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.