From Pull-ups to Clean and Jerks to Deadlifts and Wall Balls, CrossFitters perform a variety of movements. At times I find it difficult to improve on everything and I know that many of you feel the same way. To compound that difficulty, we have many “experts” telling us many different things will work, which can confuse and frustrate. For simplicity, I wish we had one movement that would make us better at all the other movements.
Fortunately, we do; The Back Squat.
I consider the back squat the king of all movements because it engages all of the muscles in your body. Greg Glassman, CEO and Founder of CrossFit Inc, once said in an interview, “Regardless of the problem, just squat.”
I remember working out in high school and college thinking that the gym had a lot guys and gals in some serious shape. But shape doesn’t always translate to strength. Most people just worked on their beach muscles and complained that they couldn’t improve on their lifts, while ultimately reaching a plateau in body composition.
I admired the folks that put up double bodyweight squats because they had great physiques AND could move tremendously heavy weight with ease.
To support such gains in both strength and physique, the human body produces Growth Hormone (GH) from the anterior pituitary at the base of your brain. More specifically, GH performs the following functions in the body:
Decreases glucose utilization
Decreases glycogen synthesis
Increases protein synthesis
Increases utilization of fatty acids
Increases fat breakdown
Stimulates cartilage growth
Lifting heavy will force the body to release GH and no other exercise does this better than a squat. Deadlifts do a pretty good job with GH, but I don’t recommend that lift for all populations.
Once you begin squatting, you can make even greater gains by changing the way that you breath during the lift as our breathing technique also has an impact on the release of Growth Hormone. When you squat, take a deep breath in through your nose and use your diaphragm to help breathe into your stomach. Hold that air in as you descend into the bottom of your squat and as you make your return trip to the top, plug your teeth with your tongue to make a hissing sound. Lifters call this “Power Breathing,” which studies have shown to increase secretion of GH.
Because of this GH release, squats not only make you look better, they make you perform better. Accordingly, squats have become a staple in most strength training programs.
Greg Pendlay, coach to many elite level olympic lifters, wrote an article called “How We Train”, where he sas, “Find what works to get your squat up. There is no one best way here, just find what works and remember, the squat HAS to move up .” If your squat continues to improve so will your other lifts.
Here at CrossFit Newtown we follow a strength-biased program that includes one heavy lower body lift each week. If you’d like to learn how to add squats to your CrossFit Programming, please ask your coaches and we will gladly assist you.