Tom Platz, the 66-year-old retired bodybuilder, is a man who once owned some of the largest, most muscular legs in bodybuilding history. To get such mammoth pins, he had to perform a brutal series of leg workouts when hitting the gym. Put simply, he is a prime example of what you can achieve if you never skip leg day, and his favourite leg exercise is the squat.
As Healthline says, “leg workouts engage the major muscle groups of your body, which helps to improve athletic performance and support healthy movement patterns in your daily life.”
“A strong lower body will also help to prevent injury and manage chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.”
If that’s not enough proof that you should dedicate at least one gym session a week to your legs, we don’t know what is.
As we mentioned earlier, Tom – also known as The Quadfather – says, without doubt, the best leg exercise you can do (and given the sheer size of his legs in his bodybuilding days, we’re going to say he knows what he’s talking about).
This revelation was uncovered in a video posted to TikTok by David McCullough, which shows someone speaking with Tom in a gym.
In the video, Tom can be heard saying “Nothing compares to squats, you can do leg presses, but why?”
“Why do inferior movement, why do a movement that looks good but produces hardly any results. I don’t care how much weight you use, I’d rather do 3 good plates and get in 15, 20 good reps and reap the benefit.”
Highlighting a reason why people may choose to forego squats or leg days altogether, Tom continues, “there’s a reason why people don’t do squats, it’s hard!.”
“People don’t want what’s hard, they want what’s easy, what looks showy.”
And, revealing his best piece of advice, Tom goes on to say, “In fact, forget about the weight, just squat correctly. That is the secret. Absolutely.”
Indeed, Tom’s words can be applied to practically any gym exercise. You’re going to gain greater benefit from performing a movement correctly, than you are by increasing the weight, and performing it incorrectly. This is something fitness trainer Paul Sklar has touched upon before, highlighting what is known as the mind-muscle connection.
This means you are mentally connected with your body, and so understand what is happening to the muscle as it goes through each repetition. This technique doesn’t require heavy weights, quite the opposite, in fact. Using a lighter weight will give you the time and energy to divert your attention away from making sure you complete the lift, and instead use it to visualise your form and technique instead.
So, how do you squat correctly? Well, firstly, there are several variations of the squat you can perform – including the front squat – but for the purposes of this article, we’re referring to the barbell back squat.”
To perform a squat, start with the barbell set just below shoulder height on the squat rack. Step under it and have it rest on your shoulders. Lift up and take a couple of steps back. If you’re new to squats, or have had some time off since you last performed them, keep the weight light so as to avoid injury and help improve the technique.
Bring your pelvis in and brace your core. You want to keep this same solid core throughout the duration of the movement. Take a deep breath in and squat down. To squat effectively, ensure your knees push outwards and almost imagine you’re just sitting down. Sit into the squat until your hips are just below your knees. If this feels too deep to push back up from, you at least want to bend your knees to a 90-degree angle.
Keeping the breath held in – it helps with stability – push up through your heels until you’re back at your starting position, where you can exhale (you can exhale as you lift up if you find it helps you more).
Of course, you don’t want to just perform squats when you’re in the gym and be done with it. You will need to perform other leg exercises to help build your leg muscles. But in terms of the main movement you do, squats are an absolute essential.