“If you had the chance to only do two exercises for the rest of your life, what would they be?” The answer for lower body exercise is simple. It would be squats.
There is a reason why squats are my immediate answer. You see, squats are the king of the lower body and some would even say the king of all exercises (I know, shocking because no one unless you are a real gym-goer, focuses on squats). But, there is a famous saying that is, “the squat is the king of all lower body exercises”. It goes as far as some people will even say if you don’t have a squat in your workout program you aren’t doing a lower body workout. Now, one of the reasons why the squat is so important is because it works almost your entire lower body (with a full range of motion, but you know that I preach that already).
And it’s not just that, but in fact, the squat will give you an excellent core (when doing it right) and especially if you add in a barbell it can really hit your core hard and can be a great version of core work (yes, you read that right). Now, you may ask- is a barbell back squat a great core workout? Well, I want you to think about it, let’s pretend I put 100 pounds on your back and then I tell you to give me a proper squat going fully down where your hamstring and calves cover each other and your back is in an upright position. Now, I ask you what is preventing you from letting your back fall forward or backward. Yes, the core is making sure that you aren’t falling forward (which is what every plank advocate preaches that it does), so now that I gave you 100 pounds on your back can you imagine when we get to 200 pounds how much harder it will be?
The only other question that people ask about the squat- is it safe for the knees?
And my answer to that question is- it probably will be the best thing for the knees, however that is relative because sometimes you may have an imbalance that you need to take care of first. That imbalance can most likely be targeted with a squat.
Most people start to get knee pain, in my opinion, when they are not squatting full range of motion and therefore will only work the quads too hard and not enough the hamstring or the glutes which are the cause of the imbalance. Additionally, their calves may be too tight and can therefore easily be corrected with putting their heels up on wedges to improvise for the tightness of the calves. Finally, the last reason that one could be feeling knee pain is that they are relaxing at the bottom of the squat, this actually would put too much pressure on the tendons and joints, since the muscles aren’t working to protect them and the bottom of the squat is the hardest position of the squat. The solution to this would be to keep tension on the squat the whole time never resting nor bouncing out of the bottom. Rather, the focus should be to control the way down and on the way up pushing your feet into the floor and away from each other (pretend like you are trying to rip the earth apart) to keep constant tension on the full squat and this should take care of any knee pain that comes when squatting.
This was part one of the kings of exercises, next time we will cover the upper body king, and it’s not push-ups (I know mind blown!).