When it comes to fitness and diet, we all wish there was a silver bullet. Some pill or some simple trick we could implement that would make us stronger, look better, look younger, and while we’re at it, make us rich too.
I can’t speak for the rich part, but believe it or not, there is a silver bullet. In some circles, mostly fitness related, this has been known for some time. But for other, this may come as a bit of a surprise.
What if I told you that there was a thing that would:
- Make you stronger
- Make you look better
- Improve your posture
- Make you run faster and further
- Improve your self-esteem
- Increase your confidence
- Improve your diet
- Slow the aging process
Would you be interested to know what that is? And what would you give to get it? $20? $50? $100? More?
The good news is that you can have everything on that list and more by doing one simple thing. Just one movement will create a change in your body, especially if you are not they typical gym junkie, in just a few weeks that is shocking.
That’s right, I’m talking about doing squats.
Squats! The best thing to happen to your body that also has the name that’s really fun to say!
Why are they so good and how can they deliver on all the promises made above? Let’s dig into it.
- They make you stronger – Out of the more than 600 muscles in your body, squats engage more than 200 muscles as you go through the movement. It takes the effort of all of the major muscle groups in the body to go through a squat correctly. Combined with a program that includes progressive overload, you will see strength gains practically immediately.
- They make you look better – One of the primary factors that influences strength and muscle gains has to do with the amount of growth hormones that your body produces. The amount of growth hormones your body produces is a direct result of how many muscles you work. Research has shown that squats produce the greatest increase in growth hormone in the blood among all strength exercises. This benefits all of your muscles, and will allow you to get stronger and bigger, fast. This leads to body recomposition, increasing lean body mass and cutting down on body fat. And that, my friends, is a recipe for looking better.
- Improve your posture – There’s a tendency, especially if we sit at a desk the majority of the day, or as we age, to round our shoulders forward. Squats place an emphasis on a posture where the shoulders are back and down. As the weight increases and you find yourself supporting more weight on your back, proper posture becomes critical. This posture has a carry-over effect that’s so strong that I’ve seen dramatic improvement in patients with kyphosis, where there’s a rounding of the spine, within two weeks of beginning to do squats on a 5×5 program.
- Make you run faster – I treat a lot of runners. And the majority of the time, runners get better at running by running more. When you do squats, especially when you incorporate progressive overload techniques, you will see strength gains to your glutes, quads, calves, and to a lesser extent, your hamstrings. This translates directly into being able to generate more force when running. Force, as we know from high school, is mass times acceleration. As you get stronger in your legs and glutes, you’ll be able to either spread your increased power out over time for increased running endurance or power through for a quicker burst of speed.
- Improve your self-esteem – When you do squats, you’re doing a “big boy” exercise. It’s an Olympic event. It’s incredibly difficult to have a good day of lifting where you then go and feel bad about yourself. On the contrary, working through squats with progressive overload will make you prove to yourself what your body can do. And that knowledge makes you feel good about yourself, improving your self-esteem.
- Increase your confidence – Building on the last point, when you have better self-esteem, it’s much easier to feel confident about who you are and what you’re doing. With progressive overloads, at least in the beginning, you’ll be regularly PRing. And nothing boosts confidence quite like lifting more weight than you ever have before. Again.
- Improve your diet – In today’s world, we get sidetracked by what we want to eat rather than what we need to eat. And that’s because, for most of us, we’re not doing much with our bodies for most of the day. If you’re curious if you’re in the “want” group or “need” group, there’s a simple way to find out. Are you bored of eating? Is it hard to pick a place when you want to go out? If so, you “want” to eat.When you begin to train squats, you’ll see immediate results. You’re going to want to encourage these results because they look almost too good to be true. This makes turning your diet around more easier. Because now rather than eating because it’s time to eat, you’re eating because you’re trying to build a different kind of body. When you eat for nutrition rather than satiety, you turn “wanting” food into “needing” food.
- Slow the aging process – There’s a complicated process that happens when a cell dies called apoptosis. To keep things really simple, it’s a cellular program. And because it’s a program, it can be altered. One great way to have an effect on cell-death is to increase the amount of growth factors and growth hormones in your body. No exercise does so better than squats. The more growth factors you have in your body, the younger it continues to feel.
If you’re worried that you’ll turn into a bull-moose or that you’ve got to commit to some extravagant program, that isn’t the case. There are a ton of programs out there that focus on squats. We can talk more about them in a future post. What’s important is that you get underneath a bar and that you practice good form. If you can do that three times a week with progressively heavier weights, you will radically change your life in under 12 weeks.