For sheer reward versus time invested, you can't beat squats

Goal: Size, Strength
Bodyparts: Legs

It is an almost universally feared exercise for its ability to summarily crush one's ego ... and blood sugar and pain tolerance and ability to hold down a meal or walk like a homo sapien. Still, the squat remains one of the best moves you can do in the gym. It is unrivaled in its ability to add size to your legs and is a critical player in your ability to boost athletic performance.

Matt Choate, NASM-CPT, a Long Beach (Calif.) based trainer, is a fan of the squat and offers six big reasons why you don't want to skip it on your next leg day.

1] MACROBENEFITS
Though thought of as a leg exercise, the squat holds value as a total-body training tool. "Squats work a huge amount of muscle in the body -- the quads, glutes, hamstrings, low back, calves, etc.," he said. "The more muscles we engage, the greater the caloric burn and squatting engages the entire body."

2] SIZE MAKER
"Squatting helps to increase muscle mass, and the greater muscle mass causes an increase in our metabolism," he says. When you squat, you may find that while the tape measure is stretching in your thighs, you are likely gaining size elsewhere as well. Adding appreciable thickness to your lower back and hips is often a happy byproduct of regular squatting.
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3] BOOST YOUR T
"Studies have shown that squats when done regularly can increase your natural levels of testosterone, which boosts strength and size," says Choate.

4] INJURY PROOFING
Don't just focus on the squat for its aesthetic potential. It is a foundational movement that can help you in ways you may not consider on a daily basis. "Squats can help prevent injuries that occur during daily activities," he says. "Squatting strengthens your legs and your core musculature. By strengthening these areas you will be less likely to injure yourself performing other daily activities."

5] SQUAT FOR ABS
Again, the squat is no one-trick pony of an exercise. Sure, your glutes and quads feel like Jell-O when you're done, but "Squatting is a core exercise as well," says Choate. "When you perform a squat, your core muscles are worked heavily, recruiting the whole abdominal complex." Over time, that can build abs that are not only better looking but are stronger and much more capable of supporting you on your other heavy lifts.

6] TIME SAVER
So you love to do leg extensions, leg curls, Romanians, lunges, leg presses and hack squats, eh? I don't know, man, that sounds like a lot of work. "Squatting can save you time in the gym. When you perform squats, the entire lower body is worked to some degree," says Choate. "This exercise can save time by eliminating the need for so many different isolation exercises." In other words, squatting not only helps you keep it real -- it helps you keep it simple.

>> Matt Choate, NASM-CPT, is a Long Beach (Calif.) based personal trainer.