Squatting offers variety. Variety is important to us crossfitters. There are four major squats: air, back, front and overhead. All major subset allows us to add a movement or two: wallballs, thrusters, snatches, cleans, and pistols (one-legged squat).
The squat, in any variance, does many things for us. The first thing most of us think of is building strength. The squat requires more than just your legs to work for you to squat successfully. You must keep a tight core, balance as you move down, and depending on the type of squat your upper body (ie shoulders and arms) may be involved. As we become more experienced athletes, we aim to increase the load (weight) we can squat in any of the variations and to have better form. The fitter we become, the better our form becomes and the more weight we can squat. This is why the squat is considered a great measure of fitness. It allows us to see strength change throughout our bodies plus it allows us to see changes in mobility and balance. All of these are measures of fitness.
Aside from building strength and improving balance and mobility the squat provides other important body improvements. In a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, it was found that squatting heavy increases the bone mineral content and enzymatic marker for bone growth. What does this mean? Osteoporosis and osteopenia, which are both characterized by low bone density, can be improved and treated by squatting.
Another reward of squatting is that it strengths your pelvic floor. Why is this important? Your pelvic floor is what holds up your bladder, intestines, uterus (in women) and help maintain your ability to control your urine. It also facilitates birth. A weak pelvic floor can lead to pelvic floor disorder (PFD) which affects men and women alike. So as we age especially, we want a strong pelvic floor to help keep everything where it needs to be.
Lastly, squatting is the most functional movement a person can do. We do it daily without thinking about it, we squat in and out of chairs, on and off the toilet, in and out of the car. Being able to complete these tasks on our own with no assistance is what allows us to maintain our independence later in life. Being able to squat heavy weight right now is giving you the foundation to have this ability longer in life. However, squatting is, like most movements, a use it or lose it case.
So the next time you find yourself grimacing at the white board “find a heavy back squat”, remember all the wonderful things you are doing for your body with each and every squat. Keep squatting my friends.