WHY SQUATS ARE THE KING OF ALL EXERCISES | MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT
Testosterone Increases With Squats!
Testosterone levels are also influenced by the amount of muscle mass activated in response to exercise. Overhead squats, jump squats and free-weight squats all produce large increases in testosterone.1,2 As much as the bench is considered a power movement, to get your testosterone levels skyrocketing, get under a squat bar. Although most people would rather perform a bench press than jump under a squat bar, the bench press is not going to increase testosterone production like a squat. The squat truly is the “King of All Exercises!”
Researchers investigated the effect of 5 sets of 10 reps of bench presses versus 5 sets of 10-rep jump squats, with two minutes rest between sets, in 12 resistance-trained men. Testosterone was raised higher following the jump squat (15 percent) than the bench press (7 percent). This suggests that exercises that recruit the most substantial amounts of muscle tissue will cause the greatest increases in testosterone.3 So forget about leg extensions— get under a cold, steel iron bar to get big.
The research also reinforces the order of exercise principles. Generally, exercises that recruit large muscle groups (squats, deadlifts and bench presses) should be performed before isolation exercises (leg extensions, lat pulldowns and pec flyes). For example, one study measured muscle strength changes in the biceps, following nine weeks of resistance training. One group performed a workout consisting of biceps curls only, and a second group performed squats prior to biceps curls. Performing biceps curls exercises failed to acutely elevate testosterone significantly. However, testosterone was significantly elevated when squats were performed first, and muscle strength increased more, when both lower- and upper-body exercises were performed.
These data provide support for performing large muscle mass, multiple-joint exercises early in a workout, and smaller muscle mass exercises later in the workout, when training to enhance muscle strength…
…”Now you understand that getting bigger and stronger is all about activating more muscle fibers during a workout— and nothing is going to get those muscle fibers screaming like squats.”
Squats Increase Total-Body Strength
According to research, acute increases in anabolic hormones (GH and testosterone) can enhance strength gains. Protocols using moderate-to-heavy resistance, but multiple sets of 10-12-rep maximums and shorter rest periods (one to two minutes of rest between sets and exercise), have been shown to produce higher concentrations of both anabolic hormones than heavier resistance (1-5RM), longer rest periods (±3 minutes), and fewer sets (1-3). Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the increase in anabolic hormone response is proportional to the size of the muscle being exercised (i.e., squats will always result in greater acute, anabolic hormone responses than leg extensions).11,12
Researchers from Denmark questioned whether the acute anabolic hormone response had any effect on increasing muscle strength. They had young males perform a rather unusual training routine. One group only did biceps curls. They performed 4 sets of seated biceps curls at 60 percent of 1RM, followed by 4 sets of standing biceps curls at 60 percent of 1RM. A total of 8-12 reps were performed in each set, with a 90-second rest between sets.
Another group trained both arms and legs. They performed the exact same arm protocol, but they included legs at the end of their routine. Four sets of seated leg presses at a 10-rep maximum were done after the biceps routine. The subjects performed the routine for nine weeks, and had isometric arm strength testing performed at the end of the study.
Resting hormone levels remained unchanged for both groups at the end of nine weeks. Plasma testosterone and plasma cortisol increased significantly in the group training arms and legs, but not in the group that just trained arms. Plasma GH rose in all exercise tests; however, plasma GH increased significantly in the legs and arms group.
The main finding of the study is that there is a larger relative increase in isometric strength when anabolic hormonal responses (GH and testosterone) are enhanced by training a larger muscle group, in addition to strength training of the arms.13 This indicates a link between the magnitude of hormonal responses and strength improvement, occurring within hormonal levels that can be activated physiologically.
Become Plastic Man for Better Squats!
I am referring to the use of plastic bands, of course, for better squat strength. Another reason linear variable resistance— provided by elastic resistance— is beneficial, is due to what is known as the strength curve of muscles. The linear variable resistance provided by elastic tubing better mimics the strength curves of most muscles. A strength curve refers to the way a muscle’s or muscle group’s strength changes over a range of motion. Because of their anatomy, most muscles increase in strength over the range of motion, until a certain point.
Using squats as an example, as you squat from the seated position, the muscle gets stronger until about the halfway point of the range of motion. Thus, the leg muscle is weakest at the start of the exercise and strongest at the halfway point of the exercise. When doing a squat with a free weight, the individual is limited to how much resistance he can use by how strong the squats are at the beginning of the exercise (its weakest point). That means that during squats, the muscle is not receiving adequate resistance when the muscle is at its strongest point in the range of motion.
When performing a squat with elastic tubing, however, the resistance increases as the range of motion increases. This means the muscle is receiving greater resistance at its strongest point in the range of motion, and therefore is receiving more adequate resistance to better stimulate strength adaptations.
“One study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reported that when athletes used elastic band training, in addition to free-weight training, they had significantly more leg power than when they only utilized free-weight training.15″
Another study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reported that bands kick ass for increasing strength! Athletes were randomly assigned to one of three training groups: heavy resistance/slow movement, lighter resistance and fast movements, or fast movements with accommodated resistance, which consisted of incorporating bands. Three weeks of “accustomization” (12 training sessions) were included prior to testing, when proper exercise technique was taught and participants received basic fitness training. The results of this study demonstrate a definitive advantage to training with faster movement speeds, with the inclusion of bands for the development of lower-body power, among collegiate athletes.
These results support the notion that squats can be improved through the use of variable resistance training with elastic bands. This can be concluded based on the fact that those athletes training with bands increased both strength and power.1