The squat is considered a basic weight-training exercise and comes in several variations. Thus, you can do full squats, half squats, front squats, hack squats, and you can use either free weights or machines. When I began training at the tender age of 12, I had obtained a training course listing various exercise routines. I recall that the first exercise done in the workout, which involved whole-body training, three times a week, was an exercise called "breathing squats." As the name implies, this involved doing higher repetition squats, anywhere from 15 to 20 reps per set, and taking deep breathes between each rep. There was a certain cadence to the number of breaths you took between each rep, and after all those years, I can't recall how many there were. What I do remember is that immediately after completing the set of squats, I laid down on a bench and did 20 reps of straight-arm barbell pullovers. After about a year of this training, I had gained six inches on my chest size, and my legs were far larger than when I began. Squats train the largest muscles in the body, the thighs, and this is thought to increase the metabolism by the sheer exertion that is typical for squats. Indeed, many believe that doing squats causes such a dramatic change in metabolism that it promotes upper body gains through an indirect effect. I know it did for me.
I've tried various types of squats over the years, and some proved more suitable to me. I recall trying to do front squats, where the weight is held in front of the body rather than resting across the shoulders. I tried the exercise because I read that it was a favorite of Steve Reeves, 1947 Mr.America, and 1950 Mr.Universe, who later went on to fame as Hercules in the movies. I had seen Reeves in Hercules and was impressed with his physique, including his leg development. So when I read that Reeve's favorite thigh exercise was front squats, I opted to try them. My youth at the time prevented me from realizing that just doing the same exercise as someone else didn't guarantee the same level of muscle development. I found front squats to be extremely uncomfortable, and the bar pressed against my neck constricted my breathing. I soon realized that front squats are not for me. However, one notable advantage of front squats is that they don't permit you to lean too far forward. Leaning too far forward is a common mistake made with traditional back squats, and it puts a lot of strain on the lower back. When Arnold Schwarzenegger trained his thighs for the Mr.Olympia events that he won, he did both back and front squats. He probably needed to do that since Arnold's thighs tended to be a weak link compared to his other muscles.
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