The correctly performed barbell back squat is, quite simply, the best exercise that can be performed in the gym. No other movement will provide the same level of strength development, muscle growth, improved coordination, nervous system conditioning, and overall athletic development as the squat. The psychological benefits of the squat are just as significant.
The thing about the squat is – most people have an excuse as to why they can’t squat. Most of them are bullshit. And of the people who actually do squat, not 1 in 10 do so correctly.
A properly performed squat entails going quite a bit lower than most people think is necessary. This means that the hip joint should pass below the top of the patella in the horizontal plane. That turns out to be about 0.5-1.5 inches below what many people consider parallel. Squatting this way will engage the most muscle mass over the longest effective range of motion, therefore leading to the highest degree of strength and muscular adaptations in the body. It’s beyond the scope of this post to fully explain squat mechanics, but for the best explanation see Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training by Mark Rippetoe.
Squatting properly makes you a better athlete and it makes you better at life. Anybody who has taken their squat from nothing to 300+ for reps knows exactly what I mean. To be clear: every single able-bodied male of average natural athleticism can achieve a squat of 300+ for reps. If you’re not sold on squats yet, consider this: squatting will make your other lifts go up. I believe that this is due to the high degree of central nervous system and overall systemic conditioning that the squat provides. Squatting also elicits an anabolic hormonal (see: testosterone) response not seen in any other lift. The world needs more testosterone, and if you disagree then you should stop reading my blog.
Squatting also teaches you another extremely important skill: it teaches you to not be a pussy. Imagine this scenario: you’re going for a set of 5 with a weight that you’ve never done before, and you finish the 4th rep. It was hard, and you’re not sure if you can get the 5th rep. Going for that 5th rep, whether or not you hit it, shows something – that you have balls. This is a skill that can be developed like any other. I’d argue that this is the most underrated aspect of lifting.
Ultimately, if you’re of able-body and not willing to squat properly with sufficient intensity, then you simply don’t care about lifting. But if you do care about lifting, then hopefully I’ve convinced you to get after it during your next squat session.