Friday, June 13, 2008

Squat, dammit!

I've discussed the value of the squat before. But it's frustrating to see so many guys in the gym doing nothing but 17 variations of bicep curls and then a set or two of "bench," so please indulge me as I rant a little more about the value of the squat, and lower-body training in general.

For some reason, the American male thinks of strength as an upper-body phenomenon. If a guy wants to get an idea of how strong another guy is, he asks how much he can bench press. Or, if he's not the "interact directly with others" type, he just sizes up the guy's biceps.

But WHY? If your idea of strength can be entirely contained between the elbows and the rib cage, then you're leaving out a significant portion of the human body.

In the real world, if your legs can't support it, you can't lift it. You may be able to bench press 300 pounds, but if you've never squatted or deadlifted, you'll be exactly as useful as your 95 pound niece when it comes to moving a couch or pushing a stalled car.

And please don't try to tell me that you don't need to squat because you run, and running is all the work your legs need. That's just silly. Is 500 dumbbell bench presses with 5 pounds in each hand the same as a heavy set of 5 with 200 pounds? No. Lifting heavy weights builds strength, endless repetition of a motion that is easy when done once does not.

For those of you who don't train for strength, but just want to "look muscular," all I can do is slap you upside the head and tell you to go read up on exercise: if you want to look like an athlete, you have to train like an athlete. And that includes squats, Sonny Jim.

So, please, if you're lifting weights to get stronger, SQUAT. Or deadlift. Heck, do dumbbell lunges if you can't stand the thought of putting a bar on your back. But strengthen your legs with heavy weights, or all you're doing is trying to build a brick house on a foundation made of toothpicks.

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

I love lower body work. I really do. But please tell me how to do heavy squats without getting hemorrhoids. Not trying to be gross. Just saying it took a good six weeks to recover from my last 1-rep max.

PS> Good to have you back! Glad you had a good trip. China - cool!