When you talk to people at the gym, you may get the sense that they have an insatiable need for speed. Between metabolic-friendly foods and new workout plans aimed at increasing your metabolic rate, many supposed strategies for speeding up your metabolism exist. One strategy that may actually work is performing squats. This exercise is more demanding than many and can assist in speeding up your metabolism. Squats can be dangerous if you do them improperly, so always perform them with supervision.
Squat Benefit Overview
The barbell squat is one of the big three exercises -- along with the bench press and deadlift -- which are the base upon which many exercise programs are built. The squat is effective because it works many muscles simultaneously. As you can imagine, the squat works leg muscles such as the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves, and it helps strengthen your lower back, abdominal and oblique muscles. Squats are also functional exercises in that they mirror movements you might make during your daily activities or sports.
The primary reason the squat is effective at increasing your metabolic rate is because it is a compound exercise. It requires multiple muscle groups to work, and the more muscles you have working, the greater the metabolic demand. Just as a complex piece of technology like a computer draws more energy than a simple light bulb, the squat uses more energy from more muscles than an isolation exercise. This revs up your metabolism, resulting in superior calorie burning and helping with weight loss.
Another reason why the squat helps speed your metabolism is because it involves heavier weights than simpler exercises. Using heavy weights can be helpful for ensuring that your metabolism remains elevated for the rest of the day -- a phenomenon called post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, which is also known as post-workout metabolic rate. A study published in the journal "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" found that training with heavier weights promoted a bigger increase in EPOC than training with lighter weights, even when the level of work performed in the workouts was the same. This suggests that using exercises that allow you to lift heavy weights such as the squat promote a speedier metabolism for hours after your session.
Maximizing Metabolism Speed
You can enhance the metabolic boost with several strategies, such as keeping rest periods between sets short. Resting for less than a minute between sets will help elevate levels of growth hormone and testosterone, both of which boost your metabolism. And don't restrict your calorie intake too much. A study from "Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging" found that eating too few calories after exercise reduced the EPOC boost of the workout. Following your squat session with high-protein foods such as chicken, fish and Greek yogurt can help ensure that you get adequate calories for recovery and the right nutrients for muscle gain. Developing muscle is great for your metabolism, as the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be.
- ExRx.net: Barbell Squat
- MayoClinic.com: Functional Fitness Training: Is It Right For You?
- Los Angeles Times: Twice the Pain, but Bigger Gain
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Effects of Resistance Exercise Bouts of Different Intensities but Equal Work on EPOC
- Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging: The Effect of Dietary Restriction and Menstrual Cycle on Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) in Young Women
- MayoClinic.com: Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories
- Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images