Make no mistake about it; the squat separates the men from the boys. Anyone who avoids squats, for whatever reason, is limiting their potential for muscle growth. Not only do squats produce massive amounts of muscular overload they also trigger anabolic responses within the body you can’t get from any other exercise.
No doubt, barbell squats trigger the highest anabolic hormonal response during training. A number of studies have demonstrated the squat’s remarkable ability to stimulate anabolic hormone secretion more effectively than other resistance training exercises. However, scientists from Duke University recently published an excellent study that examined the extent and degree of muscle fiber recruitment of muscles within the lower body during the squat and the leg press.
This research looked at the effects of various foot positions in the squat and leg press on muscle activation. Results showed that overall muscle activity was greatest during squats compared to the leg press, even when greater loads were used in the leg press movement. Interestingly, foot position had little to do with the degree of muscle fiber recruitment. The amount of weight used appears to govern the amount of muscle recruited to perform each movement.
Compared to the leg press, the barbell squat requires a much greater need for stability during force production. When more muscle is recruited, a more powerful and potent stimulus for muscle growth is achieved.
Face the Music
When it comes to heavy squats, you have to be honest with yourself. Don’t do leg presses instead and claim you’re trying to mix things up. Everybody does leg presses when they simply won’t muster up the mental strength and physical intensity it takes to do 5 or 6 all-out heavy sets of squats.
I don’t care how many plates you stack on a leg press machine, and how loud you scream, it’s not the same as squatting.
Squats are tough. They provoke fear in even the most seasoned lifter. Learn to embrace the fear, the pain, and the total body overload and exhaustion you get from squatting. The results will be well worth it.