There was a time when I had I told myself I’d never be here again. But that never word is a dangerous one. It is a word that has a nasty habit of coming back later to be eaten. Never say never they say, but I never listen. And so I am munching on a big fat bowl of “never” as I write this tale, and while it should fill me with regret, it hasn’t. I’ve never been more thrilled to go back on my word.
I am that weird dude that loves doing barbell squats. There was a time, though, when my back had been acting up and since I have always had very strong legs, I decided I didn’t need to squat anymore. I felt I was nearing my sixth decade and could probably get all the leg work I needed doing other things that wouldn’t put my back at risk. I left the gym that day and said I would never squat again.
It seems I made a hasty decision.
Squats, the down to the bottom, turn your face red type, are an unkind exercise to perform. But if you are frequenting a gym with designs on bolstering your bottom half, squats are the grand mac-daddy get-er-done king of all lower body movements and an indispensable one for the novice, the expert, and every Tom, Dick and Sally in between.
Few want to hear that grizzly truth, squats take up a lot of energy, and like a toddler balking at eating vegetables, they will argue defiantly that other exercises will get the job done just as well. They won’t. After being reminded of that simple truth, I found myself at the squat rack this week, loading a bar with 45lb plates, and crawling under the whole mess to put in some work.
It’s been a while. Years actually since I squatted last, but you know what they say about riding a bike. Well, this is nothing like that because I have no sense in the gym, none whatsoever.
It’s three days later now and my legs and butt are so sore I can’t scratch my nose. I’m dropping aspirins like they were, well, aspirins I guess. It hasn’t been that many, but that aside, I am certainly regretting my exuberance this past Wednesday.
But I won’t blame it on the squats. I just should have stayed lighter, done fewer sets, and settled for some movement with light resistance for the first workout. Starting back should never be about making up for lost time or rushing to reach a goal. It should be about learning the movement again, even if you know it well. If your body hasn’t done it for a while, it is certainly not used to the movement or workload.
Always start with light resistance, slow movements, the same speed up and down, and a moderate to high number of repetitions with short rest periods between sets. Don’t load up the bar just because it feels good because it won’t feel good the next day and for a few days after that. Take your time when starting something new and slowly progress over a couple of weeks.
Most of all, be realistic with your expectations. Fitness is a lifestyle, not a thing you do for a while to get into shape for something. It’s self-care that you will do for the rest of your life, so concern yourself with consistency more than how fast or slow progress is coming.
And no matter how old you are, squats are perhaps one of the very best exercises you can do for your body, as almost every muscle in your body is involved. They are challenging, but don’t be afraid of them. Just learn how to do them properly, then slowly add resistance as your body grows accustomed to the work.
Some benefits of squatting:
- Improve balance
- Improve overall hip and back stability
- Improve overall strength
- Improve flexibility
- Improve cardio vascular conditioning
- Improve bone density
- Strengthen your core
- Strengthen your entire lower body
- Makes younger people that don’t squat envious of your muscular development