Squats
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If your time in the gym were limited, squats are the one back exercise and strength building lift you would want to concentrate on. This stretching exercise and lower back exercise actually strengthens the entire body. Combining stretching exercises with squats and other back exercises will sculpt your body into a well toned machine.

Squats work more of the body's muscles in one rep than does any other lift. Squats build muscle in the legs, knees, abs, upper back, and even the arms, all this on top of being a fantastic lower back exercise. No other lift in this or any other workout programs has more muscle building benefit.

How to do squats

In order for your workout plans to fully benefit from squats and avoid injury, you must do perform squats with correct technique.

Step 1: Do some thorough stretching exercises before starting
Step 2: Unrack the bar with the barbell squarely on your back between the shoulders and step back.
Step 3: Think about proper technique. The squat is an easy lift to do incorrectly. Make sure you keep your chest up, look forward, get a narrow grip on the bar with thumbs on top of the bar, keep your wrists straight and elbows back, have your feet shoulder width apart, and weight on heels. Review this step a few times.
Step 4: Squat down: Keep your hips back like you're sitting on a toilet and keep knees out and over your toes. Squat down so your knees are parallel.
Step 5: Stand back up. Keep your hips up, squeeze your glutes, keep knees out and don't let them buckle, and keep your weight on your heels. Squats are a back exercise so make sure it feels like you're doing a lower back exercise.

Before you start doing squats for real in your workout plans, make sure you're doing everything with correct technique. Start with just the barbell, no weight on either end. Have a gym buddy or professional judge your technique. If you need more guidance, don't be afraid to ask an experienced lifter or one of the gym professionals for help. Doing squats incorrectly will almost certainly result in injury.

Remember, squats are vital to your workout plans, but "parallel squats" aren't your only squatting options. Back exercise variations of squats are great muscle building opportunities as well as fantastic stretching exercises. These variations can be used by a hardgainer if squats are too difficult or you've suffered an injury.

Alternative Squat Excercises: The leg press and hack squat

The leg press is performed on a machine called a sled. The sled doesn't work as many muscles as regular squats do but is a safer and easier lift to learn. Use this when injured or otherwise unable to do regular squats.

Hack squats are similar to regular squats but is also done on the sled. Instead of placing a barbell on your back, you use a specially designed sled to perform a lift similar to squats. Ask a gym professional about these two lifts if you think you might need to use them in your workout programs.

Remember, master squats for the best muscle building results.

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Hey fellow muscle maniacs,

Just got another "kick ass" muscle building question and I wanted to share my answer with you all because it's something that helped me put on alot of muscle in these past few weeks.

So here's the question:

"im a beginner to this and would like to know how many sets and reps i should do and do i increase the weight as i go throught the sets or reduce the weight and try to stay in my rep range"

-Jason

Thanks for the question Jason, it's a pretty good one for a number of reasons. But first let me just say as a beginner keep doing what you're doing, SEEKING OUT KNOWLEDGE FIRST. I see alot of guys doing the complete wrong things inside the gym and outside the gym to build muscle all because they never took the time to INVEST in THEMSELVES and learn the "how to's of building muscle". So Kudos to you and keep it up.

Now to answer your question Jason...

I going to have to break down a few things for you first, so you can see the WHOLE PICTURE at the end.

First thing is rep ranges. Here's a breakdown of the rep ranges and what they're optimal for:

1 - 5 Reps - Builds Strength

6 - 10 Reps - Builds Muscle

10 - 15 Reps - Builds Definition

So as you can see, 6 - 10 reps is your ideal rep range for building muscle. Especially if you're a skinny guy and find it hard to build muscle. When I was learning the ropes I tried a 5 x 5 (5 sets of 5 reps) program and I defintely started getting stronger but my body was barely adding new muscle. I also tried programs (- i.e. Power 90) that had higher reps (10 + reps) and I actually started shrinking while getting more defined.

So I pretty much learned the hard way.

Since I've been on my muscle building challenge I've been seeing some pretty impressive gains when I began using my own 3 x 8 program. It's basically a workout program that I created for myself that uses a (3 sets of 8 reps) scheme. I chose this because after doing TONS of reading and learning from some true body builders a 3 x 8 rep scheme is probably the best muscle building rep scheme you can use, especially if your body struggles to build muscle.

Without getting too scientific, your muscles need to be stressed for a certain amount of time in order for hypertrophy (fancy word for muscle building) to occur. And with the 3 x 8 rep scheme your muscles are exposed to the right amount of stress for the right amount of time. (I'm pretty sure you don't care for the science of it- so I won't dive into it) Just know that it's proven to work.

Here's how a 3 x 8 rep scheme works:

It's actually quite simple. The key is that you have to think of a  3 x 8 rep scheme as ONE LONG SET. In other words you will be using the same weight for each set during your exercise, rather than using a weight that makes you struggle to reach your 8 reps for each of the 3 sets.

The key to the 3 x 8 Rep Scheme

(If you're struggling to lift the weight on your 1st and 2nd set than you're doing it wrong - the weight is too heavy, think of the 3 sets as one long set. Your muscles should not begin to fail until you reach the last few reps on the third set) - this is KEY if you want this to work.

3 x 8 is great but eventually you will begin to plateau and you will have to change the intensity. Personally, I've always seen the BIGGEST gains when I change my rep scheme, so every 3 weeks or so change your rep scheme to (5 x 5) or (4 x 10)  and do it for about 2 weeks and then jump right back into your 3 x 8 routine. Your muscles will have to adapt to the stress of your 3 x 8 workout once again and will begin building more muscle to do so.

*** This isn't the only thing you should be doing to continuously see muscle gains. You should also be consuming more food as you begin to build more muscle, and also increasing the intensity of your workouts. So once you're done be sure to read my post on: 5 Tips to Bust Out Of Any Muscle Plateau.

This will ensure that you never hit a muscle plateau (stop seeing muscle gains) and if you ever do, this post will show you how to BUST out of it.

 

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