“Everyone wants big legs but no one wants to squat”
I have heard this quote many times in gyms throughout the years, usually by the guys sporting the biggest legs. There has been more controversy over the years about this exercise than any other. Some hail it as the king of all exercises while others denounce it as a dangerous practice that has no place in a bodybuilders training routine. But do you really need to squat to build great legs?
The simple answer is yes, in my opinion, the squat really does reign supreme, and when it comes to building leg muscle there is no other exercise which comes close. The squat is the only exercise which works the quads through their full range of movement and the balance involved makes it a very effective movement. When you squat you flex your hips, knees, and ankles simultaneously, thus activating all the key muscles in your legs, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and even your calf muscles.
The leg press, on the other hand, is only a partial movement and the machine negates any lateral movement, removing any involvement of your stabilisers.
What about the supposed dangers associated with squats?
The NSCA state:
“Squats, when performed correctly and with appropriate supervision, are not only safe but may be a significant deterrent to knee injuries.”
“Some reports of high injury rate may be based on biased samples. Others have attributed injuries to weight training, including the squat, which could have been caused by other factors. Injuries attributed to the squat may result not from the exercise itself, but from improper technique, pre-existing structural abnormalities, other physical activities, fatigue or excessive training.”
The truth is squats are a natural movement and when performed properly are far safer then leg extensions, hack squats or leg presses.