Squat For Size

Legs the size of Mini Coopers. If you’re avoiding the squat rack, it’s time to give that daydream a rest. The squat is one of the most revered choices in the exercise catalog because of its uncanny ability to pack muscle onto your wheels. Bodybuilding greats (and squat scholars) eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman and two-time Arnold Classic winner Kevin Levrone both swore by it as the lower-body mass-building movement.

In theory, it’s as primal as using a bone for a toothbrush you drape a bar loaded with weight on your back, crouch down and explode up. Easier said than done. Executing the squat properly is anything but basic. Jim Stoppani, PhD, provides a step-by-step guide, plus tips so you’ll know squat about the squat.

Now that you’ve been schooled in the squat, follow these tips from Stoppani to ensure that you’re packing bulk onto your lower limbs.

1 Find Your Footing

Positioning your feet wide, like a sumo squat, will target the glutes and inner quads. A narrow stance will focus on the outer area of the legs and develop more quad sweep.

2 Head In The Game

Never look down, because glancing downward will flex your cervical spine and put pressure on the disks in your neck.

3 Watch Your Weight

Do not trade form for weight. A bunch of plates jammed onto the bar might boost your ego, but it won’t improve your legs. Go lighter and perfect the mechanics until your form is sound.

4 How Low Should You Go?

Descend until your upper legs are parallel to the ground. Stopping short of that position can detract from full upper-leg development.

5 Ramp Up The Reps

Consistency with reps could shortchange growth. The majority should fall in the 8-12 range, the legs respond well to higher reps, but don’t hesitate to ramp it up to 15 reps if you feel inclined.

6 Rest Remix

Two to three minutes between sets should be plenty of time to recover. But, just as you do with reps, mix it up. Shorter rest periods of a minute or 30 seconds will exhaust the muscle, allow for a larger build up of lactic acid and cause the body to release more growth hormone.

7 Wrap It Up

In the past, it was widely believed that knee wraps prohibited muscle activity, because of the reliance on the wraps’ elasticity. A new study from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia, shows that wraps do not interfere with muscle growth and may even allow you to go heavier.

8 Belt One Out

Use a weight belt when squatting up to or exceeding 80% of your one-rep max. An added benefit of a belt: it can further increase pressure in the abdominal cavity for better stabilization of the spine.

9 Knees And Toes

You’ve heard it before: extending your knees over your toes will cause injury. Not necessarily. A new study shows that trying to prevent this actually placed more stress on the lower back, and that the knees experienced less stress when they did extend past the toes.

10 Partial Squats

Develop bigger teardrop muscles by performing only the upper half of the movement with heavier weight as this is when the muscle receives most of the stress. Do two or three sets of these before moving on to full squats.

Primary Muscles Worked

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Adductors
  • Sartorius

Secondary Muscles Worked

  • Calves
  • Spinal erectors
  • Abdominals