Could the king of all exercises get dethroned?
The overall consensus in the fitness community is that the squat is the absolute king of exercises. It works multiple muscle groups and is a great pushing exercise the develops the legs, back, and stomach as well as providing functional strength. The claim of being the greatest is arguable considering that the deadlift is also pretty great at developing multiple muscle groups, particularly the posterior chain. Nevertheless, the squat is a great exercise for those looking to build up their lower half. But the notion that the squat is the absolute best exercise for leg development may be a bit dubious.
There’s no doubt that genetics plays an obvious role in every bodybuilder’s potential for muscle development and growth. A person’s genetics may also have a huge impact on how a particular exercise effects their muscle growth. While many bodybuilders may swear by the squat, there are others that believe squats do little for their leg development. Much like some bodybuilders advocate dumbbell flyes over the bench press for chest development, many believe that the leg press can do more for your leg muscles than the squat. One such advocate of the leg press is the bodybuilding great Dorian Yates.
The six time Mr. Olympia was known for having a particularly large frame in comparison to many bodybuilders, the highlight of his physique being his considerably well built back. As for Yates’ leg development, the bodybuilder has had experience doing regular squats and attributes much of his early leg development to the king of exercises. But like other experienced bodybuilders Yates experimented with other methods of putting on muscle for his legs. He has stated that the hack squat (smith machine squat) and the leg press improved his leg development far more than doing heavy free weight squats with a barbell. It’s a pretty big claim, but one we’re sure that Yates researched before eventually coming to his conclusion.
I would always pre-exhaust before I got onto the compound exercises, but I did leg press, and hack squatting, or squatting on a Smith machine instead of going to squats. And I found I got much better development from these exercises than from just heavy squatting. It depends a lot on your structure, but it (the squat) didn’t suit me. So hack squats, leg presses and pre-exhaustion with leg extensions.
– Dorian Yates speaking with Bodybuilding.com
It begs the question, is the squat really the best for improving the muscle growth in your legs? We’d venture to say that the squat is still the best for the legs, especially for those in the beginning of their development. It provides overall strength and gets the legs started down the road for greater improvement. Every person is different and their bodies can be stimulated in different ways. Experimentation with other methods will ultimately give each person the answer as to which exercise works best for their body.