The Squat is arguably the best exercise to improve a person's fitness. Though its main use is to build strength, it helps to enhance other qualities. The ability to improve size through Squatting may be underappreciated, while very few likely realize that it can also strengthen your heart and make you more flexible. Let's dig a little deeper into how this exercise accomplishes so much.
The fact that the Squat helps to build size isn't too far-fetched, but the exercise is probably underutilized by those looking to pack on muscle. If the goal is to build a butt or thick legs, look no further. Because of its long range of motion and ability to use heavy weights the Squat is arguably the best leg builder around. It is also a great way to develop abs & erectors due to the stability demand needed during the exercise. Along with a good diet, consistent heavy Squatting is a must for size and muscular development.
For those who have built some strength in the exercise, the Squat can be used to improve a person's conditioning. By using higher reps (8-20) with a heavy weight, the time under tension and physical demand will cause an eye-opening cardio effect. The key here is a "heavy" weight for the prescribed reps. Someone who has not built any significant Squat strength will not experience the same type of effect because the weight will be light. In this case, strength comes first. Once the trainee can Squat at least their bodyweight (but ideally much more), using a weight that is 75% of that for sets of 10 will leave them gasping for air.
When looking to improve flexibility, most people turn to static stretching. The Squat, however, can do a great job of improving pliability in areas where most people are tight: the hips and shoulders. The keys here are to Squat through a full range of motion, bringing the top of the hip at least level with the knee, and using a barbell as resistance. The barbell setup on the back demands a large degree of shoulder and chest mobility, and trainees will become more flexible in these areas over time from performing the exercise consistently.
The Squat is a great exercise for building strength, which should be a primary focus of every person's training program. But along with strength, building size and developing muscle will occur when the Squat is trained with heavy weights consistently. By using higher reps, trainees can also improve their conditioning levels. And through the use of proper technique and full range of motion, the body as a whole will become more flexible. Squatting a minimum of two times a week will bring someone well along in improving the above components of fitness. If you aren't accomplishing (at least) that number, you are missing out on some significant improvements to your overall fitness.