Mike Hopper has a feature on his Blog called Exercise of the Week, where he highlights a specific exercise or piece of equipment.  Since he has a degree in this stuff, I read and take notice.  You should as well.  That does not stop him from writing about other exercises as the whim strikes him.  His last post discussed Squats.  I was going to post a comment on his site, but realized that my thoughts were way to verbose, instead I am going to compile them in this post.  Unfortunately, it will not be as learned as Mike’s.  So, in no special order – here goes.

I was assigned to “Corrective Gym” in high school.  This was the place they put the physical failures –  the schlubs – the weaklings.  Instead of having a full curriculum – we had the weight room and a sadistic SOB of a gym teacher.  He would set us up to do something and then go into his office for a smoke.  Is it wrong to hope that he died a painful death from COPD or Lung Cancer?

He had us doing full squat duck walks with 100 pounds on our shoulders around the periphery of the large gym.  Those duck walks made sure that I have bad knees.  I can not bowl three games without pain.  After 4 years of that guy – it took me some 15 years before I got the guts to walk through the doors of a fitness center.  It was a Nautilus gym.  Machines only.  There were a hand full of free weights which I never touched.  Did not Squat.  Had developed a bad back as well – so I did not do dead lifts.  Stuck to isolation exercises on the machines and built some decent muscle mass.

This time around, I finally decided to face my demons.  After all – it has been 45 years since that high school weight room.  With the advent of the internet and big book stores like Barnes & Noble, there was a lot of information and I am a reader.  I decided to eschew the machines and focus on Free Weights.  That included Squats and Dead Lifts.  Slowly – oh so slowly – I focused on building up all the secondary support muscles. 

I started to do Squats and Dead Lifts.  I will never be a guy who focuses on a one rep max at greater than his body weight.  My time for that is long past.  But – what is my goal – why spend 6 days a week in the gym?

I noticed that many of my peers and those both younger and especially older than me used the arms of chairs and the table to get from a seated to a standing position.  I noticed that I looked for supports to get myself up – especially from a toilet seat.  I had higher seats installed in our master bath to make it easier.  Not good.

My focus has become – function.  Why exercise if it does not help me function.  I need to get up from a seated position without help.  Damn – that is a Squat.  I need to be able to lift the end of a couch to move it – damn – that is a dead lift.  I need to be able to lift my over stuffed piece of carry on luggage into the storage bin of the airplane.  Damn that is similar to a clean and press.  I need to be able to get down and up from the floor without crawling to the nearest piece of furniture.  Once I focused on the real life function of an exercise, I was able to see its value beyond just a one rep max.

I have always admired those who could squat down and sit.  Not me.  Never gonna happen.  But – I want to be able to get up from a toilet seat without holding onto one of the handicapped bars. 

But – what about single leg exercises?  What is their function if not just gaining muscle.  I hate Bulgarian Split Squats.  I hate lunges.  Why am I doing unilateral exercises? Balance – nothing more – nothing less.  I do not want to be one of those old men who can’t walk without a walker.  Falling is not an option. 

So there I am – sitting on a bench doing one-legged get ups, teetering through one-legged dead lifts and one-legged (albeit assisted) squats.

To Squat or Not to Squat – yeah – I’ll Squat.

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