Many individuals today are seated for hours on end every day — whether it’s at a desk at work or in front of the television at home. While this trend may not seem worrying at first glance, staying seated for excessive amounts of time can have detrimental effects on health.
For instance, sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat. In fact, studies have linked excessive sitting with being overweight, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and early death. While this sounds terrifying, remember that the effects of excessive sitting can be easily counteracted through proper exercise — and one way to do this is with loaded squatting.
When you squat, your body becomes more resilient to injury due to the movement being an incredible catalyst for the hip musculature to grow and become stronger. A strong muscle is less likely to get injured than a weak muscle. By increasing the capacity of your squat muscles to perform work, you also increase the amount of “reserve” your muscles have, in turn making it easier to perform more work. Everyday movements like standing up and sitting down, as well as more strenuous activities like going on long hikes, would become easier. The squat, when performed correctly, will improve core strength, increase muscle strength, and even improve your life expectancy.
Going heavy on the squat (80% of a 1RM and above) escalates this effect even further. While squats performed with a moderate load for reps can be challenging in its own right, using heavy loads requires and recruits complete activation of the muscle fibres, which promotes greater growth of skeletal muscle mass and helps in creating more resilient joints. However, since heavy movements can be quite taxing on one’s recovery ability, such training should be intelligently planned instead of haphazardly throwing them on every session, especially when it comes to more experienced lifters.
Sitting for long periods of time may be unavoidable, but making an effort to resist its pejorative effects can lead to a better quality of life in the long run. The squat may be as close as we may ever get to a “perfect” exercise, considering its ability to train every major part of the body. Training it with heavy loads can be most productive, as long as it’s done with proper form and technique!