Squat to improve your athletic performance

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Strength, speed and power are vital qualities for any athlete and the squat is a key movement that will help you achieve all three of these attributes. Squatting will help you run faster, jump higher, fit into your skinny jeans and do daily tasks with a lot more ease. The squat is the single most useful resistance exercise known for developing strength, power and challenging your entire body. This is why it is a major part of the 4 Weeks to Strong programme at Recreate, and the benefits don't stop there...

Here's how you can benefit from including the squat in your exercise routine

  • ↓ Decrease your risk of breaking bones
  • ↓ Decrease your back and knee pain or risk of injury
  • ↑ Increase abdominal muscle strength
  • ↑ Increase overall strength and size
  • ↑ Increase overall mobility
  • ↑ Increase central nervous system function
  • ↑ Increase strength of all joints
  • ↑ Increase bone mineral density
  • ↑ Increase your ability to be fast and more explosive.

Squatting to improve performance

We're big fans of the barbell squat here at Recreate and there are three key variations to this movement that when combined will lead to an overall improvement performance. Each has it's different benefits, depending on your goals.

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The Low-Bar Squat - arguably the best variation for moving the most amount of weight. Due to the bar being the lowest on the upper back, this variation requires constant forward movement of the upper body to keep the bar on top of the lifter's centre of gravity (at mid-foot). Compared to the other squatting variations, the low-bar squat places a lot more emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings directly, instead of the the quadricep muscles. This is the best variation to practice if you are seeking to lift and progress with the most amount of weight, eg. for achieving a new 1-rep Max (1RM) or entering a powerlifting competition.

The High-Bar Squat is the middle ground between the variations. However, it is the best variation at strengthening and growing the quadriceps. Due to the high-bar position, this variation allows for an upright torso position and loads the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings quite equally. The high-bar squat is also the most functional for athletic performances as it is often used within training sessions for the weightlifting sport.

The Front Squat is a great variation if you are seeking to specifically develop upper and mid-back strength, or simply wanting to strengthen your posture. It requires a constant upright torso position, meaning less glutes, hamstrings and lower back used throughout the exercise. Due to being the most upright squatting variation out of the three, it is great for targeting the quadricep muscles compared to the high and low bar squat positions. However, it is important to note that due to the front of the body bar position it is much more difficult to keep an upright torso due to the strength and mobility demands. It is also much harder to progressively increase in the weights used.

- Blog by Joseph Iskander, UC Strength and Conditioning student and intern at Recreate Personal Training.