A better way to squat ?

Card squat - 1     thruster.jpg
  
By now everyone knows that “Squats” is probably the best exercise in world for your body…
Every fitness magazine or health journal worth it’s salt touts the importance of squats in a fitness program.  And rightly so, squats create healthy, flexible movement in almost all of your major muscle groups, they stimulate tone and strength improvements in just about every muscle in your body, and they move your biggest joints through healthy ranges of motion which stimulates cartilage health, (and believe it or not, brain health through sensory input, but that’s another blog post…).
Generally speaking, one should start squats using only body weight (like Roger above, top-left).  But as soon as there’s a little mastery of the movement it should be loaded.  That means adding a level of difficulty by holding an external weight. You can do this with a barbell on the back of your shoulders, on the front of your shoulders, or by holding a dumbbell like a large goblet (pictured at top-right).
When it comes to loading a squat your imagination is the limit…  We’ve used just about everything you can imagine to load this movement, including medicine balls, soup cans, sandbags, rolls of carpet, training partners, kettlebells, boxes of sand, even the kids down the street…
DSCF1281But here’s the thing, at a certain level of mastery, in order to keep progressing and getting more and more benefit from the movement, the load can get REALLY heavy (like one of our baseball players squatting 350 lbs to the left).  That’s A LOT of weight on your spine…
There’s no doubt he’s getting stronger and improving his speed and power to play even better baseball.  But at what cost to the spine and his overall joint health?  Does his spine have to experience 350 lbs. of load in order to play better baseball??
Well, the “sports science” jury is still out on this question.  There isn’t any conclusive evidence that squatting heavy weight causes damage to the joints (given that the athlete doesn’t do what so many young, immature athletes do and jump right into lifting too heavy without consideration of advanced weightlifting principles such as periodization and de-loading weeks, etc.).
If a person slowly and methodically progresses their strength in a certain movement/exercise (like the squat) there’s no reason they can’t perform near super-human feats of strength.  Have you ever been to a powerlifting competition?  These guys are squatting sometimes more than 1,000 lbs.  Without back pain…
But still the question remains, does an athlete who’s sport is NOT weightlifting need to lift so much weight?
Well, let me tell you what we think here in Athlon about squatting heavy for athletes… regardless of what the research says… why chance it when you can get the same results with half the weight?!rear foot elevated split squats done at Athlon fitness and performance in san luis obispo california
Once an athlete gets up to 300+ lbs. there’s a better way to improve strength without risking a spinal injury or long-term pain…
The split squat—particularly the “Rear-foot-elevated split-squat” pictured to the right—utilizes pretty much the same movement mechanics of the normal double-leg squat except that since you’re on one leg the load is doubled for that leg (hence the barbell load can be cut in half).  And half the load on your spine is half the chance that you’ll experience a spinal injury or damage.
Here’s the simple math:
If Jimmy, pictured above squatting 350 lbs., were to lighten the bar to only 175 lbs. and then perform the rear-foot-elevated split-squat (RFESS), theoretically each leg would be “feeling” the same load as it felt doing the 350 lbs. above, but his spine would only have to “feel” half the compression load.  After all it’s only 175 lbs sitting on the back…
In fact, we’ve done this a lot.  And usually see an athlete lift more relative weight, safely, than if they were to do the full amount of weight in a double-leg squat.  That’s because many of our athletes can do six reps of a rear-foot-elevated split-squat with 150+ lbs on their back.  Yet, there’s no way those same athletes could double-leg squat 300+ lbs. for six reps…
One last point, you could pretty easily make the argument that the RFESS is superior to the squat in all ways because of the “single-leg” factor.  You see, we humans live on one leg…  During walking, running, sports movements, tasks around the office and tasks around the house we are constantly transferring our weight back and forth from one leg to the other.  Rarely are we just standing still with our weight evenly supported between both legs.
Developing the skill of having single-leg strength, balance and stability during movement is very important and something we need throughout our whole life.  The RFESS is the perfect exercise to teach you this all-important skill.  Which makes it a more “real-life” functional training movement than the double-leg squat.  (Plus, ladies, there’s no better exercise for developing “tone” in the butt muscles than the RFESS!)
You can’t go wrong with the RFESS.  Try it today!  And if you need any help or coaching or would like to discuss whether this movement is right for  your training plan and goals request your no-obligation, complimentary fitness and nutrition diagnostic consultation (an $85 value).  In the consult we’ll discuss your goals in more detail, then show you exactly what you need to be doing to reach those goals.  Click the link above!

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