“Morality is contraband in war.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Question the importance of squats on any lifting forum on the net and typically youll get back a range of responses from necessary evil to better than sliced bread.
Some people love pushing the squat so much, they’ll tell you you need to do it if you want a bigger chest or arms. And then a breath or two later explain the principle of SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) without blinking.
Squats, though a good leg exercise, aren’t necessarily the best choice for every single athlete that comes through the doors of the weight room. In other words, as we stated in a previous article, we would like to emphasize that there is nothing magical about placing a bar across ones back to develop lower body strength.
Whether or not the squat is the right choice depends on several things:
- Does the movement fit the subjects body. Is he 6’10” or 5’10”?
- Is the movement mechanically sound for the athlete? Video on Squat and Body Mechanics that literally shows why the squat is not suitable to some athletes.
- Do you have a safe setup for performing squats? If a power rack is unavailable, do you have competent spotters available? Enough racks or spotters that you can run the team through the lift in a time efficient manner?
- Are there prior injuries that need to be compensated for, or that make performing barbell squats difficult? For example, if a players injured shoulder doesnt allow the hand to get back to grip the bar properly, then you should be looking in another direction than the barbell squat for leg and hip strength.
- There are various squat machines, leg press machines, hip sled machines, lunge movements and body weight squatting movements that also strengthen your legs as well as squats do and possibly in a safer manner.
Sufficient strength can easily be acquired with movements and methods other than the barbell squat. Many athletes are too tall or don’t have the right lever arm proportions for proper (safe) form in the squat.
I am working with an athlete that has very long legs and a short torso. She cannot hit parallel without excessive forward lean and struggles to not fall over backwards. (Read this to understand why) I quickly ruled out parallel barbell squats as an exercise and have had her working the leg press instead and she is progressing nicely.
While for this athlete and others like her, squats are not a safe option, but that should in no way limit the strength development of the hips and legs. Step ups, lunges, leg press, the list of alternates goes on and on.
In summary we should be thinking about the athlete, any limitations they have, and how to deliver that athlete a safe, effective, time efficient method of strengthening the legs.
The weight room is a tool for an athlete to utilize to develop strength. It’s how the strength gained in the weight room is brought to utilized on the playing field that matters, not how the strength was gained in the first place.
Don’t lose sight of that.