8. It all depends on the person. I
personally perform 5-7 reps. Experiment and see what works best for you!
So there you have it. You
have all the reason in the world to get into the squat rack, so go ahead and do
it! Everyone should be squatting! Bodybuilders, athletes, powerlifters, tap
dancers.... Squats truly are the king of all exercises. When performed
correctly they are not dangerous. Treat this lift with respect and you will
make gains that you never thought were possible. And always remember, you ain't
squat until you SQUAT!
About The Author
Sean Nalewanyj is a bodybuilding expert and writer of top-selling Internet Bodybuilding E-Book: The Truth About Building Muscle.
With The Truth About Building Muscle bodybuilding expert Sean Nalewanyj shows you how you can avoid these fatal and common pitfalls. You'll learn the honest and unbiased truth about building maximum lean muscle mass, gaining strength and burning fat. Including a complete 250-page e-book, full exercise database, and free online personal training.
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