The squat has been called "the king of exercises" for good reason. No other weight exercise works the body like squats. When I first began training over 55 years ago, squats were considered an essential exercise and just about everyone who lifted weights included squats in their workouts. Luckily for me, I began training my legs right from the start and included squats in my routine. I began training using a three-times-a-week whole body workout. I had read that you should train the largest muscles first when you have the most energy, so squats were the first exercise I did in my routine. I did a version called "breathing squats," which involved doing about 20 repetitions in the squat, but taking deep breaths between each rep. Immediately after completing the set of squats, I would lie down on a bench and do the straight-arm pullover exercise. The combination of breathing squats and straight-arm pullovers was supposed to add size to the chest, especially the rib cage. Since I was only 12-years-old when I did this routine, it worked because my bones, including those in the rib cage, were still forming. I added a full 6 inches to my chest in about 6 months of doing this style of training, and it produced a huge rib cage that I still have to this day.
Although squats are a great exercise, they seem to have fallen out of favor in recent years. Many elite bodybuilders don't include squats in their routine for various reasons. One is the claim that doing squats will widen the waist and hips. This is nonsense, since body structure is based more on genetics than any type of exercise that you do. I recall that Sergio Oliva, who won the Mr.Olympia three times, always included squats in his routine, yet he had a small waist and hips. Frank Zane, another three-time Mr.Olympia with a small waist and hips, also favored squats in his leg training and even designed a special type of squat apparatus that he still sells. Another common critique of squats is that it places too much strain on the lower back. And it does, but only if done with poor form And it does, but only if done with poor form. In this case, poor form means leaning over too much when you squat. I was guilty of that myself, although I never incurred a back injury from doing squats. Later, I using a special squat bar, where the weight was balanced across your shoulders. That allowed me to keep my back much straighter and the stress on my lower back disappeared. Not only that, but I was able to lift far heavier weights with the "safety squat bar" as it was called. I eventually worked up to using 650 pounds for 6 reps, although most of the time I did higher reps when I . . .