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Top Exercise For Muscle Building: The Squat

It is widely agreed that the squat is one of the best and most effective way to activate the maximum number of muscles at once.

Indeed, as far as muscle building goes, the squat is the go-to exercise for most bodybuilders and fitness professionals.

Because the squat is arguably one of the most efficient ways to work the muscle of the lower body, it should be included in every workout routine.

The squat trains the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and erector spinae. In addition to these muscles, it also stimulates the abdominals, abductors, adductors, soleus and gastrocnemius. It is truly a full-body compound exercise, which, with proper technique, will result in an increase in strength, power, and endurance.

Although there are many ways to perform the squat (barbells, dumbbells, body weight, machines), perhaps the most successful in terms of muscle building is the barbell squat. The barbell squat requires your entire body because you are completely underneath the bar, as opposed to holding dumbbells by your side or using a machine to help stabilize yourself.

Another advantage of the barbell squat is the ability to add weight in small increments. Usually, gyms will have 2.5lbs plates, which means you can increase your squat by 5lbs each session.  This gradual increase in weight will lead to big strength and muscle gains.

For a beginner, the squat can be quite an intimidating exercise.  However, by mastering the squat technique and using proper equipment, the potential for injury can be significantly decreased. When squatting, it is recommended that a power rack and spotter be used (especially for beginners).

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Having a spotter with you while squatting is not only a matter of safety, but also a good way to get feedback about your technique. The squat technique may be a little hard to get the hang of at first, so here are some key points to help you out:

1. Always perform a good 10-15 minute warm-up before squatting. This will help prevent injuries in muscle training.

2. When you approach the bar, make sure you are centered and place your hands shoulder width apart on the bar.

3. The bar can either be placed on your traps, or a little lower on your back – this all depends on personal preference. Go with what feels comfortable.

4. Unrack the barbell and take a few steps backward. As you prepare to lower the bar, keep your core tight and your chest up. Lower the bar in a controlled manner, making sure to keep your hips back.

5. As you bend your knees, keep them perpendicular to the floor and don’t let them bow in. Remember to keep the weight on your heels and your knees behind your toes.

6. To get the most out of the squat, aim to go below parallel with your thighs or, at the very least, parallel.

7. Raise the weight in a controlled fashion, keeping your core tight and your chest up – just like in the eccentric phase of the exercise.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different foot and bar placings – not everyone squats the exact same way. Soon, with a little practice and persistence, you’ll be able to add the squat to your arsenal of leg building exercises.

critical bench

critical bench

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