Whether you’re male or female, bulking up or slimming down or your priority is looking or feeling better the benefits of squats are undeniable. Whatever your reasons are for training, squats, when performed correctly, can be your one-stop-shop to improving strength, stability and functionality. Not to mention a nice round booty!
Let’s break it down and check out why squats (and deadlifts…but that’s another article) are quite possibly the most awesome half hour spent of your gym day!
Benefits of Squats Include:
- Improvement in muscle tone and appearance, aka. a nicer butt
- Increased BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)
- Increased Total Body Strength
- Hormone Balancing
- Time Efficiency
The Obvious One…A Nicer Butt:
As your training progresses this will more than likely become one of the less important benefits of squats. As you realise how amazing it feels to be strong and healthy you’ll become less focused on the visual improvements.
However, with that said, in a world flooded with Instagram pics, deep down we all like to have a nice booty and when most people start out it’s probably the biggest drawcard for doing squats.
So why do squats give you a nice round butt? One of the benefits of squats is that they’re a compound exercise. A whaaatt?? Compound exercises target multiple muscle groups at once. Why is this a good thing? Firstly, more muscles working means more calories burning. Secondly, it means that various muscle groups that work together are getting targeted, toned and strengthened together.
While some may think that having a nicer posterior is a matter of working only the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus (that’s the anatomical term for butt muscles), it is in fact a combinations of stronger leaner quads (front thighs), hamstrings (back of legs where all the lovely cellulite likes to hang out) and glutes that gives the nice round, high up shape that we all strive for.
Obviously results are dependent on factors such as exercise frequency, intensity, nutrition and those pesky genetics that enhance or inhibit your glute growth and there’s not a dam thing you can do about it. Rest assured, however, a regular, correct form squat routine will have your glutes being the perkiest, most functional and strongest version of themselves possible.
Fat burning more than likely won’t stay top of your list of “reasons to go to the gym today”. Strength building and functionality tend to take over as motivators. However, starting out, it may be one what’s getting you to the gym in the first place.
With that in mind, put simply, the benefits of squats include a significant increase in calorie burn, These effects can benefit you both during your session and after you’ve finished your workout. If you’re looking to burn fat, trust me, this is more effective than 40 minutes pounding the treadmill.
Well, technically you probably burn more calories on the 40-minute run. However, it’s AFTER the exercise that the magic happens. A 5k run will continue to burn calories for about 60 minutes after you’ve ceased running. This means an extra calorie burn while you’re chilling out with your post-run coffee. Awesome!
However, a heavy squat session can have you burning increased calories for up to 12 hours after you’ve racked the squat bar. That’s increased calorie burn during your work day, during your housework, while you’re sitting watching TV in the evening and possibly even while you sleep. Now that’s a result!
In addition to this, progressive squats over time will build muscle mass, increasing your resting metabolic rate. Muscle tissue burns significantly more calories at rest than adipose, or fatty tissue. 1 pound of fat at rest burns 2 to 3 calories a day, while 1 pound of muscle burns 7 to 10 calories a day while resting. That’s before you even lift a barbell.
So even if you haven’t managed to get to the gym for a day or two, if you’ve managed to pile on a few pounds of muscle tissue over the months, you can feel a bit smug that you’re still burning extra calories than your less muscly self would have been.
Tip: Remember to eat. Sounds obvious I know but when you’re training heavy your calorie requirement will increase. Women, in particular, may have a tendency to cut calorie intake whilst weight training in the belief that this will speed up fat loss. This leads to a drop in energy levels, decreased enjoyment, poor form, the potential for injury due to undernourished and weaker muscles and may eventually result in “giving up”. Calories burned during effective weight training are significant so eat well, eat often and enjoy your food.
Increase in Strength:
Benefits of squats include increased strength in the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, lower back, core muscles, postural muscles, grip hold and an improvement in balance. Yep, that pretty much covers most of the body. So that’s why squats are magic.
A less visible result, an increase in strength will appeal less to your sense of vanity and more to your sense of feeling awesome and indestructible. More often than not, this particular benefit soon outweighs the more visible results and becomes the main driving force in progressive training for clients, both male and female.
But why do we need to be strong…don’t we have Marvel Superheroes for that kind of thing? While not everybody may want to be Antman (or possibly something cooler like Captain America) increasing our strength through progressive training means our baseline strength outside of the gym increases. This makes the real-life task of, well, living, a whole lot easier.
Lifting, carrying, manual handling, bending over to pick stuff up, teaching your kids to ride a bike (every parent’s lower back knows about this one!), unexpected falls, general wear and tear from physical labour and daily life. The list could go on indefinitely. All of these things we do on a daily basis that make us mini superheroes become a lot easier and the risks of major injury or minor niggles from daily living are massively reduced from having an increased baseline of strength, correct form and functionality.
One of the benefits of squats is that, over time, without even thinking about it you’ll be activating the correct muscle groups. This protects the more vulnerable areas such as lower back and knees, when lifting, carrying or even having a clumsy moment and falling over…hey it happens to the best of us! All of this, in short, means less chance of injuring yourself in daily life which is an excellent thing in a world of increasing health care costs and diminishing sick pay!
Isn’t it just teenagers that have hormones? Nope, we’re all slaves to our hormones throughout our entire lives. They maintain a tight grip on our daily lives and control everything from our mood, appetite and general well-being to our post-work-out recovery and ability to stay focused. So what’s that got to do with squats? Well, if our hormones are controlling us, it would make sense to try and control them back, or at least facilitate them as best we can.
Testosterone: Heavy squat training can increase testosterone. Maintaining good levels of testosterone as the years roll by has been proven to contribute to higher energy levels, increased libido, maintenance of muscle mass and an improvement in bone density. While testosterone is traditionally associated with males, it is present in smaller amounts in females too with the benefits mentioned above applying to both sexes. So there you have it, a little bit of macho is good for everybody.
Serotonin: Technically a neurotransmitter rather than a hormone, one of the invisible but instant benefits of squats, as with all physical exercise, is the release of that much talked about magic feel-good chemical, serotonin into the system. Increased serotonin levels help regulate mood and social behaviour, improve appetite and reduce sugar cravings, aid digestion and contribute to better sleep patterns and memory function. So the benefits of squats aren’t just confined to the physical realm.
Benefits of Serotonin:
- Regulates mood
- Aids appetite and digestion
- Increases libido
- Contributes to healthier sleep patterns
- Aids memory function
- Reduces sugar cravings
- Increases energy
- Boosts general mood
Time Saver in the Gym:
Let’s face it, everyone is busy these days. We’re all running around doing ten things at once, whether its kids, a demanding job or several demanding jobs or whatever your life commitments are. With the exception of professional Instagramers and fitness professionals, very few of us are in a position to spend hours and hours of our week in the gym.
With an average work-out time being about 60 minutes, you want to be able to hit as many muscle groups as possible and allow for a warm-up and cool-down within that time frame. Compound exercises such as squats or deadlifts target not only the large, major muscle groups of the quads, hammies, glutes and core, they also hit smaller supporting (aka. synergistic) muscle groups.
One of the benefits of squats is they facilitate an almost entire full body workout in one exercise. How do you know if you’ve done your squats properly? Because you’ll feel like you’ve done a full body workout the next day!
For Maximum Benefits of Squats: A Few Tips…
- Seek proper instruction: To get maximum benefit and avoid the risk of injury and unnecessary wear and tear on joints and muscles get advice and instruction from a relevant qualified professional and check back in regularly to make sure your form stays correct as the weight increases.
- Not all squats are created equal: The benefits of squats vary depending on whether you’re choosing to train with heavy weighted squats or bodyweight squat with variations to increase intensity. Check out our article on Heavy Weights versus Bodyweight here for more info on this.
- Weight belt or no weight belt?: Weight belts can be introduced into your squat routine as an extra layer of protection on your lower back area. The use of a weight belt can be vital in the case of extreme heavy weight training or to somebody with lower back vulnerabilities. However, in the case of beginners or medium weight training, it can impede correct natural form and inhibit the bodies ability to “brace” itself correctly without extra equipment. Speak to your gym or medical professional about this and follow their advice regarding the use of a weight belt.
- Include mobility and stretching: The benefits of squats come into play only with a well-rounded and balanced approach to the exercise. As strength increases, it’s vital to maintain flexibility and pliability of joints and muscles through correct stretching and mobility. Often overlooked, this less macho bit of your workout is just as important. Whether its yoga, RomWod or a bit of Tai-Chi, in order to allow muscle recovery and reduce risk of injury, consider this an integral part of your squat regime. Check out our article on best post-squat stretches to hit the right muscle groups.
- Keep progressing. While it may be tempting to stay in your comfort zone, your body adapts only when it needs to. As soon as your workout starts to feel easy or routine it’s time to progress it. Increase weights, introduce plyometrics, target different muscle groups through different squat positions. In short, change it up so it stays a challenge.
- And finally…it’s all about balance: Overuse of any one muscle group in the body is not and never will be a good thing. While squats work a whole host of muscle groups they don’t work ALL of them and it’s important to balance out your squat routine with exercises such as pull-ups, rows push-ups and deadlifts (or the fabulous five as I like to call them) to build a healthy, strong and highly functional body. In short, we don’t recommend attending the gym for an hour every day and doing nothing but squats. A couple of times a week should see you right.