To Squat or Not to Squat

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					                                To Squat or Not to Squat

                     BY: ROBERTA AND RILEY

   Roberta and I were taught that the barbell squat was the granddaddy of all lifts. A
barbell (like a dumbbell) is a versatile tool. The barbell was created and sold commer-
cially in the United States in 1902. Hmmmm. We believe our mode of transportation
during this era was a horse and buggy. Times have changed and so has the recognition
of equipment companies to produce lower body equipment that is safer and more pro-
ductive than performing the barbell squat.

   The squatting motion is a productive movement. It is a multi-joint movement. It
incorporates all of the muscles that cross the hip, knee, and ankle joints. What takes
place from the hips down is productive exercise. Unfortunately when performing a
barbell squat the weight must be placed on the back of the neck and shoulders. What
takes place from the shoulders down to the hips has nothing to do with developing the
muscles of the hips and legs.

   For many years the barbell squat (front and back) and the Jefferson Lift were the
only exercise alternatives for developing the powerful muscles of the hips and legs. It
was during the 1970’s that equipment companies started designing equipment to ac-
commodate the anatomical and biomechanical needs for all muscles to include the
muscles of the hips and legs.

    If you enjoy performing the barbell squat and you have not been hurt, we encour-
age you to continue whether you are competing as an athlete or are a fitness enthusi-
ast. However, the success of an athlete, a team, or a fitness enthusiast does not hinge
on performing the barbell squat. There are many other safer and more productive alter-
natives. Visit most fitness centers and few if any adult fitness enthusiasts have an in-
terest in squatting with a barbell (and there is no need to).

    When performing the squat the barbell is placed upon the back of the neck and
shoulders. The lower back is the weak link. Eventually the lower back limits how
much weight you can use to strengthen the muscles of the hips and legs. . The muscles
of the hips and legs are much stronger than the low back muscles. Observe a taller ath-
lete performing the squat and you normally see the lifter performing a half squat and
bending at the waist (exposing the lower back to potential injury).
    Eliminate the weak link (lower back muscles) and you are able to generate maximum
strength of the muscles of the hips and legs without risking injury to the lower back. A properly
designed leg press will allow you to accomplish maximum gains in a safe manner.

   Observe the lifter below performing a conventional leg press (fig. 1). We have rotated the
photo 90 degrees (Fig. 2). When rotated the picture illustrates
the perfect squatting position without vertically loading the
spine or compromising the athletes well-being.

                  (fig. 1) Leg Press                                Leg Press rotated 90
                                                                      degress (fig. 2)
    There is no vertical compression of the spine. Ask any or-
thopedic surgeon if vertically loading the spine with a barbell is good for the spine over time.
Observe how the knees are kept over the ankles minimizing shearing forces to the knees. In
competition a competitive power lifter must lower the weight so that the mid thigh is parallel to
the floor.
    Draw a line through the lifter’s kneecap to the middle of his thigh and you will observe his
range of motion is well beyond mid thigh parallel to the floor. This
allows him to safely activate more of the hips. He can train to the
point of fatigue without risk of the low back muscles fatiguing, col-
lapsing, or being injured.

    (Fig. 3) Non-fused Movement Arm                                (Fig. 4) Rotated 90 degrees
   Figure (#3) is a non-fused movement arm. Each leg is forced to work independent of the
other. This is very important in rehabilitation, developing balance between the two limbs, and
creating variety in the training program.
    Observe the depth of the range of motion in Figure (#4) and the position of the knee over the
ankle. This is accomplished without compression of the spine or risk of injury to the lower
    Find a tool that provides progressive resistance and you can improve strength. A barbell is a
versatile tool. You can perform many different exercises with it. However it isn’t designed for
any one exercise.
    It is amazing how many times I have heard athletes I have trained describe the number of
times they have been hurt squatting. Who knows what the long-term consequences are later on
in life. Back surgery, knee replacement, hip replacement?
    Is it necessary in 2010 (over one hundred years after the barbell was invented) to place a bar-
bell on your neck and shoulders to develop maximum strength of the muscles of the hips and
legs? The answer is no. It has been our experience with football players that when given an op-
tion they would prefer a leg press over a squat, especially during the season. Riley has used a
leg press instead of the barbell squat for thirty-four of his thirty-six years as a strength coach.
    If you are not a competitive lifter our advice is to find a leg press machine you are comfort-
able with and observe the Roberta and Riley Rep Rules to generate maximum gains, in the least
amount of time, in the safest manner possible.
    Thanks to Fred Weary, former Houston Texan for the photo’s.

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