From Strength Training for Women by Lori Incledon
“I don’t squat because it makes my legs and butt too big.” “I don’t squat because squatting is bad for your knees.” I’ve got a bad back so I can’t squat.” If you think that these statements are true, then you don’t know squat about the squat. One could write an entire book with all of the excuses women give for not performing the squat exercise. Instead of excuses, let’s arm you with plenty of information on why you should squat and why squatting may be one of the most important exercises you can do.
In the royal family of leg exercises, squats are the king. They are also the most functional exercise for daily life. Just think about how many times a day you squat: when you sit down in a chair, when you get a file out of the bottom file drawer, and when you squat down to pick something up off the floor, like a bag of groceries or your child (if you lift correctly). Squatting works the largest muscles in your body--the quadriceps (front of thigh), adductors (inside of thigh), gluteals (buttocks), hamstrings (back of thigh), gastrocnemius and soleus complex (calf), and erector spinae (back). Squats can also help you develop flexibility around your hips and calves, when you follow proper form and gradually increase your range of motion. Squats have the added benefit of being a free-weight and weight-bearing exercise. Free weights have many advantages over machines (see chapter 5), and free-weight squats specifically have been shown to improve bone density (see chapters 2 and 7).
If you are an athlete involved in a sport or if you want to be more athletic, squats offer exceptional preparation. The muscles used during squatting are the same muscles used for jumping, sprinting, and running. Squats provide the perfect transfer to the biomechanically similar motions of most ground-based sports. So if you are interested in running faster, lunging for that out-of-reach tennis ball, or jumping up for the perfect volleyball spike, squats should be an essential component of your training program.
Many women rate exercises or exercise programs not on how much they like them or how beneficial they are, but on how many calories they burn. “I need to do 10 more minutes on the stair machine to burn off that mocha latte with chocolate sprinkles,” some think. Here’s the good news for squatters: Squats burn a ton of calories and stimulate the cardiovascular system. With the additional muscle you’ll pack on your legs, your resting metabolic rate will increase even more and allow you to burn some calories by just lounging on the couch. You’ll not only burn calories during the squat, but you will also likely burn calories in the 24 hours after your squat workout, because of the intensity and heavy nature of the exercise. Sounds as if you can have your latte and drink it, too!
Squatting has an extra bonus especially for women. It has the potential to increase the bone density of the spine, hips, and legs, which may help prevent osteoporosis. Squats mechanically load the axial skeleton; the spine has to hold the weight upright, and it then distributes that weight to the rest of the body. You’ve already learned that strong bones can handle more stress and are less likely to fracture. Because the barbell loads weight on your shoulders and spine and your leg muscles work as they never have before, squatting may be the answer to osteoporosis prevention as well.
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