The Joy of the Squat

Dan Millington explains why he believes squats are the king of exercises.

If you want to shed fat and get into great shape, the most effective way to exercise is to use whole body exercises known as compound movements. This type of exercises incorporate multiple muscle groups to burn lots of calories and strengthen the body as a whole unit, rather than focusing on a single area. One of my favourites is the squat. 

You can do squats with weighted barbell across your shoulders once you are strong enough and have perfected the technique, but you should start with just your own body weight. Remember, technique is the most important factor to concentrate on:

- Stand tall, feet shoulder width apart and sink your bum down as though you are sitting in a chair.  Keep your back straight and try not to lean forward.

- Try to maintain control, but do not worry if you feel wobbly at first.

- Keep your body weight on back your heels (rather than forward on you toes) and your chest out.

So, why is this exercise that makes you look so ridiculous so good for you?  Compound movements essentially utilise larger muscle groups and require more energy. 

Imagine your bicep being a tiny lawnmower engine and your thighs and bum muscles being a big V8 engine.  What uses more fuel?  Exactly.  Burn fuel, burn fat.  This should be obvious by the fact that you will be breathing harder and sweating more if you are doing squats rather than smaller, 'isolated movements'.

But the benefits of compound movements go beyond just using more energy.  When you squat, your body requires all the muscles in your legs, core and back. Therefore, with one movement you are training multiple muscle groups and helping them develop. It is almost impossible to achieve this by doing isolated exercises - if you tried it would take all day every day!  Furthermore, you teach your muscles to work together in a more natural way as well as strengthening your core (the inner muscles in your torso).  All of these things are incredibly important for developing a whole body fitness – and will get you in better shape, quicker.

In essence, large compound movements such as squatting utilise more muscles, more energy, and will leave you feeling better than doing small isolated exercises. That’s why I recommend you do away with bicep curls and get squatting!

By Dan Millington, triathlete, surfer and blogger at

Tags: compound exercises, how to do a squat, how to squat, squats, the best exercise, whole body exercises