April 01, 2006
In Part 2 of his series on the slow lifts, Mark Rippetoe calls the squat the key to strength and conditioning because no other exercise changes so many things about the body in so short a time.
The squat is the way that tens of millions of years of evolution has adapted the bipedal human body to lower itself to the ground. When done weighted, it is the best exercise in existence for strength, power, coordination, joint integrity, bone density, confidence, discipline, intelligence, and charm.
Squats produce bigger muscles, better nervous control over those bigger muscles, denser bones, tougher tendons and ligaments, the cardiac and pulmonary capacity required to function under the circumstances of loaded squatting -- and the psychological skills necessary to do them.
It is easy to squat correctly if you know before you squat with the bar exactly where you are going to be when you get to the bottom. This is accomplished by assuming the desired bottom position before the bar is taken out of the rack. This way, the motor skills involved in identifying the bottom position—its balance, its proper depth, and its foot, knee, hip, back, and chest positions—can be embedded before the factor of bar load is added.
When you’re ready, take the bar out of the rack (stepping back please, so that you walk forward when putting it up). Take the same stance you prepared, look down a bit, think about keeping your knees out, take a big breath and hold it, and squat all the way down. . There is a lot here to consider, and this is just the beginning. That’s why my book Starting Strength devotes 52 pages to the squat. Learn to do it correctly, dammit. We need you strong.