With regard to functional fitness, squats stand far above any other movement. The reason I say this? The day when you can’t get off the toilet will probably signal something terrible for you. For our major motor movements, getting off the toilet should be our foremost priority in life.
When I see people struggle, it is usually about getting out of a car from seated or standing from a soft couch or recliner. We have all seen it. Otherwise, you’re stuck needing some help.
Now for those of us who are young and healthy and think we can’t relate, try this. When I ran ultramarathons (running races beyond the marathon), these very same movements were exceedingly difficult. And painful. I’ve done CrossFit Murph too (many times), which is:
run 1 mile
300 air squats
run 1 mile
(do for time with optional 20 pound weight vest)
Murph can leave you a bed-ridden if you are not superbly conditioned for it. It is the ultimate test of empathy for those who are physically challenged.
In the old days, I’d spend about 2 months a year, usually July and November, where I would squat every day. It is just the shock that my system needed. This past Fall, I was in physical therapy for my shoulder, so I couldn’t bench press, overhead press, or do pullups. So I did squats. Every dad gum day!
I think a close second would be deadlifts as a functional movement. But I believe if you can squat, you can deadlift. Yeah, if you are a competitive powerlifter, you have to deadlift and it is a highly technical movement. But for every day citizens, squats should be the focus.
The other thing about squats are the variations and modifications. Regarding the aformentioned toilet, you can sit on a chair and stand up. Do that 10 times, or 50 times, or 100 times. That’s a workout!! You don’t need special equipment. There are also front squats, rack squats, safety squats, squats with chains, squats with bands, box squats, goblet squats, pause squats, full ATG squats, top side squats, banded knee squats, squat pistols, overhead squats, … (cue Bubba Gump Shrimp).
I was just talking about hip flexors and extensors in Yoga Fundamentals last night. The glutes are our largest and strongest muscles. When we start to get the old man (or young video gamer) butts where you need a belt or suspenders to hold up your britches, you know you haven’t been squatting. Muscle mass is the key, primary indicator of morbidity. You lose your butt, then you die.
And if you get bored of plain ole squats, search key words "booty fitness" and you’ll find hundreds of fitness girls doing their version of a booty pump. There are so many options and variables that makes it fun for everybody. But never neglect the squat for overall fitness and quality of life.