When it comes to training in the gym, our overall goals and targets in general, will all shape the types of exercises we perform, and indeed, the amount of weight that we can comfortably lift and squat.
The main issue with weight and resistance training, is that people are often so preoccupied with how much weight they can lift, that they sacrifice their form. And not only do they not properly benefit from the exercise, but more importantly, they put themselves at risk of suffering from a debilitating injury.
The great thing about resistance training is that, as there are so many exercises and workouts available for you to perform, you will constantly be able to keep things fresh and interesting.
In terms of popularity, however, there is one exercise that rules the roost, for a whole host of reasons, and that exercise is – THE SQUAT.
Squats can be performed using barbells, they can be performed using dumbbells or Kettlebells, or they can even be performed using nothing but your own body weight for resistance.
One thing that is for sure, however, is that you have to know what you’re doing when you do perform squats, and you should always practice good form rather than heavy weight. But the question is – “How much should I squat?”
By the time you’ve finished this article, all will become clear as we’ll be taking an in-depth look at squats, by providing you with the ultimate guide.
This guide will not only answer the question of how much should you squat, but will also take a look at the dangers of training heavy, the benefits of squats, and how they should be performed.
The Risks Of Heavy Squatting
When people talk about training legs, any seasoned lifters amongst you will already know right off the bat, just how brutal leg training can actually be.
When you train legs, your legs ache (in a good way) for days upon days afterwards, you may feel like you’re about to puke, you may even puke, and you’ll push yourself harder than you realised.
The main reason why leg day is considered so brutal, however, is because of the fact that it features squats as the primary compound exercise for that particular muscle group.
When you see lifting competitions on the TV or online, you’ll see people squatting barbells loaded up with absurd amounts of weight, which puts them in a great deal of danger.
Many people try emulating this in the gym as they see squats as the ultimate hardcore exercise. However, when squatting, you must ensure that you only squat a weight that you are comfortable with, that allows you to perform several reps before you begin to struggle slightly.
Squatting with weights which are too heavy for you will put you at risk of:
- Blowing out your knees;
- Hurting your back;
- Tearing muscles;
- Pulling muscles;
- Hurting your neck;
- Suffering from a hernia, and much more besides.
Now, you could argue that any heavy lifting would make you vulnerable to the aforementioned setbacks, and whilst that may be true, due to the nature of the exercise, squats do make you a great deal more vulnerable.
The Benefits Of Squatting
Now that we’ve gotten the risks of squats out of the way, let’s now focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
Squats are some of the most beneficial exercises you could ever wish to perform, and to help emphasize that fact, take a look at just some of the many, many benefits that this exercise has to offer:
1. Build More Muscle
When it comes to muscular hypertrophy, squats are arguably the best example of a compound exercise that you could ever wish for. Squats will not only help you to build a strong, powerful, and the muscular lower body, but they will also help you to build muscle on your upper body as well.
As the exercise targets lower leg muscles, as these muscles are so large, and as the exercise is so taxing, muscle building hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, are produced and secreted from the body in larger than usual quantities.
The more of these hormones, there are in your system, the more muscle you will build.
2. Build Strength
Another huge benefit of squats is the fact that they build a great deal of strength as well. As mentioned, their target large muscles in the legs, such as the hamstrings and the quadriceps.
When we lift by generating power from our legs, we can lift more as larger muscles are incorporated. Not only that, but as squats are a compound exercise, they also target numerous other muscle groups, including ones located in your core.
Your core is your base, so a strong core will ensure that you’re strong everywhere else.
3. Burn Fat
As squats are an incredibly taxing exercise, obviously the body has to work incredibly hard to complete each rep. This means that more energy is required, which basically means that more calories are burnt off.
For anybody looking to burn body fat, squats are absolutely perfect. Not only do they burn more calories, but also, as they assist in muscle growth, the more muscle you build, the more powerful your metabolism becomes, because muscle requires more calories for maintenance than fat does.
On top of this, squats increase EPOC (Exercise Post-Oxygen Consumption) which temporarily boosts the metabolism even more. So you can burn more calories than average, even in a rested state, for several hours after completing the exercise.
4. Squats Build Explosive Strength
Explosive strength is basically the body’s ability to be able to generate strength as quickly as possible.
If you imagine pressing a bar off your chest during a bench press, if you lifted explosively, when you pressed the bar up off of your chest, rather than pressing it slowly, you would press it as quickly as possible.
The same principle applies to your lower body, where more fast-twitch muscle fibres in the legs are recruited during squats. These fibres are responsible for the generation of explosive strength.
A lot of sprinters will incorporate squats into their training regimes and will enjoy huge benefits as a result.
How To Perform A Correct Squat?
Although the exercise is very complex, here is a quick breakdown on how you should squat correctly:
- Begin by facing the barbell on a squat rack, rest it on your upper back on your lower traps, and take a medium grip.
- Unrack the bar, place your feet a touch wider than shoulder width apart, and step under the bar.
- Lift it, and step backwards, making sure your knees and hips are fully locked.
- Next, take a deep breath, keep your head up, and slowly squat downwards until your knees are at least parallel with the floor.
- Hold for a second, and slowly stand back up into the starting position, making sure to keep your back neutral and your head up.
How Much Should I Squat?
To be perfectly honest, there is no one true answer to this question because everybody is different.
Although it would be nice to be able to provide one solid figure that would be guaranteed to result in muscle and strength gains, sadly, that is not the case. Some people are stronger than others, and as a result, everybody is different.
Here is a table with the average weight men and women use when performing back squats, according to their body weight:
Don’t worry about how much anybody else is squatting, focus on you and what you can lift. Begin very light (for example, just with the barbell), then gradually build up the weight using smaller plates as you gauge your ability.
Some people can squat 135lbs, whereas others can squat 700lbs. As long as you are testing yourself, it really doesn’t matter.
This is a guest post written by Red El from ShreddedPhysique. If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it on your social profiles. Stay fit and do squats!