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Squats + Deadlifts = Power and Muscle Mass

Bodybuilders, athletes, and most fitness enthusiasts look to weight training as a means to increase their muscle mass and increase power (strength). Yet so many, especially the novice enthusiasts, end up spending a lot of time doing the wrong exercises. The squat and deadlift are two of a handful of "big muscle" exercises that can help anyone gain the desired muscle mass and strength. They are espcially popular with athletes seeking increased speed and lower body power.

Squats

The biggest problem most weight lifters face with squats is the lack of expertise when it comes to learning/teaching the correct way to perform this exercise. Most people simply do not spend enough time learning the proper squatting technique and staying with a program that continues to challenge the body with added weight. The regular squat is performed by holding a bar behind the neck on the trapezius muscle. The movement involves slowly lowering the body to about the point where the thighs are parallel to the floor and smoothly moving back to the upright position using the thighs and hips.

Another version of the squat is the front squat. This variation involves holding the bar in front of the neck and places a higher emphasis on the lower and middle quads instead of the upper thights and hips. A front squat can also add a gripping variable with either a "hands under" or "hands crossed over" grip.

In general, squats should be performed with care. There are many differing opinions on whether a weight training belt should be used or not. I prefer squatting without the belt on the warmup and intermediate sets. A squat/safety rack should be used when performing the exercise and a spotter for the heavier sets would also be a good idea.

Deadlifts

Even though squats and deadlifts are two different exercises, they have many similar benefits. Deadlifts target the back muscles, hamstrings, and quads - depending on the variations. Deadlifts too should be done with care, the bar should be held at shoulder width at the beginning of the exercise. Keeping the back straight, you begin to lift by driving upwards with your legs. When upright, throw your chest forward and shoulders back, lowering slowly to the starting position. There are two basic variations of the deadlift; bent-legged and stiff-legged.

Squats and deadlifts will increase your metabolism and help gain muscle mass, strength and energy. They should be performed with care and usually have a steep learning curve. It is best to seek out a good personal trainer or a specialized weight training book to learn how to squat and deadlift with the right technique. I personally only do squats because I have hurt my back doing deadlifts in the past. Please consult with a doctor and a certified trainer when starting any weight training exercise.

For anyone else wanting to learn more about these exercise, I would highly, highly recommend picking up Stuart McRobert's excellent weight training book Brawn. Its an excellent read.
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