“Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it. … Success is shy — it won’t come out while you’re watching.” – Tennessee Williams


So it’s been awhile since I’ve put up a reader question.  Usually I wait until I get multiple questions on the same topic.  Squatting (or, more specifically, the lack thereof in my workouts) comes up quite often.  The following is representative of those type questions: 

 Ari says –

I”ve been a long time follower and reader. I noticed you don’t place nearly the same emphasis on squatting as those in the Rip or 70s Big camp.  You seem to have much more of a clean/DL/sprint emphasis. Would love to get your thoughts on this.


Good question, Ari; and thanks for asking.  I think the first thing to realize right off the bat is that this is a very n=1 question.  I know this sounds as if I’m setting myself an “escape hatch” here, but it’s true.  Each athlete/trainee is wired and put together different.   The thing for me is this: for my build, and as viewed through the lens of my own Five Ts assessment, the back squat — whether the high bar (Oly), or the low-hold (powerlift) version — is simply a less effective exercise for my situation.

For me, it’s more a matter of pushing the deadlift, while maintaining the squat…while at the same time, not allowing my sprint speed to suffer.  Now, if I do squat, it’s either a front squat version or, more infrequently, a safety bar squat.  And, too, I perform a lot of squat cleans within my overall routine, so I have to take that work into account as well.

Something else to consider is the fact that I do *a lot* of force-velocity curve “surfing”.   This means that I have to be very choosy in my exercise selection, if for no other reason than I don’t have an unlimited number of training hours in the week — or recovery ability, for that matter.  Every thing I do has to have a purpose.  

The result of this is that I have to put a premium on each exercise selected to cover each aspect of the force-velocity curve.  So, you’re much more likely to see jump squats or some other version of dynamic squat in my routine than you are a straight-up Oly or low-bar version of the squat.  

Now, please understand that this is *not*, in any way, shape or form, an anti-squat rant.  Noting could be further from the truth.  What I am advising, rather, is that trainee/athlete question exactly *why* they are performing a particular movement, then assess whether or not that movement, in fact, offers the biggest bang-for-the-buck in their particular circumstance.  Simple as that.  To perform an exercise or modality simply because someone else has great success with the movement/modality is to slack on doing the due diligence work of knowing thy self.

For instance, many of my Efficient Exercise clients get a steady dose of machine-based hip pressing — coupled with RFESS (rear foot elevated split squats).  For these particular clients, this mix offers some tremendous muscular in-roading without clobbering the lower back in the process.  Again, could they squat?  Sure — and sometimes we do.  However, the risk vs reward for them tilts the scales more toward (for instance) a press/RFESS combo.

So it boils down to the old axiom of there not being any bad exercises, just bad exercise selections under specific circumstances.  If you’re a powerlifter who’s built to squat, then by all means squat away!  And I think that all newbies, even if they’re not built to squat, should at least work up to a decent proficiency in the exercise before moving on to concentrate on unilateral versions of the movement.

In health, fitness and wellness –



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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.


  1. Biomechanics rule. Everyone can learn to squat in a manner appropriate to their biomechanics. Some may need a cursed heal board made of a 2×4. Others may prosper with front squats.
    A lot of chicken shit rationalizations are offered backed up by psuedo-science. Forget that.
    Many can’t comfortably squat due to loss of native flexibilty. I’ve found that a month or two of high rep squats on a bosu ball restores innate flexibility solving that problem.
    If you’re stuck in iatrogenic ideologies such as HIT, XFit, P90X, joint those forever constipated by pseudo-science.


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