The older you get, the more you realize physical freedom and confidence in your movement are indispensable if you want to live an active lifestyle without boundaries.
If that’s accurate, and it is, what do you need in order to live like that?
Strength is a big one; that’s what comes to mind for most people when they ask themselves what they’ll need to stay independent as they get older.
Which is absolutely true.
So, getting good at back squatting, the king of lifts, is the best thing for your independence, right?
This is where most people fall off track; it’s not back squatting that keeps you independent, it’s the strength you build from squatting, and that distinction matters.
You have finite resources, meaning you don’t have infinite time, energy, and bandwidth to devote to your fitness and longevity, and if you want to get the most out of your investment in the gym, you have to “keep the main thing as the main thing.”
That means you’re not ever doing an exercise to get good at the exercise; you do it to get a return on your investment.
Do you need strength? Perfect, let’s get you strong, but first, let’s build context around where and why you need strength.
Do you live on the third floor of a building without an elevator?
Great, weighted step-ups are a better option than back squatting.
Having trouble getting up off of the floor after playing with your kids or grandkids because you lack strength?
We can deal with that, too, but it won’t be with back squats. We’ll break the movement sequence of getting up from the floor into pieces and pinpoint where you’re struggling; then, we’ll focus on that until it’s not a weakness anymore.
What if you’re plenty strong, then what?
Being strong enough is a thing. You don’t have to endlessly chase more strength, and you shouldn’t if you’re chasing it at the expense of something else holding you back.
For example, how's your agility?
Lack of agility is right up there, with a lack of strength for causing fall injuries. If you stumble, can you get your feet back under you, or do you watch the world turn sideways as you tumble to the ground?
If you can’t move your feet quickly enough, you’re going down.
Here’s another less obvious example, how much time do you spend connecting with the people you love?
According to the CDC, social isolation can be as hard on your health as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. It’s also associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia.
If you’re endlessly chasing bigger numbers in your lifts, you’re doing it at the expense of something else that might be more impactful to your health.
What does all of this mean?
It means you must make conscious choices about spending your limited resources. If you like back squats and they align with your goals, then you should absolutely use them.
On the flip side, if there are movements that are better aligned with your needs, then they’ll be more effective, period.
When you care about long-term health, the goal is never to be “good” at an exercise. It’s to select the right tool to harvest the best results from your workouts as quickly and efficiently as possible.