Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
25 Mar

Why Squatting Is So Important (plus Tips on How to Do It Right)

squatting 1Just as we should eat the foods our bodies were designed to eat, we should move our bodies the way they were meant to move and impose the stressors they were meant to bear. That means squatting, and squatting often. Our hips flex, knees bend, and ankles dorsiflex so that we can rest comfortably in a squat position.

Okay, but isn’t the squat a bit outdated? Why not just use a chair?

You’ve probably heard how modern processed foods use refined sugar, salt, and seed oils to hijack our natural desires for fruits, animal fat, and animal meat. They exploit our wiring and provide hyper-stimulation to our senses, prompting massive overconsumption; some refer to this as “Food Reward.” In a similar vein, chairs hijack our anthropometry, which was designed for squatting. Just look at yourself in a chair:

  • Your knees are flexed – same as in a squat.
  • Your hip is in flexion – same as in a squat.
  • Your spine is neutral (unless you’re slumping, which many of us do) – same as in a squat.

Chair sitting is attractive and easy because it doesn’t challenge the way our joints work. It doesn’t place us in unnatural positions. It’s easy to slip into. It hews to our anthropometry. It provides support, so we don’t even have to do or lift anything or worry about engaging our glutes.

I call it “Repose Reward,” and it’s obviously a concerted effort by the chair industry (Big Sit) to keep us dependent on their evil, addictive products! (Please understand I’m mostly kidding.)

The good side of all this is that if you can sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, you can (with some work) squat. It might be hard, because your muscles will actually have to work to maintain the load, and it might take some finagling since some of your joints will feel a little tight, but the position is possible. You just have to learn to support the load.

That’s one big reason to squat – it helps counteract all that sitting we do and lets us tap into a very Primal, very essential mode of repose. But there are many other reasons to squat, too. Let’s explore:

Squatting makes you stronger.

squatting2 1

Pound for pound, squatting is the best bang for your buck strength exercise, hitting many different muscle groups along the way. The obvious ones targeted are the prime movers – the quads, hamstrings, and glutes – but the trunk musculature must stabilize the torso and maintain a neutral spine, all while supporting the load and acting as a fleshy lever. All in all, the squat is a complicated movement that forces the body’s parts to work and grow stronger together as a single unit.

Squatting makes you faster.

Tons of studies confirm that the stronger your squat, the faster you can run. It’s probably not just a “people who are strong and can squat a lot tend to also be faster” kind of thing because research shows that adding weight to an athlete’s squat during the season directly translates to faster sprint speeds.

Squatting makes you jump higher.

It’s no surprise that training your body to stand up tall from a squatting position with extra weight on your back would also improve your ability to keep going past merely standing, also known as jumping. And even though you wouldn’t jump from a deep squat position in real life, training the deep squat (full range of motion) position improves the vertical leap more than regular squatting.

Squatting improves bone mineral density in all age groups.

A recent study found that supervised (by an experienced trainer) weighted squats can help postmenopausal women with osteoporosis or osteopenia improve their bone mineral density in the spine and neck by 2.9% and 4.9%, respectively (in addition to boosting their strength levels by over 150%). That’s huge. Now, imagine the strength of a lifetime squatter’s bones.

Squatting is even beneficial for endurance athletes.

Many endurance enthusiasts have the idea that squatting and other forms of resistance training will make them “bulky” and slow them down, but this simply isn’t the case. When they include resistance training in their regimen, marathoners improve their running economy. And even though their quads do plenty of work on the bike already, endurance cyclists improve their efficiency on the bike when they include heavy “hip flexion” strength training in their program. Reviews of resistance training in endurance runners and road cyclists confirm these results. Another benefit: every endurance athlete benefits from a stronger core.

Things to think about when squatting:

squatting4Squat however’s comfortable for you. You should definitely try to improve your positioning, but you shouldn’t force your body into positions it simply isn’t prepared to reach just so you can attain the “ideal squat.” That might mean you squat with a narrow stance. Or a wider stance. Or maybe your toes are pointing straight forward. Maybe they’re externally rotated a bit. However, if your feet are rotated outward, make sure your arches don’t collapse.

Focus on range of motion, rather than load. Provided you can maintain good technique (don’t sacrifice your form just to get low), squatting deeper with a lighter load is better for the knees, producing greater muscular and tendon adaptations, than squatting more shallowly with a heavier load. In fact, squatting deep with good technique can actually protect your lower extremities from injury.

Avoid knee wraps to boost the amount of weight you can handle, unless you’re a competing powerlifter for whom every extra pound on the bar counts. A recent study suggests that wearing them changes the mechanics of the back squat, alters the targeted musculature, and compromises the integrity of the knee joint.

Single leg squat variations work well. Even though online lifting message boards make it sound impossible to get strong without squatting, single leg squat variations like split squats and lunges are effective replacements that target the same lower body muscles and even result in similarly systemic hormonal responses. One of my employees with a history of knee issues can do fairly heavy lunges of all sorts without any problem, but weighted squats are iffy. I on the other hand never really had an issue with squats, while lunges sometimes gave me problems. It all varies. Do what works.

Body weight squats are good enough, too. Weighted squats will get you strong, no doubt, but it’s not the only way. A recent study out of Japan found that an eight-week program of 100 body weight squats (or “body mass squats,” as they say in the study) each day increased lean mass, vertical jump, and knee muscle strength while lowering body fat in teenage boys. Body weight squats are also incredibly energy intensive, far more than previously assumed, making them a great tool for metabolic conditioning.

Squatting doesn’t have to be exercise. These days, I think of the squat as more of a mobility promoter than anything. In fact, if you can relax in the squat position and use it as a position of repose on a daily basis, your weighted squat performance will improve. Most of the research cited in this post refers to squat exercises, but that’s about all there is in the literature.

squatting3Remember that squatting can take many forms. It’s not just young ripped dudes lifting heavy and leaving chalky slap prints on each other’s backs. Squatting is:

  • Holding onto a post or a doorframe in front of you for support as you squat.
  • Standing up from a chair.
  • Lowering yourself to the toilet – instead of doing a semi-controlled fall.
  • Doing three sets of 5 reps at twice bodyweight.
  • Squatting down to examine an interesting bug on the ground.
  • Laboriously working your way down into a full squat, grimacing all the while as you push out on your inner thighs to make way for your lumbering body.
  • Grandpa doing quarter squats while holding grandma’s hand for support.

It all counts. It all helps. It’s all (variations on) a squat.

At this point in my life, I don’t even do weighted free weight squats, except for some air squats with a weight vest on. I don’t back squat or front squat. I sit in the Grok squat as much as I can, just to stay loose and mobile, but for lower body strength work with the minimum amount of risk I like the leg press and the hack squat machine. So don’t think this post is about squatting a lot of weight. Or any weight. For the vast majority of the squatting world, squatting is a way to pick stuff off the floor, wait for the train, go to the bathroom, or catch up with their friends. For them – and for you, should you choose to pursue the squat – squatting is a basic act of humanity, of movement, of utility. To squat is to be.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Now go squat!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. How many? How often?

    Beth wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • I’ve worked my way up to doing over 350 squats per day in the past….not all at once but spread throughout the entire day. Basically just do whatever’s comfortable for you. I only started out with a goal of 100/day but as I listened to my body I realized I could do more.

      Try the “greasing the groove” method and just do a few here and there throughout the day. Not enough to fatigue you, but enough to get the blood moving.

      Jacob wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • I squat 3-4x a week using Strong Lifts 5×5 adding 5lbs every time I succesfully complete 5 sets of 5 reps. My wife who doesn’t have the time to go to the gym Squats 3-4x a week as well, using her body weight… She started out only being able to do 3×20 but has been able to work her way up to 3×50

      Anthony wrote on March 25th, 2014
  2. Been following starting strength for a year now. Squatting isn’t just an exercise, it’s a way of life. Zen. Me Time. I love to squat. And on recovery days, I think about my next day of squatting.

    Zack wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • +1

      Julie wrote on March 25th, 2014
  3. Awesome post! the Big Sit comment cracked me up. I definitely need more squatting in my daily life. I like the 100 a day body weight squats. that’s definitely a great start! also, squatting instead of lazing on the couch.

    Erin wrote on March 25th, 2014
  4. Thank you, Mark, for giving me baby steps and the goal of improvement even though I have arthritic knees. I will go slow, hang onto something and do what I can for extra strength and balance! :)

    granny gibson wrote on March 25th, 2014
  5. I’ve started incorporating the squatting position into my daily routine by getting a small, low table at home. I use it to read, use my laptop, and eat. I probably end up squatting for an hour or so at a time, and 2-3 hours a day. And I’ve been doing this for about a year, and I’m definitely noticing benefits at the gym–my deadlifts, Pendlay rows, and squats (of course) have improved significantly as I’ve gained more flexibility in my legs. I’ve found the most benefits with deadlifting, surprisingly–I can get better leverage and maintain better form throughout.

    Ben wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • I started incorporating the squat in routine activities, and I’ve noticed a substantial increase in core strength.

      I really like the idea of a low table for reading and laptop use. Call it a squat table. Apt in many respects.

      Christopher Lee Deards wrote on March 25th, 2014
      • When I use my laptop sitting or the PC in my office after a while I always get lower back pain–a dull ache that no amount of stretching and walking around will get rid of. But using the laptop on my `squat table’, my back feels fine.

        I like the `squat table’ moniker–I didn’t know what to call it. I picked it up at a Korean supermarket in the home goods section. It’s not a coffee table, it’s not a side table–it’s just a low table.

        Ben wrote on March 25th, 2014
  6. I’ve been incorporating ATG squats into my daily life for a few weeks now. Sadly, I have to cheat to get all the way down by placing something under my heels. Hoping to gradually reduce the height of the platform under my heels (currently 2″) so I can do a true ATG squat with no external assistance.

    Jacob wrote on March 25th, 2014
  7. Just to clarify – if I’m doing weighted barbell squats (on a Smith machine), I should be trying to past 90 degrees, as low as possible in good form? Back when I studied to be an ACE personal trainer, we were always told to go to 90 degrees but not past. I’m not surprised that this might not be accurate, but before I start trying to do my close to 400 pound squats much more deeply, I want to be sure this isn’t contraindicated….

    Nick wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • There is no such thing as a squat on a Smith machine; they are two very different movements. It is essential to be able to fall over during a squat, so that your brain and your muscles are required to work together to prevent you from doing that.

      Brian wrote on March 25th, 2014
      • I agree with this. You take away all the benefits to the core by removing them from the necessity of the movement (much like a chair removes glute function)

        Zack wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • To clarify, I do completely understand that there are enormous benefits to doing squats unassisted by a Smith machine.

          However, it very much depends on your goals, and the availability of a spotter. One, my gym doesn’t have freeweight barbells. Two, if it did, it’s fairly dangerous to do heavy squats unassisted with no spotter or at least a squat rack below you.

          Forgetting the comment on the validity of using a Smith machine, I’d still like some feedback on my original question. ..

          Nick wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • Zack wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • Nick I would lose the smith machine and go past parallel for a more realistic indication of actual strength.

      Rob wrote on March 25th, 2014
      • I agree…I would avoid Smith machine squats. If you are worried about building strength and not having a spotter, use dumbells in a front squat position. While this isn’t as effective as back squats with a barbell, it is still better than Smith machine squats. Plus, it allows your body to move freely without being “trapped” into a specific range of motion (like the Smith machine does).

        Josh wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • I am a little confused. Did no one see where I wrote “One, my gym doesn’t have freeweight barbells.”

          Nick wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • I completely understand…that’s why I mentioned using dumbells instead. As to your original question on squat depth – going below parallel is perfectly fine as long as your form is correct. This is why I said I would avoid using a Smith machine. It doesn’t allow your body to move freely, thus making squatting below parallel more difficult and increasing the possibility of getting injured. Just my two cents…

          Josh wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • I appreciate the reply.

          The gym also doesn’t have dumbbells heavy enough to be useful.

          My own goal is putting on muscle mass, with both squats and deadlifts, even on a Smith machine, being key to this effort. I wouldn’t be able to challenge myself significantly enough with either dumbbells or bodyweight exercises, as Mark pointed out in his adding muscle posts. I admit the Smith machine is not ideal, but for the purpose of adding mass, it’s far better than using light dumbbells.

          I’m not sure I completely agree that deeper squats on a Smith machine would carry a higher injury risk than the same weight with freeweights. I would imagine you would just derive a bit less benefit with stabilizing muscles being less engaged due to a restricted plane of motion.

          I think I’d still benefit from going past 90 degrees, based on htis post. I’ll cut my weight by about 25% and start going lower in goof form.

          Does this sound like a reaosnable approach to others?

          Nick wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • It depends on if you’re doing high bar or low bar squats. you’ll work more mass with low bar (more hamstring). High bar is more quad dominant. With low bar, if you go too deep, you have to relax back muscles to get there risking injury. High bar squats allow you to get down deeper. I would suggest low bar as your better option. Just below parallel or as deep as you can go without relaxing the muscles of the lower back.

          As far as the barbel situation, this isn’t meant to be condescending, but what are your options for switching gyms? Or getting a rack for your home? You’ll get mass with a smith machine but it really is a different animal.

          Starting Strength has made a huge difference in my life. I highly recommend it to you.

          Zack wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • Sounds like it’s time to find a new gym.

          Karen wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • Thanks for the tips.

          I’m following something like Starting Strength, albeit with a Smith machine.

          I live in Brooklyn in an apartment, so buying a squat rack is not even close to possible, lol. Also, gyms in our neighborhood are quite pricey, so I opted for the $10/month Planet Fitness membership. They have five or six Smith racks, so the benefit is I never have to wait. I get in some free movements on my pull-ups and chin-ups and push-ups.

          Next best option is probably the Y, at $60/month. They do have some barbels, but only one rack, and it’s constantly crowded.

          I’ve looked in the CrossFit near me, but it seems to work out to be several hundred dollars a month – I really have no idea how people pay for it.

          So yeah, there are some benefits to being in a suburb (though you’ll likely never catch me in one…)

          Nick wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • I hear ya on the cost of crossfit… $10/month is a good price, but there is nothing that’s say.. 30/month that might have what you need? I’m sure there are a ton of fitness places and probably few squat racks…. You could maybe talk to a crossfit gym about just a simple/cheap membership to squat there…. Not really sure what the situation is exactly, but I’m sure there’s a solution

          Zack wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • No free weights–no problem:

          Double kettlebell front squats! Go Deep!

          Graham wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • I also workout at a gym that only has Smith machines and no free weight barbells. You can go deeper with a Smith machine, but you will want to lower the weight until you figure out how low you can go comfortably. If you get your feet positioned in line with bar guides, you should be fine.

      I also stretch out with the Grok squat for 30-60 seconds between sets.

      Brian wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • Recommending people not go past 90 degrees is foolish. They likely do that because people who don’t know what they are doing are more likely to get hurt the harder they work… and going deeper is a lot harder. This comes from the same line of thinking that people used to have (some still do) that squatting is bad for the knees. Incorrect squatting is bad for the knees. Proper squatting is good for them.
      – 90 degrees is the weakest point for the knees… do not stop and reverse motion at that position.
      – Going past 90 degrees leads to far more glute activity. Going to about 45 degrees works thighs, (almost all quads), and practically no glutes or hips.

      I Rx trying different squat variations in lieu of a smith machine: Single-leg, high rep, partials, complexes, isometrics, offset weight, split squat, speed squats, jump squat, overhead

      Ben wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • Go buy a Navy bag online and get bags of sand or wood pellets. Make a sandbag of 100 to 150 lbs. Clean bag and do zercher or front squats till you collapse. Your legs will bulk up, guaranteed. Oh, and ditch the useless gym. A couple sandbags and a set of rings will give you more than your current gym will, and for less. Homemade sandbag and rings, about $60 and they are yours to keep forever. And apartment friendly. Pushing the weight on a Smith Machine with an exercise like squats is just asking for an injury, possibly a serious one. Just my opinion.

      Dan wrote on March 25th, 2014
      • Nick “sounds” like he must be quite the beast already?! Maybe buy the bodyweight bundle…there are plenty of ways to build mass. Don’t restrict yourself.

        Rob wrote on March 26th, 2014
    • I would try Bulgarian Split Squats. Let’s say you are squatting 400lbs, which puts 400lbs pressure on your lower back etc. but still only 200lbs per leg/glute
      Splitting it still forces your leg/glute to lift 200lbs but the strain on your lower back halves.
      I also find it that doing bulgarian splits in a smith machine gives me a bit more of freedom of movement as I can change leg positions by putting my leg further forward.
      This is the only leg exercise I do in a smith machine. If you want to spice it up a bit do this followed by deep squats with the heaviest dumbells you can find at your gym. trust me, such a super set will give you great results.

      Jacob wrote on March 26th, 2014
    • Having almost forty years of training under my belt I would say if you were going to start deep squats your safest bet would be to back up to a light weight (25% of your max) or less.

      Don wrote on March 26th, 2014
  8. I have short Achilles Tendons so I can’t dorsiflex my foot and touch my heels to the ground. I can, at best, ape squats by holding on to things for support, but I will always be on the balls of my feet.

    M.

    Mike wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • you can get squatting shoes with a heel

      Zack wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • Me too! Some of us will never be able to get the heel to the ground.

      I guess we don’t know squat!

      Nocona wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • This can be partly mitigated by adjusting stance.

      Ben wrote on March 25th, 2014
  9. Wish I could squat, but osteoarthritis in one of my knees makes it incredibly painful. Even a little resistance can aggravate it for weeks. :(

    NB wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • I too have arthritis in one of my knees from an anterior cruciate ligament injury when I was 15. For years I avoided squats and then moved to “sissy” squats keeping my thighs above 90º and I’ve always had problems sitting in & rising from a squat position. However in the last 12 months since going Primal I have dropped back to unweighted squats and stretching in a grok squat, (All be it for very short periods – 10 20 seconds at a time), and my range of movement has improved. I did get a little soreness to start with, but nothing major and this has improved also.

      How much of this is to do with improved diet & thus less inflammation I can’t really say, but I would suggest starting with no resistance or maybe assisted squats and try “greasing the groove” as Mark says; see if you get similar improvements.

      WelshGrok wrote on March 26th, 2014
  10. ALERT:
    DO NOT SQUAT ON TOP OF A TOILET SEAT. It can shatter and cut you open and you may bleed to death.

    Knifey wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • ….speaking from personal experience?

      Jacob wrote on March 25th, 2014
      • Yes, I’m sure Knifey is posting from the afterlife… LOL! :D

        Paul wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • Well technically speaking he said it CAN shatter and you MAY bleed out…. :)

          Jacob wrote on March 25th, 2014
      • Not unless they are posting from beyond!

        Kelda wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • This is where the Squatty Potty comes in…

          Nocona wrote on March 25th, 2014
        • We have one at each toilet, they are awesome!

          Kelda wrote on March 25th, 2014
  11. Question for you pros regarding squatting. 30 year old male, primal for 3+years. In good shape, very active and healthy. But I have always had problems squatting. My flexibility in general is poor. Have tried stretching, foam rolling all without any major obvious improvement. When squatting I can go no further than 90 degrees. But, if I squat on a surface with a slight decline or on a small step of just 2cm with my toes being in the lower part I can comfortably squat quiet deep. My question, is it/could it create any problems continuing to squat this way whilst working on my flexibility it improve my regular squat?

    Ian wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • I have found that just by squatting more, my flexibility is improved drastically. Training the squat also trains flexibility.

      Zack wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • For generally poor flexibility look for a yoga class of the Scaravelli persuasion – not the rigid forms or hot yogas. Scaravelli-inspired yoga is all about undoing the tightness from within and the increases in flexibility are remarkable. My yoga teacher started a men only class at the beginning of the year and the results have been stunning. And we’re talking about Scottish men 50 plus from couch potatoes to racing cyclists.

      Kelda wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • It won’t cause problems… simply keep working on it. What I’ve found useful to a lot of people is to take a weight in goblet squat position and go about as deep as you can and simply hold it, say one minute a day. Having the weight in front (front squat/goblet/zercher, and more) counterbalances the weight, to help keep you from falling backward due to joint tightness, making it easier to hold a deep position. Adding resistance while stretching is a good way to build stability in a deep position (since there’s little benefit to being flexible if you aren’t stable in the position)

      Ben wrote on March 25th, 2014
      • +1 Holding a goblet squat at the bottom position daily will improve flexibility. Take it from a 45-year old inflexible guy.

        Joe H. wrote on March 26th, 2014
  12. Nick – to your question about how deep to squat, from the beginning my trainer taught me ass to ankles for both front and back squats.

    Susan wrote on March 25th, 2014
  13. If you cannot squat, half-squat is a good option. Just keep your knees no farther than your toes. Funny, I just wrote about it in my last post.

    Knifey’s post is funny, as often.

    paleocrush wrote on March 25th, 2014
  14. Susan wrote on March 25th, 2014
  15. It’s easy to get in a few squats when working with young children. They like to play copy cat games and that is another way to get a few more squats in you day too.

    Debi wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • I put my son on my shoulders and do squats… he loves it

      Zack wrote on March 25th, 2014
      • My son’s name is Zac; but there’s no way I could squat with him on my shoulders!

        WelshGrok wrote on March 26th, 2014
  16. I call it “Repose Reward,” and it’s obviously a concerted effort by the chair industry (Big Sit) to keep us dependent on their evil, addictive products! (Please understand I’m mostly kidding.)

    It wouldn’t surprise me, seeing as how chairs and couches have gotten much cushier over the years! A few years ago, we went to search for a new couch, and half of them were so cushy, Hubby (with a cane) had great trouble getting up again. We opted for a high-back one with a short seat, so it forces you to sit upright (no slouching)–it was the only one Hubby could get out of with minimal difficulty.

    Looking back, I wish we hadn’t bought the couch at all, because these days, only the cats use it for sleeping and scratching. It’s now become a couch-shaped scratching post (fabric still intact). With no TV, we hardly go into the living room any more.

    Imagine if everyone gave up TV like we did–many would end up with an unused room like we have, and eventually, there’d be little need for living rooms at all. Nowadays, I would gladly trade that unused square footage for a bigger kitchen.

    Any architects out there? Care to design a Paleo/Primal house?

    Wenchypoo wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • Wow! Now that’s a great idea for a Primal Competition me thinks! What about it Mark … :-)

      Kelda wrote on March 25th, 2014
  17. This is all great, but please, squat WITHOUT rounding your low back. This means your body isn’t getting ROM from your hips or your ankles and is a direct mechanism of injury.

    Dr. Anthony Gustin wrote on March 25th, 2014
  18. I sense a quote of the week coming from this article!

    So many great articles Mark, I keep passing them on and sharing your website link as a pivot to true change, health and well being.

    Jacqs Flying Primal wrote on March 25th, 2014
  19. Don’t forget that squatting is also the ideal birthing position and can open the birth canal by 15-30% more during labor and delivery!

    Caitlin Allday wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • don’t forget squatting toilet XD
      cheers

      pam wrote on August 7th, 2014
  20. Hey Mark awesome article! Squatting is very important as you have said here for muscle building in major areas.

    Katie Albright wrote on March 25th, 2014
  21. Many people have mobility limitations (and I mean healthy, “normal” people). For them, barbell squats can be a road to injury from poor form due to reduced mobility. I recommend goblet squats to all my athletes.

    The goblet promotes proper form, isn’t hard on the traps, and is much easier to go all the way into a full, deep squat (most barbell lifters I see go to parallel, if that).

    They also allow good supersetting if you use kettlebells. I have my athletes do a 10-15 rep goblet squat + 15 rep kettlebell swing superset (i.e. you are going immediately into the swings after the last rep of the squats). Goblets are great at increasing mobility and a good starter on the way to heavier barbell squats (also a good form corrector for barbells). Plenty of youtube videos on how to do them, check them out.

    Will wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • Fantastic comment Will! Had a desk job for the last 8 years out of college, and recently really found out how truly immobile I had become. Still can’t acheive a full squat and needed something to help get me there…this is it. Already done 10 reps at my desk.

      Randy wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • What’s the difference between a Goblet Squat & a Zercher Squat? – I have found Zercher squats a more natural & comfortable movement than conventional barbell squats and more focused on the legs too.

      WelshGrok wrote on March 26th, 2014
  22. I am so working on squatting but my knees or whatever are tight. I really cannot get very low at all certainly cannot get as low as the people in the pics :(

    Gayle wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • Just keep at it! You’ll begin to increase your mobility and your joints will loosen up, letting you get deeper. You’ll get there, just be persistent. :)

      Stacie wrote on March 25th, 2014
  23. Fascinating article. I am new to PB and to squats. Over the last 6 weeks I have eaten primal and started bodyweight routines at home inc 2 sets of 20 bodyweight squats 3x per week. Now trying to increase by a rep each time. Currently at 2×24. Baby steps I know but I’ve started. Reading this encourages me to keep at it!

    LiLea wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • Reading the comments keeps me at it, about 2+ years now.

      Wow, you’re very regimented! That really makes me realize everyone’s take-away is different. My whole implementation of MDA is whole foods, better sleep, & sporadic exercise. Next step is getting into a routine. When the weather breaks, I’ll be grabbing the wife & dogs for a daily 10 minute walk/sprint before breakfast.

      Tom wrote on March 26th, 2014
  24. I am using body-weight training and am constantly getting bigger and stronger as I eat too much! I like to squat whilst standing on a mattress because it just takes more effort and is good for frog jumps to failure!

    Jed Stream wrote on March 25th, 2014
  25. Started reading this post on my back in the sofa but half way into the article changed to squatting.
    On top of at least one heavy squat work out per week I try to incorporate it as much as possible. When I brush my teeth and while reading. Sometimes I eat squatting. Today I changed the wheels of my car, almost the entire time in a squat.
    But not on the toilet, I’ve heard it can break and you can cut yourself and bleed to death…

    Peter wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • lol!

      Brooke wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • i squat while gardening & sometimes move around the yard while squating (Not sure how it’s called,
      i.e.d the plants are near by so no point of standing up, walking 1 or 2, squat). it’s very comfortable & easier on the back.

      but eating, reading, brushing teeth while squatting? that’s novel.

      pam wrote on August 7th, 2014
  26. Mark, you mentioned the leg press as being safer for you than a weighted squat. Interesting because I have a harder time keeping my spine neutral with the leg press.

    victor wrote on March 25th, 2014
  27. I love this article. Squats are fundmental to functional fitness. Imagine all the fun things you can do by being able to squat well. Like pick heavy objects up or light objects or really any object. You can propel yourself through the air on to a box or get low on a dance floor. At 34 I have back squatted over 400 and front squatted 315 and can run a sub-7 min mile. How about that for squats. Think I might go do some right now…

    Paul J "crossfit, HIIT, yoga, Life Junkie" wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • Sounds like you know squat…

      Stacie wrote on March 25th, 2014
  28. I feel like printing this article and scattering copies all over my gym. Too many people loading up on weight but not going deep…makes me cringe every time and I have to stop myself from offering advice. Y u no go past parallel!

    Stacie wrote on March 25th, 2014
  29. Amen! I used to hate squats mostly because I could not squat heavy. I resigned myself to try strong lifts 5×5 however because Iostly recognized that I had weak hips due to some anatomical issues caused by WAY too many miles running long distance on cambered roads between ages 11 and 17…

    Anyway, I am working my up from 45 lbs and now squatting 195 and I love the exercise as it is promoting full body strength AND certainly appears to be providing measurable strength increases in my hips and reducing the hip bursitis I used to get from chronic cardio…

    Yeah squats!!!

    Jerod B wrote on March 25th, 2014
  30. Only really incorporated squats into a routine in the last 12 months and am a convert. Love them and everyone thinks I’m mad. Issue I have is being 41 and my knees riddled with osteo arthritis, knee caps bone on bone. In essence I’m always in a bit of pain and always have some level of swelling. The squats have strengthened my legs and I find it far easier to do things, but believe I’m speeding up the damage to my knees. Already told that I’ll need both knees replaced at some point, but also been told that I shouldn’t do any exercise that involves bending the knee to minimise aggravation. To me that just seems illogical and a way back to where I was….overweight, stiff joints and struggling to get around in mid 30’s. Anyone in a similar boat or have any articles that can assist?

    Leigh wrote on March 25th, 2014
  31. I think I have bad knees. Beginning about a year and a half ago Air squats really began making my knees hurt for days after doing multiple reps. I’ll start feeling a grittiness in my knees during the exercise. Then for the week following my knees feel bruised. Before you say I’m doing them wrong, I know for a fact that I’m not. My trainer (not one of the dumpy guys who took the correspondence course to work at the big box gyms) as well as other reputable crossfit trainers have approved of my squat.

    So what should I do.

    Brandon wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • I’d get a second opinion.

      Zack wrote on March 25th, 2014
      • He got a second opinion. And a third. Didn’t you read what he wrote?

        Ish wrote on March 26th, 2014
        • “Before you say I’m doing them wrong, I know for a fact that I’m not. My trainer (not one of the dumpy guys who took the correspondence course to work at the big box gyms) as well as other reputable crossfit trainers have approved of my squat.”

          I find this suspect. In my experience, there is a form issue (I’ve had knee pain that went away when I changed my form).

          Zack wrote on March 26th, 2014
    • I have bad knees too, & going primal has gotten rid of my lifelong knee pains but it still hurts when I do squats (& I’m very young). It may just be due to genetics or something, but I wouldn’t do squats if it hurts your knees. Ask your trainer if there’s other exercises to work those glutes

      Hiya wrote on March 25th, 2014
      • Im no expert, but another thing is try assisted squats instead of air squats. My trainer showed me how to do it both while holding on to a beam & against a balance ball on the wall so it keeps your spine in the correct curvature. It might help your knees.

        Hiya wrote on March 25th, 2014
  32. Any suggestions on how to get out of a squat? I can get into a full squat with no great difficulty, and sit there for several minutes. But I cannot get up without initiating the movement by using my hand to push off the ground (or something else). Not what you want in ‘bush bathroom’ situations.

    Lyn wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • In my experience, the longer you stay down there, the harder it is to get up. This happens to me a lot in the garden. I think it may have something to do with loosening ligaments, or maybe your muscles just get tired, I dunno. But practice pausing a bit before you stand when you are exercising & it will help.

      Paleo-curious wrote on March 25th, 2014
  33. Love it! What a great reminder of how important squatting is just for our everyday movements!!

    Susan Lozano wrote on March 25th, 2014
  34. This is kind of a specialized issue but do you have thoughts on squatting and its effects on pelvic organ prolapse? Is it too much pressure for the pelvic floor that has already been compromised?

    Chris wrote on March 25th, 2014
  35. This was posted in my high school gym when I was growing up. Loved it and lived it ever since.

    Down this road, in a gym far away,
    a young man was heard to say,
    “no matter what i do, my legs won’t grow”
    he tried leg extensions, leg curls, and leg presses , too
    trying to cheat, these sissy workouts he’d do.

    from the corner of the gym where the big men train,
    through a cloud of chalk and the midst of pain
    where the noise is made with big forty fives,
    a deep voice bellowed as he wrapped his knees.
    a very big man with legs like trees.

    laughing as he snatched another plate from the stack
    chalking his hands and monstrous back,
    said, “boy, stop lying and don’t say you’ve forgotten,
    the trouble with you is you ain’t been SQUATTIN’. “

    ryryonline wrote on March 25th, 2014
  36. I was so glad to see the photo of the woman squatting on the beach, because that is the squatting stance my body prefers– feet wide apart & knees & feet quite turned out. I’ve been told that’s not great form, but it’s the only way I can go deep. (I do have some knee issues.)

    I love gardening & I think over the years I’ve learned to squat this way partly so I have room to work… I was afraid I’d ruined my form for life.

    Paleo-curious wrote on March 25th, 2014
  37. When I started reading this site I was impressed with the basic simplicity. Now it wears me out. I thought it wasn’t supposed to be about crazy training…just basic movement…nothing threatening. This stuff has become obsessive…and to someone not into health etc. quite intimidating. I know how to filter information…but those poor curious beginners must run and hide. What you are talking about isn’t basic…or easy to understand for the initiated. Just ” bend and stretch and reach for the stars…there goes Jupiter…there goes Mars” works just fine…

    cate wrote on March 25th, 2014
    • IMHO, I disagree with this. If you’re intimidated by the excess of information, just try baby steps. First create routine for the things that are most important to you so you don’t have to think about them anymore and increase your primal dose as you go.
      When I went primal, I was not really into health. It was from a fatigue/depression and weight point of view. I first tackled primal eating, walking and a bit of the stress responses I had and now 20 months later I am finally ready for other primal aspects.
      For me, squatting on the toilet has become a necessity (in my mind, not physically) and now I am trying to do more squats. The information on this and other health blogs helps me and often even inspires me. You just need a good ‘spam filter’ to filter out the information that is not relevant for you at this very moment.

      Simone wrote on March 26th, 2014
    • What’s more basic than squatting?

      Zack wrote on March 26th, 2014
  38. I squat, therefore I AM!

    Mike T wrote on March 25th, 2014
  39. Recumbo ergo sum…

    SteveGee wrote on March 25th, 2014
  40. I love squats. I can do a couple hundred body weight squats every day if I want. In the past 3 months, I’ve begun lifting heavy and those barbell squats are awesome! I have noticed that even with a decrease in the amount of cardio I’ve been doing while lifting weights, I have become a faster runner, which I find very interesting.

    Thanks for the great blog!

    Irene Robertson wrote on March 26th, 2014

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