THE SQUAT, part 1: Barbell Squat

For various reasons the squat has been called the "King of all Exercises". Because of involving so many major muscle groups - the thighs of course being the most predominant one - the squat has the highest impact on the entire hormone system due to its high intensity. Performing squats causes the highest release of growth hormone and testosterone of all resistance exercises which stimulates growth throughout the whole body. There is also no other resistance exercise that stimulates your metabolism to a comparable extent and has a better effect on your cardio-respiratory system. There is a variety of different squat versions available, which include the Barbell Squat Behind The Neck, the Front Squat, Smith Machine Squat, Hacksquat, Dumbbell Squat etc.

Though the squat is without doubt the most effective one of all resistance exercises, there often are problems with the capabilities and physical limitations of the people performing it.

Special caution is advised with the execution of the Barbell Squat, which can be performed either with the barbell rested on your trapezius behind your neck or with the barbell rested on your front deltoids (Front Squat).

The ordinary Barbell Squat with the bar rested on your traps is most effective for the overall development of thighs and glutes and allows for using a higher amount of weight as compared to the Front Squat. However, many people have problems with keeping their torso erect while performing the squat. Leaning too far forward, however, subjects their lower back to undue stress and may cause injury. Using weight plates or a wooden plank as an underlay under your heels may help to reduce the forward tilt of your upper body and keep your torso as
upright as possible.

If the Barbell Squat can still not be performed correctly, switching to the Front Squat or Smith Machine Squat may be sensible alternatives.

The Front Squat facilitates keeping your upper body erect with your back-extensors tight, which is vital for the safe execution of the exercise. Holding the barbell in front of your body however requires some degree of flexibility in the shoulder girdle and the pressure of the weight on the front deltoids needs getting accustomed to. This squat version affects the quadriceps more than any other muscle group with secondary stress on the hamstrings and glutes.

The Smith Squat or Hacksquat may be a good alternatives for people who have problems with the technique of either one of the two above described squat versions.

During all versions of the squat it is essential to keep your back perfectly arched. Wearing a lifting belt tightly around your waist for support is certainly recommendable but no substitute for correct lifting technique.. While some authorities advise to bend the knees until your upper thighs are parallel to the ground, going deeper may be safe for people without prior knee injuries. However, bouncing out of the bottom position must be avoided at all cost as this causes undue stress on your knees and will over time definitely lead to serious injury.

Also, never hold your breath during the performance of the squat, but inhale while going down and exhale at the latest half way up.