We’ve all heard of the benefits of squats for men, but just why is this exercise so commonly hailed as the king of the gym and how is it different from doing a heavy Leg Press and going hard out on Leg Extensions and Curls. Let’s take a look at some key benefits of squats for men that might encourage you to step away from the Leg Press for a bit and test your metal on the squat rack.
Benefits of Squats For Men
- Targets Multiple Large Muscle Groups
- Improves Posture and Breathing
- Increases Joint Health & Stability
- Improves Strength & Stability in Core and Lower Back
- Increases Testosterone
- Improves Lifting capabilities across the board
Targets Large Muscle Groups
One of the most noticeable benefits of squats for men over other exercises is that, as a compound exercise, it targets multiple large muscle groups in one action. And big muscle groups mean big gains. Correct form squats will primarily hit the quads, hamstrings, glutes and core muscles with each complete movement. In addition to this, stabilising muscles such as the calves and muscles of the spine will get a good workout while they make sure you don’t, well, fall over while attempting your 1RM.
Improvements in Posture & Breathing
Although the intensity is focused on the lower body, it’s not new information that a squat, when done correctly, is very definitely a full body exercise with benefits being felt from head to toe. It’s no surprise, therefore, that one of the less obvious benefits of squats for men is improvements in posture.
With time, repetition and progression, strength and balance can be returned to the muscle groups of the neck, shoulders and torso, resulting in improvements in posture. As a result of this, improvements in breathing and digestion may be experienced, with the knock-on effects of increased energy and a decrease in fatigue and bloating being felt due to extra oxygen and nutrient uptake throughout the body. Not a bad result!
Benefits of Squats for Men’s Joint Health
Increased joint health and stability can have benefits both inside and outside the gym. Stronger, more functional joints can contribute to heavier weights and a safer, more progressive gym routine in the long run. However, outside the gym, benefits of squats for men on their joint health can extend to all areas of life.
Common “niggles” such as patella-femoral pain, lower back tightness, ankle and knee instability and degenerative diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis can be improved by performing regular, correct form squats as part of a balanced and active lifestyle. As with all exercise, prior to partaking in any new activity seek advice from a relevant professional. Particularly if you are currently experiencing or have experienced any chronic or acute pain or “niggles”.
Improvement in Core Stability
We’ve all heard of core stability and most of us have some idea of what it refers to these days. As a quick reminder, your core muscles are the muscles of the abdomen and torso that hold your torso and spine up and stop you slumping over. With daily movements such as lifting, bending, carrying or even just standing, healthy, strong, core muscles do most of the work meaning your lower back doesn’t have to.
Unfortunately for many today, lifestyles can be over-sedentary, with lengthy periods of time spent sitting, whether at the office, driving or chilling in front of the TV in the evening. Not good news for your core as it gets lazy and allows your lower back to do all the heavy work. A job it’s not designed for. Result…Chronic Lower Back Pain. This can result in reduced lifting capability both inside and outside the gym, and increased chance of injury.
One of the benefits of squats for men over, say, performing a Leg Press, is that due to the unstable nature of the free weight barbell, your core muscles get a wake up call and have to engage considerably to stabilise not just the barbell but also you while you’re in a standing position. This activates the muscle group and over time increases strength and functionality without you even realising it. Good news for your lower back and your gym gains.
Testosterone…the hormone that gives men that well, manly, appearance. Optimum testosterone levels in men contribute to increased muscle mass, increased libido, hair growth and all secondary male characteristics. Research shows that after the age of 30, testosterone levels may start to drop off in some men. resulting in decreased muscle mass, reduced libido, a drop in energy levels and that all-too-familiar feeling of “getting older”. Good news, regular weight training may help to increase testosterone levels which can have all-round improvements on your health, vitality and well-being.
A combination of all of the above leads to the bottom line…bigger gains and considerable increases in efficiency both inside and outside the gym. Improvements in strength, denser muscle and bone mass, stabilised joints, increased testosterone, fewer aches and pains and more stamina…it’s all just gotta make life better right?
But I can go much heavier on the Leg Press?
Yes, you’ll probably find that you can go considerably heavier on a Leg Press which is the closest machine equivalent to a squat. However, it is, in fact, nothing like a squat at all as far as your muscles and central nervous system are concerned.
The reason you can go heavier on the leg press is that your entire body is being supported by the machine so your core and stabilising muscles can have a nice rest while your target muscles of glutes, quads and hamstrings do all the work. Extra energy and force can therefore be utilised to go up a notch and push through with a heavier load. While the Leg Press can be a useful tool to assist in increasing your 1RM if you’ve feel you’ve reached a plateau, your maximum Leg Press is NOT the equivalent to your squat 1RM.
Won’t 5 separate isolation exercises have the same benefits of squats for men?
Isolation exercises have their place in any progressive gym routine. They are a useful tool to focus training in a specific area and innervate weaker muscle groups that you find generally take a back seat during compound exercises. However, training all the major muscle groups separately through machines does not present the same benefits as a compound exercise. You’ll realise this quite quickly if you’ve only ever trained on machines and suddenly decide to try and perform a heavy squat. Put simply, you’ll probably go down like a sack of spuds!
Training the muscles to cooperate with each other and work together under unstable free weights is what brings stability under pressure into your training programme. This is the bit that carries into the real world for. If you think about it, how often will you perform a leg extension in your daily life? Hardly ever if at all right? Whereas how often do you perform a squat of one form or another? Multiple times daily is probably your answer. So while it might feel safer, more comfortable or less intimidating to train under the support of the machines you’re also cheating yourself out of significant training in stability and functionality.
So squats are enough, I don’t have to do anything else?
Wrong! As with all areas of life, balance is everything and this is achieved through diversity of movement, full range of motion and “changing things up” regularly. Our bodies were designed to carry out multiple and varied movements on multiple movement planes. Benefits of squats for men will be optimised through integrating a variety of movements and directional patterns and taking a balanced approach to your workout.
Remember, heavy squatting increases muscle strength and joint stability. While this is awesome, its important to counteract any resultant muscle tightening with regular stretching and mobility to reduce the potential for over training injuries, muscle tightness and tendonitis. If you think of your muscle like an elastic band, the more flexible and pliable it is the less likely it is to break under pressure.
While definitely a less macho side to training, regular stretching and Sports Massage are equally important to keep the muscles as supple as they are strong and get maximum benefits from your squats. Consider it authorised down time and who knows, you might even enjoy the calming effect of some quiet mat work!
So there you have it! Whether your goal is “real life” benefits or gym gains you’re, the benefits of squats for men are multiple, varied and will have an impact on all areas of your lifestyle. They just make living easier! Remember to work with a relevant professional and ensure correct form before jumping under the barbell.