Strong - "Having great physical power and ability : having a lot of strength"
When you look up the definition for strong or strength you will find a ton of answers. I wanted to show the meaning of the word before we move into this topic.
SQUATS. Everyone's favorite "Strength" lift. I'm not kidding... if you walk into any strength and conditioning facility most of them will tell you that squats are the KING of all exercises. This article is not meant to discredit these people or gyms that claim this, rather it is intended to give people another approach for building strength and power in individuals. Now back to squatting...
When most people refer to squats being king, they are usually implying the Back Squat performed by using a barbell. People love this lift for its ability to build overall strength and muscular development. Also this lift is great for building balance and flexibility. Now, if you dig deeper into the Squat-fanatic's mind you will see there are many variations of the squat. There is the "High bar back squat" and "Low bar back squat", referring to the placement of the bar on your back. And depending on what region of the world you are from and political views you have determine which back squat is more superior in your eyes. (No joke people go to war over this topic). There also several different exercises that are a form of squat: front squat, over head squat, hack squat, etc. We will not be talking much about those; we will just focus on the BARBELL SQUAT in general. As I listed above, there are many benefits of using the barbell squat in ones training program. Arguably, it's one of the few exercises where you can really move a significant amount of weight in order to build strength in the lower body. Also this lift requires a lot of flexibility, which is a good and bad thing depending how you look at it. When choosing a squat variation or determine if they are a good fit for your program or your athletes you must first assess the athlete, and yourself. Let me give an example...
"Joseph" walks into my gym tomorrow and says he wants to build strength, power, and speed for football. Joseph is an upcoming college freshman going to a Division 1 School. I say, "Awesome, let's do it." So on day one I assess him and put him through some tests to check his balance and flexibility. On his "basic squat" assesment I see that he has an excessive forward lean and his knee collapses, which tells me that his soleous, short head hamstring, adductor and his vastus lateralis (outside of the quadricep) muscles are severely tight and over active. I also see that his glutes are severely under active. Mainly these compensations are due to a lack of joint mobility. With that all said, I am informed that I only have 12 weeks to work with Joseph to make him ready for football. So I have a couple options here...
Ignore his horrible form and lack of joint mobility and make him back squat every damn day because its the "KING". Also ignore the possibility of injury.
Spend the majority of our training time working on stretching and rolling the living hell out of him until he can squat perfectly. So he can properly perform the "KING".
SKIP the damn Squat. Use alternative exercises which he can perform using proper form and biomechanics, that also help build strength and power. Establish a proper Mobility regimen to address his under and over active muscle to help enhance his abilities and help prevent fire injury.
I think we may have found a winner! Option 3.
Now this is just one example and if Joseph was in the sport of Power Lifting or Weightlifting then yes he would squat until his legs fell off. If I had years to work with someone to correct their form and joint mobility then yes I would probably work on squats but would never rely on them. If I got someone in my gym with perfect form right off the bat, yes we would squat but again I would not rely on them nor base the whole program completely off of "THE SQUAT".
Training is about creating a stimulus to make the athlete bigger, faster and/or stronger. In no GOOD training program should it be solely surrounded by one exercise to create that stimulus. It should be surrounded by what needs to be addressed and what works best.Each athlete is completely different than the next. And what works for one will not always work for the other. I believe too many people put an emphasis on certain lifts needing to be done for "athletes". What's going to make an athlete good at his or her sport is not squatting. It's actually playing their sport. Strength training helps an athlete get their bodies stronger for that sport. Conditioning helps the athlete get more conditioned for their sport. Now I'm not saying to throw strength training or squats out the window for athletes. I am simply saying remember what sport they play. Games are not won in the weight room. They are won on the court or field. So when doing a training program for an athlete or specific sport, it's best to find one that will make them stronger, more powerful, more flexible, but while still keeping them injury free so they can perform at their best for their sport. Experiment and find what wakes for your athletes best. Don't just do it because someone else told you too. Training is always evolving, that's one of the great things about it. What works today may not be the best way in 50 years. It's very important we as coaches continue to be students of our clients and athletes because they are the ones that show us what truly works for each person.
Follow up on our next blog...
"SQUATS...IS IT REALLY KING PART II ("THE AVERAGE JOE")"