The saying, “Squat is King” is true for several reasons. One of which is it’s a great abdominal and lower back exercise. When the squat is performed correctly, the core muscles (i.e., abdominal, obliques, and erectors) are strengthened and developed because they are forced to contract hard statically in order to maintain correct squat positioning. And over the course of weeks and months as you incrementally add weight to the bar and lift heavier, this increased load provides greater stimulus to your core muscles and forces them to get stronger still. Here are a few different but complementary ways you can view your core and the role it plays when performing efficient and safe barbell back squats; or for that matter the role it plays in any movement that requires you to push, pull, or pick something up!
- Natural Girdle or Belt – How does a strong core help minimize low back injury? You can think of your core muscles as forming a natural belt. Lifting heavy objects, running, jumping, or any quick explosive types of movements require strength and the ability to produce high force. Having a strong core that squeezes and contracts hard compresses your internal organs which in turn produces internal force that pushes on the lower spine from the inside, and thus indirectly supports and protects your low back.
- Car Transmission – What role does your core play in movement? They’re certainly not there to do work. That is, you don’t push, pull, pickup, or directly move anything with your abs; that’s the role your arms and legs… to generate force. You can think of the your core muscles as the transmission of a car, and your arms and legs as the engine. Strong core muscles turn your relatively flexible and mobile waist and torso into a stiff lever, which allows for efficient force transference of the force generated by your arms and legs.
So instead of endless crunches, squat to build a stronger core, and a healthier back. -Nuey