When it comes to strength exercises, I’ve always been partial to the deadlift-but there is nothing that says you can only train one or the other-right?!?!
In hardcore gyms the barbell back squat is THE cornerstone exercise. It separates the men from the boys. Many weenies try to claim that weighted Bulgarian split-squats or front squats are as good as, or better than, the glorious barbell back squat; but those that claim this typically have toothpicks for legs or are just trying to get a new book published-or usually, BOTH.
The back squat allows for the greatest loading, I can’t think of anyone who front squats more than they back squat, thus it will make you stronger.
The back squat contributes to massive amounts of muscular development in the legs-read the book “Super Squats”- the exercise in the program is the barbell back squat, not the Bulgarian wobble board blindfolded super corrective non-contraindicated iso-lunge.
What if we get outside of the hard core gym? Is the squat still king, even if it is performed without a barbell on the back?
As we age I believe the squat is a great choice to maintain leg strength and hip, knee and ankle joint mobility. In fact, a full-range-of-motion body-weight squat is an incredibly healthy exercise. If you can sit on your calves with your feet completely flat (this is imperative-heels DOWN!) you are working your hips and knees through their greatest possible range of motion while providing for a tremendous stretch to the low back and Achilles tendons.
We are born with the ability to squat all the way down with flat feet-just look at any toddler they will often squat down and sit on their calves as they play. Unfortunately due to a combination of sitting in desks from pre-school on, and the lack of developmental physical education programs, this ability is lost over the years.
Granted the barbell version may not be advisable for everyone, but deep, full range of motion, flat-foot body-weight squats would be a good idea to do on a regular basis. If you can’t perform this movement, then practice. Strong, healthy legs are a good idea for everyone, particularly as we age.
Stay Strong AND Healthy!