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Defending the Squat

By admin | In Uncategorized | on January 27, 2012

Ages ago, I posted about squats and how good they are for you. Since then I’ve still had to occasionally defend this movement, more for our newbies than our regulars, but I think this is a good time to revisit the topic. I’m sure every now and then you may encounter friends, relatives, etc who tell you to be careful as squatting is dangerous.

Strength Plus Magazine posted this great article by Charles Poloquin, “8 Stupid Myths About Squatting,” which debunks conventional wisdom in a well articulated way. Below is a summary of his article:

Myth #1: Squats widen the hips.

When the gluteus maximus (one of the prime movers in the squat) develops, it grows back (not out). If squats did widen the hips, Olympic lifters, who devote as much as 25 percent of their training volume to squats, would be built like mailboxes.

Myth #2: Squats are bad for the knees.

Not only are squats not bad for the knees, every legitimate research study on this subject has shown that squats improve knee stability and therefore help reduce the risk of injuries. Providing you don‘t relax or bounce in the bottom position of the squat, you‘ve got nothing to worry about. In other words, don‘t relax at the bottom of the squat and allow your connective tissue to stretch out like a piece of saltwater taffy.

Myth #3. There’s only one way to squat.

Whether you switch from doing squats with the barbell on the clavicles to having it on the traps you‘ll force adaptation and growth. The front, back, high-bar, low-bar, goblet, or Zerscher squat all have their place and purpose in making you stronger.

Myth #4. You should squat till you puke.

Strength movements are not metcons. Do not treat them as such.

Myth #5. Smith machine squats are safer than regular squats.

The Smith machine squat is very hard on the patellar ligament and the anterior cruciate ligament, both of which act as stabilizers for the knees. With a Smith machine, the bar is on a track, and this increased stability decreases the requirement of the body‘s neutralizer and stabilizer muscle functions. Therefore, the strength developed on such machines has minimal carryover to a three-dimensionally, unstable environment such as occurs during the free-standing squat. This is an especially important fact to those who use weight training to improve sports performance.

Myth #6. Squats are bad for the back.

As long as you squat with the proper form, the center mass of the barbell will not be far away from the center of gravity, and this in itself will help prevent injury.

Myth #7. Squats make athletes slower.

Squat performance can be directly related to success in track and field sprinting events, as well as in many other sports. Great examples of the relationship between squatting and athletic performance are the successes of bobsledder Ian Danney, who has become one of the most successful strength coaches for professional football players. Danney has front squatted 418 pounds for 2 reps at a bodyweight of 185 pounds. Other impressive athletes I‘ve seen are skier Kate Pace, who back squats 264 pounds for 3 reps at a bodyweight of 150 pounds; and alpine skier Michelle McKendry-Ruthven, who squatted 66 reps in 60 seconds with 70 percent of her bodyweight.

Myth #8. Squats can damage the heart.

Squats will temporarily raise blood pressure, but the heart adapts to the stress in a positive fashion by making the left ventricle grow larger. Interestingly, studies have shown leg press performance on a 45-degree angle will increase the blood pressure three times more than the squat will. Obviously, if you suffer from cardiovascular disease or if it runs in your family, you should consult an experienced sports medicine practitioner before engaging in a serious squat program.

WOD 01.27.12

Back Squat 3×5 or Wendler

5 Rounds:
7 Handstand Push Ups
14 Pistols
35 Double Unders

7 Comments to "Defending the Squat"

  • Anna says:

    January 27, 2012 at 8:05 AM -

    Each of our favorite movements!! It sounds like a bratty little sister night at the box!! Right Holley, Steph?!

  • Holley says:

    January 27, 2012 at 10:13 AM -

    How nice of our trainers to pick out our favorites! Women of power!!!

  • Michael H says:

    January 27, 2012 at 10:55 AM -

    I expect you ladies to finish this in sub 5, minute per round

  • Nick says:

    January 27, 2012 at 11:13 AM -

    This is an uprising. WOD is totally meant for the 7 PM brats. Who wrote this? How much did they pay you?

    1. Marcus says:

      January 27, 2012 at 4:43 PM -

      @Nick — is this more your speed?

      5 Rounds:
      7 Sandbag Burpees
      14 Sledgehammer Strikes
      40m Prowler push (=down and back)

  • Sara says:

    January 27, 2012 at 5:18 PM -

    Yay! HSPs!!

  • Nick says:

    January 27, 2012 at 5:41 PM -


    Male domination is all over that.

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