July 27, 2011

Ready for one of the most controversial topics in all of fitness and exercise? Here we go…

The squat is one of the most fundamental movements a human can do. There are a lot of fallacies out there about this movement and much of
it has come from those in the medical field who has filled society with a ton of BS. There are plenty of people out there who say that squats are bad for your knees. This includes physicians who I’ve been told tell patients they should only do a ¼ squat. Going to 90o of knee flexion or even going lower is a major no-no to many.  If you do a Google search, you’ll find hundreds of links telling you why you should or should not squat.

I consider squats to be an important part of a person’s workout whether they are an athlete or not. As an athletic trainer, I get to spend a lot of time working with athletes and other patients with orthopedic injuries. One movement that I emphasize as a part of a rehabilitation program is being able to properly squat. For many patients, this may simply being able to squat to 45-60o of knee flexion or all the way down. They are going to have to develop the ability to squat all the way down at some point because it’s too important of a movement on a daily basis. For the athletes, simply being able to squat to 90o is just not enough. Instead, I expect these patients to be able to squat fully as well as start adding single leg squats.

Mike Boyle, a well-respected strength and conditioning coach, has moved away from doing the back squat. His belief is that the movement is not needed and places undue stress on the spine when you place the bar with heavy weights onto your back. I am not convinced at this time, but do agree with him to some degree. For this reason, I have eliminated this movement as well in my weight lifting routine, but I have not eliminated it from my toolbox just yet. Boyle prefers doing single leg activities which I think is partially due to his athletic population.

          I love single leg squats and have begun to incorporate A LOT of them into my routines. There are so many different ways of doing single leg squats and exploring the variety can enhance your workout as well.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know how much I love my kettlebells and the TRX system. So how do I ever have time to add squats to my workouts with those other things? Well, I think it’s pretty simple: combine them! Kettlebells make an excellent way to learn and improve squat technique using the ‘bells as your weight in the goblet position or holding two of them in front of you as well. Also, the TRX sets up for great squats both double-leg and single leg. It provides the counterforce that aids in the ability to balance while performing the single leg squat.

There are so many different ways to squat that I am not even going to bother to list them all. I only do a couple of them on a regular basis, and they have changed over time. When I was in high school and really for the first 2 years of college all I did was back squat and box squat. Now I do a variety, but neither of the previous two are included. I haven’t done a box squat in probably a year or more and haven’t done a back squat in about 3 months.

I finally figured out I was doing the back squat for one simple reason: to see how much weight I could get on there. I was able to get up to 330 pounds for 1 rep, but I’m not a competitor so really why does that number even mean anything?

I like the front squat using a barbell, but for me I am limited on the weight based on how much I am able to hang clean to get it into position. Others won’t have that problem if they have access to a squat rack to lift the weight up from. It is a bilateral movement and you cannot do nearly as much weight with as you would with a back squat, but I think it is superior to the back squat because it removes the weight from your spine.

There are numerous variations of the single leg squats and you could probably think of even more than me! I perform the Bulgarian Split Squat (Boyle’s RFESS) using a 20″ plyo box and dumbbells. Also, I am now using the TRX Lunge and will begin adding weight to that movement shortly again likely using dumbbells or kettlebells.

Another squat variation that I have used numerous times I learned from Dan John. He calls it the Goblet Squat. You can use dumbbells for this exercise, but I actually prefer using a kettlebell. Basically you hold the ‘bell up at your chin and squat! Okay, so it’s more technical than that, but I think I’ll let Phil Scarito take it from here:

So now I hope you’ve found some form of the squats that works for you. Don’t be afraid to try a variety of these movements. I have been known to bounce back and forth between them. I found doing the Bulgarian Split Squats and the Front Squats regularly last spring increased my back squat number tremendously. The weights on those two movements may not have gone up significantly, but my strength did!


5 Responses to “Squats”

  1. TNT Man Says:

    Great Post. I have a number of comments but I am going to put my thoughts down in a post on my blog. I will put the link in another comment to this post.

    TNT Man

  2. TNT Man Says:

    As promised here is a link to my post about squats – which is an extended comment on this post.


  3. […] deal of time covering a variety of squat exercises last week and I hope you’ve read that article. This week I’m pulling out one of my new favorites. It doesn’t take a lot of weight and […]

  4. […] Number 10 on the list for this year was my article on “Squats.” […]

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