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Why Does Weightlifting Not Take More of a Cardio Mindset?

I got to thinking today amid reading an article about squats, it sort of got me thinking. It seems the popular trend today in the fitness world is elevating squats above pretty much every other exercise as one that everyone must be doing or they’re not really “lifting”. Dr. John Rusin pretty much emphasizes that a lot of the population “can’t squat”., or at least not properly and are setting themselves up for big time problems down the road. And go on any internet related comment section of someone doing a squat (or a lot of other exercises, but squat primarily) and you’ll get loads of people saying bad form or doing it incorrectly. It just really got me thinking…should would be recommending squats above all else?

I’m reminded of reading many, many articles regarding cardio beginners and experts about what’s the “best” form of cardio exercise. While they factor many variables into account, the general consensus in many of what I’ve read is running is the most effective, but do what you enjoy as it will keep you participating in the exercise. Also they tend to state that ____ (blank) might be better for some because of ______ . Why don’t we advocate a similar policy when it comes to weight training?

The reason I’m stating this is because while squats might be the best exercise in a sense, they don’t really take other factors into account. Personal note - squats were causing major hip pain (along with deadlifts, which I think initially caused the problem) for some time before i really pinpointed my issue and since I have quit them for the time being by problems have subsided significantly. I still do other leg exercises without problems. I started lifting in my late teens and then started squatting/deadlifting shortly thereafter. I have been off and on and now am mid 30s, but I just now realize - I never really enjoyed either of them either. Perhaps I was one with bad form and that’s the main reason, but doing them on a consistent basis made me generally feel achy and run down, moreso than any other exercise.

So the reason I’m posting is wondering if anyone else finds the dichotomy of YOU MUST SQUAT while also knowing full well that many butcher the movement? “Many” also does not just include beginners if experts writing on the subject is any indication. And I know the response - “Learn from a professional”. How many people do you really think are going to shell out the $ for a professional (and I don’t just mean personal trainer at random commerical gym) to actually learn how to do it? And since ego is also a primary motivator - aren’t we really compounding the problem with perhaps the 2nd biggest ego driven exercise next to bench press?

Any exercise or body alignment where your heart beats fast is cardio. A rowing machine and running both work the C.V. system. Its the pumping blood better that’s universal, not the exercise.

Only squatting is squatting. Because most sports and activities are done on your feet, squatting is universal.

Lots of people don’t know how to run, and over do it because of their ego.


Not understanding the purpose of this post in the beginner section myself…

Squatting is a great movement for…just about everything. If you want to gain muscular weight squatting is one of the best movements. It will build not only your legs and glutes, but also your back and even a bit of your traps and delts as well. Most importantly (in my view) Squats will build your most important muscle, that is your heart!

If you are not comfortable squatting start with a light weight and don’t add any weight to it until you are comfortable with what you are doing. Also, you are on the right site there are plenty of guys who post videos of themselves squatting. Take a look at these videos and learn.

Do you have to squat? No. There are other movements such as deadlifts with a straight bar or a trap bar that are also very good. There is the clean and press movement which develops a multitude of muscles and also gives you a good cardio effect.

But for my money squatting should be in everyone’s programs. Early on I tried to replace squatting with the leg press. There is literally no comparison. I had to work twice as hard on the leg press machine to get about a quarter of the results.

Yeah…barbell squats are the real deal and you, me and everyone else who trains with weights should be doing them.

that’s farther than I would go. If you are a healthy adult with no injuries that prevent you from doing them pain free, then I can come closer to signing off on this. But I don’t think the barbell part is truly necessary. Plenty of other ways to do them. If we’re talking about beginners specifically (and we should be since this is the beginners section), I would say I strongly disagree. I teach the squat to new lifters with the goblet squat. The barbell squat is far too complicated to grasp every detail for true beginners. For most it should be incorporated eventually, but even that is so goal dependent.

Options that are often superior to a standard barbell back squat, depending on goals, include SSB squat, buffalo bar squat, front squat, belt squat, goblet squat, and even the hack squat machine can be awesome for some. I love it for getting additional volume in. I get plenty of leg work using it, and if all I cared about was aesthetics, I might use it exclusively over the back squat. In my own training, I rarely back squat now, because it’s not the best way to work towards my goals. Barbell back squats are hard on my elbows, and it doesn’t have the carryover to strongman that other squat variations do.

So basically, I’m understanding the OP’s qualms with the dogmatic approach of a lot of trainers regarding the squat. And I second the notion that he presents in the last paragraph that we’re making a huge mistake if we tell all beginners to squat without proper coaching. I see some terrible squats in the gym.


I am glad I front squatted for a long period of time before I back squatted. It built my back, core up to a decent enough level that I stay upright when back squatting with my weights. Plus I know now how to use my core and legs instead of GMing my back squat.

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There was a similar article I came across not that long ago about deadlifting and whether everyone should deadlift. The question is really about what are your goals. If your goal is to be a powerlifter, there’s really no getting around having to back squat at some point. If your goal is aesthetic, general fitness, or some other goal, it’s hard to dogmatically say that back squatting MUST be part of your workout. It’s a wonderful exercise. That being said, should a 50 year old who’s never squatted before jump right in? What about someone with known knee issues? Should they even aspire to do a “real” squat? The real question has always got to be does this movement advance my goals. If it does, great. Get to squatting and quit complaining. If it doesn’t, then don’t. You can’t lose sight of training is ultimately about goals, not exercises.

I’ll give up regular barbell backsquatting gladly the day my gym gets an SSB. Until then, you’ll find me under the bar on a fairly regular basis.


What you’re saying here also applies to the SSB, which is why the SSB is such a great tool for anyone who has access to one. It essentially mimics a front squat, but you don’t have to deal with the hand/arm positioning that is so limiting for many people on the front squat. I’m capable of front squatting over 400 lbs, but holding the rack position is so difficult for me that it makes more sense to do most of my training with the SSB rather than actually front squatting, if I want that training effect. I can’t do ANY reasonable volume with a front squat. Even with light weights I really can’t hold my position past about 5 reps.