The squat is the king of all exercises you can do in the gym. The God of exercises in fact. Ask any fitness trainer worth their salt and they will tell you the same. They'll present you with some physiological jargon about why this is so but what they may overlook is the fact that the squat is made doubly great because of the lessons for life we can take from it.
What do I mean?
Unlike an isolation exercise, when you squat you are using a countless number of muscles. In fact you pretty much need your whole body to be working in sync. Mind and muscle staring at the mirror in front and your arse ventures towards the ground, hoping it will be able to push itself back up.
Focus too much on your legs and you'll wobble, focus too much on keeping your torso straight and you won't be able to push through. Fail to quieten your mind and you may as well forget about it.
The squat teaches us that to improve in life we must take a holistic approach. Every aspect counts towards the goal. Not only that but there are no shortcuts. Get that arse to the ground. Sometimes you'll see someone with a tonne of weight on the bar and yet they can barely lower their buttocks to an even 45 degree angle to their knees. Slow, steady and proper form will win the race, show-offs will not.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, the squat is about mental toughness as much as it is physical. In most gyms you'll find the squat rack facing a mirror. As you bow your head to take your starting stance the thoughts begin to whirl; 'I don't feel like I can do this today ... my neck feels a bit sore ... jaysis I'm fierce pale today ... ''Yea, work away, you can take that weight, I'm not using it'' ... shit, did I send that email before I left the office?'
A squat requires total focus, the range of motion is so long that you must remove distraction. I found the best method is to focus on taking a deep long breath on the way down and then concentrate on the pace of the push on the way up. Breath and push, breath and push.
The thing is this is a method that need not be confined to a squat. How often in life can our minds lose the run of themselves? Distractions and thoughts scattering about all over the place, likes wasps in a nest. It's then that we can take what we've learned in the gym and apply it to the everyday. Focus on the breath, stay calm and you'll quickly be back on the right track.
So here's to the squat; the king of all exercises.