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The Best Exercise Ever

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No, it’s not sex before you ask (it doesn’t get your heart rate high enough, believe it or not). I used to think it was swimming. I spent several years solidly swimming 25-30 miles a week and up until I discovered The Best Exercise Ever, I thought that there was no better way to burn calories than knocking out laps in the pool. But no, there’s a better way. And it’s much harder than negative splitting 5x400m freestyle.

Cross-country skiing also comes close. Well, my attempting at cross-country skiing that is, given that my technique is completely terrible. It’s cardiovascular, it’s anaerobic, it uses just about every muscle in your body, it looks ridiculous (once again, I mean that I look ridiculous when I do it) and it has the added bonus of extra pain when you fall over. But it’s still not there.

Running in army boots up and down sand dunes is very close indeed. It’s one of those things that is way harder than it looks and can have you collapsing onto your knees after just a few minutes. It uses your legs (naturally) and your upper body has to work hard to keep the momentum going. It’s both aerobic and anaerobic and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s a close second.

And here we are, time to reveal The Best Exercise Ever. It’s 20 rep squat sets. Doesn’t sound very exciting does it? A colleague told me that I needed to do it and stop being a pathetically weak beanpole so I borrowed a book from him called “Brawn” by Stuart McRobert and read it. One of the things that stood out was the power of squatting. The idea is simple. You start by putting a barbell across your shoulders at a standing position, then squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then stand up again (making sure you keep your head straight). You do this 20 times, have a short rest and do that set a further 3 times.

Warning: this is the bit where my girlfriend, who proof-read this article “got bored and switched off”. But I recommend you read on and make your own mind up (comment below and tell me if you agree with her).

The next time you do it you add half a kilogram to each side and so on. It’s not a lot of weight but over the months it soon adds up. Before you know it you’re squatting more than your own bodyweight. But the reason that it’s The Best Exercise Ever is because it is so incredibly, fantastically, awesomely hard. It really is. Try this: stand up and do 20 squats with no weights at all. Do them slowly, say taking a couple of seconds over each repetition. Hard work isn’t it? Now imaging doing that with 100Kg over your back. Damn hard work.

Since I started squatting a couple of years ago my body has changed dramatically. Squatting doesn’t just work your thighs, it works your calves, your quads, your buttocks, your back (lower and upper), your shoulders and your heart. My legs are a lot stronger, my back that used to give me quite a lot of trouble is now as strong as a tree trunk and I get injured playing football far less. I can’t stress how hard it is though. The day of my training session is spent dreading the inevitable torture I’m going to endure (although I do look forward to it). I literally drop to my knees between sets and if I didn’t I’d probably collapse onto the ground anyway.

I’m not joking when I say it’s changed my life. I do a lot of other exercising and weight training but nothing has had the obvious effect on me as squatting. So my advice is if you’re injury prone, have a weak back, spaghetti-thin legs, have problem hair or no confidence with women, then get into squatting. You can join a gym (although most gyms these days are for people who want to pull members of the opposite sex rather than get in shape) or buy yourself a bench, some squat stands and safety bars then get to work! I’m not kidding.

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

25 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. I’m afraid I agree with your girlfriend……

    I’ll send you an attachment of a photo which might change your mind as to the benefits of squats…….

    Reply

  2. Dancing for 8 hours always seems like the most fun excercise to me…

    Reply

  3. “So my advice is if you’re injury prone, have a weak back, spaghetti-thin legs, have problem hair or no confidence with women, then get into squatting.”

    That’s one hell of a pitch for squatting, right there – I’ve learned more about you in that one sentence than the rest of your site combined. πŸ˜‰

    Reply

  4. Congrats! You’ve found the most valuable weight lifting exercise known to man. Start deadlifting too and you’ll be in there with the women and hopefully defeat that problem hair too.

    Michael Ray
    USA

    Reply

  5. hello there john, and i can say this i did the squats slowly, and they are hard to do and do what u say it does, and i know that there will be people who will not try nothing just for the heck of it, what the heck,just try right, that is what i have been told. it does not hurt to try it just once, if after u do not like,than just quite doing it all together. as for women, they r always out there trying on something new or old or borrowed,and that is true to the fact that women alwys look for a new diet to try and lose that weight and i enclude meself in that too. but as for me i tryed the squats and they r hard and did the rest u said, worked on the thights,calves,quads,buttocks,lower and upper back shoulders and the heart rate did get going and i say to u john ty. for just asking me the reader to try something. me has been trying to find something that will help me lose weight. ty.

    Reply

  6. You forgot one awesome supplement to the 20 rep squat routine… pullovers. Pullovers help stretch the rib cage while you’re breathing so hard after those twenty rep squats. In between the sets you do a set of 20 rep pullovers (light weight 25lbs. since it is for a stretch and not really building the lats). You take a deep breath and hold it as you stretch your arms back then let your breath out as you contract. This really grows your rib cage (if you’re under 21 as I am) and is a great workout for your lats and rear deltoids. (If you don’t know what pullovers are, look it up on google.)

    Reply

  7. I honestly think dancing for 8 hours is a great exercise, and fun too. squats can’t be that much fun.

    ever since i’ve started raving i’ve lost alot of weight, and not because of drugs, because of dancing.

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  8. well johnny c…

    [Dave]
    that was one entertaining read… as a matter of fact, jord here actually said before we clicked the link “I bet he says Sex.” nice intro….

    [Jord]We’re going to give you a full, and I mean full, report of your challenge. I might add that I have problem hair and dave has spaghetti legs and back.

    [dave]yeah.

    [jord]and as for “Richard Gere” and his dancing fetish- I think he should stick to ‘sweatin to the oldies’ with Richard Simmons.

    [dave] and for the record, i will at no point be calling it “squatting”… it just sounds… wrong.

    –look for the update in the upcoming week(s)–

    Reply

  9. Squats are the Undisputed KING of Workouts!

    It will increase your “Game” in every aspect!

    Bacon and Chedda, Peace!!!

    Reply

  10. I’ve always stayed away from doing squats in the Gym, primarily because they are so hard. However, I have been reassessing this recently and am thinking of doing a variation of the squat by doing one legged step ups. Like doing one legged lunges, but stepping up instead.
    I weight 105kg so that should be close to putting 100kg on my shoulders.

    Reply

  11. squats are the building block for more mass on your body upper and lower so squat till you puck!

    Reply

  12. woot first post of the knew year, i have bin looking for a good exersice and will take this into a three month trial if it any good i’l let people know your not crazy πŸ˜› see you in 3 πŸ˜€

    Reply

  13. I have to agree with the author on this one. I played semi-professional rugby 5 years ago (I am now 26). Squats were preached as being our staple diet, and rightly so. Once you get a good 6 months of squats under your belt you’ll notice significantly increased core strength and to-die-for legs. You’re working the biggest, easiest gaining muscles in the body! There is no better way to increase your resting metabolic rate either.

    Some caution needs to be exercised when doing this, or else you could imagine the horrible mess you could find yourself in. Oh, avoid using any sort of belt from the start – develop the core strength!

    I think I could write a website on the benefits of squatting too! lol

    Reply

  14. Hi there, good advice, I have started doing squats and deadlifts. How often should one do squats?
    And, in total, is 4 sets of 20 reps?

    Thanks for the article, great read

    Reply

    • Your best bet is to get a copy of the book ‘Brawn’ I linked to above for a full write up of how to get the best out of squats.

      Reply

  15. Hi John, I just read your blog about squatting, and I was hoping you could give me an update … are you still squatting, if so, how many days per week, do you still do 4 sets of 20 reps, and do you still feel it’s the best exercise?

    Thanks for your time.

    Jim Martin
    New York, NY

    Reply

    • Hi Jim, yes I still do! I still play football (soccer) regularly so at the ripe old age of 35 I need to keep training to avoid injuries. And as before I’ve found squatting is a great way to do it. I still stick to 4 sets of 20 reps and gradually build up the amount of weight until I take a break, then drop down and build it up again. It’s great for core strength and football is all about thigh and core strength so works well. I generally do a couple of weight sessions a week (one legs/back/biceps another chest/shoulder/triceps), plus play a couple of games and do flexibility work every day (which is if anything just as important as the weights work) and that seems to be a good balance for me.

      Reply

  16. Try doing heavy zercher squats then you will experience the hardest kind of squatting

    Reply

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