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You got to SQUAAAAT

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

The squat is rightfully called the king of exercises. I recently re read Nei Jia Quan (Internal Boxing), an excellent book that is basically a series of interviews with internal gong fu masters. I was intending to write a series of articles on the squat and the first one was on why squats are great. However, upon reading the interview with Allen Pittman (a Bagua and Xing Yi master from the states) he explains why the squat is so important in such an excellent manner (better than I could!). So here it is (with my commentary):

“The old powerlifters knew the squat was the king of all exercises, it should be the cardinal rule for anyone in any physical activity

Hail to the king of movements!

I added the bold here, but it is a bold statement that I totally agree with!

“All health is generated from the simple action of squatting. Babies do it naturally. It helps with your digestion, it keeps the lower back straight and strong, and if you squat heavy weight with high reps, it’s man-killing work, but it is a terrific aerobic workout.”

Again I completely agree, the full ass to grass bodyweight squat is a totally natural movement pattern. My three year old daughter can drop effortlessly into the full deep squat and hang out there, we shouldn't let ourselves lose that!

Many people complain about squatting for their knees and back but if carefully and correctly performed they will support and help both.

Also as someone who has briefly trained the infamous 20 rep squat program (see here, take on this beast of a program at your own risk). I can confirm that high rep, high weight squats are absolutely man killing work!

“It will allow you to go backpacking and never get tired; it will give you wind for running. There is all sorts of talk about specialised training, but really every culture has squatting as its core exercise.”

Well I will reserve my judgement on the running as I am a terrible runner. On the second point again he is spot on. Across virtually every culture and every type of training I have encountered the squat reigns supreme.

“The hindu wrestlers do squats each day by the thousands without weight, doing them in rounds of five hundred, like jump rope. Eventually they don't get tired at all.”

I have seen documentaries on this sort of training. My only exposure to it came via one of my Xing Yi teachers Paul Whitrod, who is also a master of Indian martial arts. I watched one of his Indian martial arts classes and for the last 45 minutes they just did squatting variations, I was very impressed!

“In the West we tend to do less repetitions with more weight. There is something to that because we economise time. Without weight we’d have to take a long time. But do it smart.”

Again I couldn't agree more. While there is some emerging research about high volume low intensity training (for joint health, aerobic capacity and metabolic damage causing hypertrophy) it is very clear that heavy training is more efficient and leads to significantly greater gains in strength and size.

So there you have it from both Master Pittman and me. Squatting is key, there is no other single exercise so common across all cultures, that is so natural and leads to such profound benefits.

I classify the squat as a CENTRAL EXERCISE, it has a VERY LOW to LOW risk profile (bodyweight is VERY LOW risk, correctly coached with weight is LOW risk) and it has a VERY HIGH reward profile (with profound and varied athletic benefits). I include squats and squat variations in every one of my programs.

So even if you can't get to the gym at the moment crack out some bodyweight or hindu squats. A guide for doing so coming soon!


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