Physically, the squat is unparalleled for leg development, and is universally regarded as one of the three best compound lifts devised for the human body. I cannot understate these benefits; if the squat were not as powerful a device for muscular development, it would not be the basis of virtually every strength program worth its weight in piss.
But that is not why I squat.
I do not squat for physical gain.
Rather, I squat for mental, and dare I say it, spiritual growth.
You see, there is no exercise quite like the squat. No other exercise (barring the Good Morning, but not to as great an extent) involves taking the weight of the world on your shoulders, allowing it to overcome you and press down upon you, then summoning the sheer will to lift it back up. No other exercise presents you with quite the same incentive to raise that motherfucking bar one last time. The bench press comes closest, but uses less of the body and less weight. You may deadlift heavier weight, but if you don't muster that courage and brute force, that bar just stays there, you let go, and you walk away.
Not so with the squat.
It is in that moment that you squat down for one last rep, that one that both your body and mind told you would just get you hurt, and you reach parallel or below, that you find yourself. Everything goes quiet. Any music you were listening to fades. There is nobody else in the gym. There is only yo, squatted down on your haunches with four hundred pounds across your shoulder blades and a meter of air between you and victory. There is a certain serenity that comes to you now, a sense of your own existence. In that moment, you know - not think, KNOW - that this is how it should be, that pitting yourself, your mind and your body against this weight is the road to glory and fulfillment.
And then your mind restarts and scrambles, pulling motivation from anywhere it can. Pictures, sounds, words, memories flash through your mind in a white heat, and your inner self turns from doubt to conviction. Every single fibre of your being is screaming at that bar to RISE, MOTHERFUCKER, RISE, and as you begin to rise once more you can feel that power surging through your entirety. You are acutely aware of every sensation in your body - the hatching on the barbell pressing against you, the blood being pumped from your heart to your face turning your complexion beetroot, the tensing of your abdominals as your mind ascends and drags the rest of you with it.
You reach forty-five degrees. You are only halfway, but you have completed the lift already. The initial shock of raising yourself one more time has worn off, the internal question of whether or not you can lift this weight has evaporated. Momentum is on your side and you have proven yourself capable, just do not stop, for the love of God, DO NOT STOP. Feel that goddamn burn one last time and scream with AGONY and JOY as you carry the weight of the entire world upwards once more and rerack that weight in a symbolic and somewhat visceral 'fuck you', delivered to the entire world.
Your mind blanks again. Pure satisfaction courses through your veins, and you do not feel you EMBODY triumph. You are king, you are warrior, you are LEGENDARY. Nobody can ever take this away from you - no matter how many people hate you, no matter how little you may earn, no matter what troubles you encounter in day to day life, nobody can ever take that squat away from you, and that pride will carry you throughout your life with dignity, honor, and a quiet peace that only your fellow squatters will understand and appreciate.
You have just found enlightenment.
And that is why I squat.