“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

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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.

Thanks!

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 –

Keith

 

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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 COMMENT

  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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