I neglected barbell squats and deadlifts for a very long time. When I began training in the early 90’s, heavy squats and deadlifts were not as popular and common as today. It was often said to be dangerous and unnecessary, and nobody taught me till I was in my early twenties. I should have kept training with this guy who finally taught me the squat and the deadlift but I changed gym for financial reasons, and there were not really any space for doing these exercises in this knew gym. I still didn’t care, there was a leg press, a leg extension machine and a leg curl machine. I was fine. Or so I thought.
Some years later, when I was in college studying exercise science I learned not only much about training, but also much about my own body. To my surprise I learned I was very week around my hips. Actually, come to think of it, first clue to this was when a friend of mine smacked my bottom and exclaimed how loose it was. How could I who trained and looked rather fit have such loose buttocks? His buttocks was rock hard and I was a bit perplexed over this at the time. And no, we were not comparing our asses all night. Get it out of your head. Stay focused now. Hmm. Anyhow, fast forward again to college, I was also chocked by the fact that I couldn’t touch my toes anymore. I was 28 years old at the time and the stiffness had crept up on me. Even though I always stretched after workouts. I determined to do something about this and started doing squats and deadlifts. I also learned power cleans but I didn’t had the mobility for proper cleans. So I started doing front squats. Together with some mobility work inspired by the Functional Movement System, I got my mobility back as it once were. Despite my efforts in the leg press over the years, I had to start on no more than 60 kg in both the squat and the deadlift. Strength went up rapidly in the first year, and ever since these vital exercises have been the basis of my training.
Bottom line – squats and deadlifts are essential for hip and knee function, and overall strength. In my opinion, overall strength and mobility are best preserved by doing variations of squats and deadlifts. Front squat is especially good for mobility and transfers well to cleans.