Quite some time back I did an article called Dumb Shit Fitness Professionals Say (DSFPS) where I looked at a bit of a grab bag of dumb shit fitness professionals say. Well it’s time for #2 in the series but I want to keep it more targeted to one topic: squats. Specifically I want to start with the idea that you must squat along with other dumb shit fitness professionals say bout the topic. Welcome to DSFPS #2: Squat Edition
I Am Not Anti-Squat
So let’s start with the qualification, to hopefully prevent people from mis-reading/mis-hearing what I’m saying. I am not against squats. I have squatted for the majority of the roughly 30+ years I have been lifting weights. The times I didn’t squat was either when I wasn’t lifting at all (when I was competing as an endurance weenie) or when I was ice speed skating since it didn’t fit into our training.
I actually enjoyed squatting but a lot of that was being built well to do them as an exercise. We tend to do what we’re good at. I was good at squatting and liked to train it. I sucked at bench and didn’t enjoy training it. While I started with what I call a generic power squat, I eventually switched to a high-bar full squat, Olympic style in my mid 20’s and never looked back.
In my late 20’s, I entered a powerlifting competition, squatted nearly double body weight high-bar. I even had a USAPL judge tell me “nice depth” after my first squat. In USAPL, where you can touch your butt to the floor and get reds for depth, that means something. I squatted like a mad man. I did endless months of 20 rep squats including a program of 2 heavy sets of 5 followed by a set of 20’s.
Squatting only became a bit of a chore for me after I broke my leg several years ago and lost some of the range of motion in my left ankle. Even in Olympic shoes with an extra heel insert, I can’t hit a full squat depth anymore and it’s a lot of work to even get below parallel. My ankle just doesn’t move that way. I still do them. I wouldn’t say I particularly enjoy them as much as I did when I was younger. But I still do them.
I have trained powerlifters over the years which meant training the squat since it’s part of the competition package. I train a female powerlifter now and she squats 3X/week. So I am in no way against squatting.
Which is all a long way of trying to cut idiots off from the pass who will read this article and decide “Lyle just doesn’t like the squat because he sucks at them.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I enjoyed squatting. I was pretty good at squatting. I can fairly assure most reading this that my squat technique was better than yours. Was being the key word since my broken leg changed the game for me and I only squat pretty well now.
Because my problem is not with the squat per se. Like all movements it has its pros and cons and benefits and drawbacks. For many people the squat is an excellent movement. For others it’s a losing proposition.
My problem is not with the squat.
My problem is with the fitness professionals who constantly spout utter bullshit about why you must squat or the arguments that they use to support that dumb idea and the others that flow out of it.
Are we clear?
I don’t hate squats. I am not anti-squatting. I was pretty good at squats before my ankle stopped moving that way.
But just an utter amount of dumb shit is said about them. And it starts with the biggie which is that you must squat.
#1: You Must Squat
So most of the issues here, and I’ll beat this dead horse throughout the article come from dumb shit concept #1 which is that everybody must squat. One luminary who I will not name made the following quote:
And, well, really? Just really? You’re a pussy for not doing a specific exercise? Ok.
It’s just the worst kind of macho horseshit. But macho horseshit, trite bullshit and moronic memes is what a lot of the fitness industry seems to revolve around these days.
It simply represents this leftover idea that you must do the big movements to get big. You must squat, you must bench, you must deadlift. Or you’re a pussy. And it’s just absurd.
A Tangent About the Deadlift
On the topic of the deadlift, last year strongman competitor Robert Oberst went on the Joe Rogan show and said most people were better off avoiding the deadlift.
His basic premise being that the risk:reward ratio made it a losing proposition for most people. That the potential benefits for the average trainee were far more than exceeded by the potential risks of the movement.
And I don’t really disagree. The deadlift is exceedingly technical, form can break rapidly and if an injury occurs they tend to be devastating and potentially career ending. And spare me the argument that it’s good for lifting things in the real world. Watch people lift stuff, they don’t do it in a deadlift pattern because you can’t usually get into that position to begin with. If you’re lifting a box you have to get your hands underneath it and you either squat down on top of it or do something much closer to a stone lift than a clean style deadlift.
Honestly, for most the (vastly underrated) trap bar deadlift would be the superior movement as a lower body “pulling” movement. It lets people sit in a bit which involves the quads more and takes some shearing stress off the low back since the torso is more upright. You don’t have to dick the bar around your knees and you still get the benefits of the movement which is a half squat/half deadlift pattern more or less.
And when Oberst said that, the fitness industry lost its collective shit. You can go find lots of rebuttal and reaction videos on Youtube to see how much shit was lost. Because nevermind that this guy is a highly successful professional strongman who said this. Nevermind that these same dipshits usually play the “Your opinion doesn’t matter because you’re not strong” except when they choose to ignore it.
One of the strongest men on the planet said it and they still overreacted like children who had been told they can’t have a cookie. I can only imagine how the luminary behind the squat quote above reacted to the mere idea that deadlifts were overrated for most people.
The fitness industry simply cannot handle it when their sacred cows are skewered. I mean, it wasn’t quite as bad as with the dadbod thing (male trainees go apeshit when they are told that most women don’t give a fuck about their abs or pecs and that all the energy they are putting into this stuff mainly impresses other dudes). But it was close.
It was hilarious to watch but it really goes to the heart of the matter.
Why the Hardon for Squatting?
But it goes back to what I’m saying about squatting. This idea that people have that you MUST squat is an emotional attachment and little else. Sure, people come up with all kinds of after the fact justifications (like the hormonal response nonsense) but that’s all it is. To suggest that not everyone needs to or even should squat is heresy to them. To not squat makes you a pussy. I can only imagine what they call me for suggesting OTHER people don’t squat.
And they have an emotional response to the mere idea of it.
But to these folks, training is more about feeding a macho need (read: deep seated insecurity) than anything else. It’s more important to them that they impress their lifting buddies and that means doing certain movement and lifting the minimum macho poundages on all of them. Anything else isn’t macho enough. But that’s all it is.
And realistically do you know why most early routines were based around the squat, deadlift, bench, overhead press and such? Because the reason is really simple:
THAT’S ALL ANYBODY WAS ABLE TO DO.
Go back to the early 20th century. All people had were the basics. A barbell, maybe some primitive dumbbells or kettlebells or whatever. For fuck’s sake, squat racks weren’t even around at the time. At the time guys would put the barbell on one end and tip it onto their shoulders, then squat, then roll it back down.
Its called the Steinborn Squat and just to show you how idiotically macho this industry is, it’s making a comeback (hint: forgotten exercises were forgotten for a reason). People are choosing to do this idiotic shit that was ONLY done originally because there was no other option. And it’s for no other reason than to impress other macho idiots or look good on social media.
And as soon as there was the potential to do it, even the earliest trainees started trying to build machines to let them train more effectively. This was an early leg press called the “Tomb of Hercules”. Early trainees started working on this stuff as soon as they could.
But c’mon, just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it. In literally every aspect of the world, new technology and approaches have replaced the old. Smart people adapt to changing technology to take advantage of it.
And yet trainees are still married to movements that were all that was possible 100 years ago.
And again, I am not saying that these movements are inherently bad. What I am saying, as I will keep on repeating, is that this emotional attachment to them is nothing but that, an emotional attachment. Certain movements are great for some, neutral for others and terrible for still others. And the idea that anyone outside of a few exceptions must do any exercise is dumb as shit.
Let’s Talk About Exercise Selection
And the reality is that in most circumstances, there is no exercise in the weight room that must be done. None. You can make muscles stronger with any movement that allows you to tax those muscles. You can make them bigger too. And there are no requirements outside of being able to provide sufficient tension overload to those muscles over time. Your muscles don’t have little brains that know what exercise you are doing. They sense tension and metabolic stress and that’s it. Any exercise is only as good or bad as its ability or not to provide those effectively and safely to a given trainee.
Now I said in most circumstances. Because there are exactly three type of athletes who must squat. The first are powerlifters. The squat is one of the competition movements unless they do bench only or push/pull due to wonky knees. To improve the squat for performance, they must perform the squat.
The next are Olympic lifters who must at least front squat to improve their recovery for the clean and jerk. But I daresay that grand majority of Ol’ers also back squat for general leg strength. You can only do so many front squats before you lose your mind and back squats probably improve other components of the lift as well. It’s a pretty universally done movement.
Finally would be strongman/strongwoman/strongperson (I don’t know the current proper term) competitors. In general, there is often a squat movement as part of their competition. Although I’m also told that isn’t the case any longer (silver dollar squat, we miss you). I actually met a strongman competitor at a powerlifting meet last December who told me he didn’t squat as a regular part of his training and had to bring it in for what was his first PL’ing meet. I still imagine most do.
The same holds for the deadlift. A powerlifter will have to practice the deadlift to one degree or another since they have to do it in competition. Similarly, strongman/woman/person competitions often have a deadlift event (i.e. deadlift for reps). So it has to be trained. In OL’ing, some systems deadlift, some don’t. It’s certainly not a required movement by any stretch but it doesn’t really matter to the point I’m trying to make.
Which is this:
Outside of those three sports, nobody has to do any movement in the weight room. The only requirement is that it can be done safely, load the target muscles or tissues and be progressively trained. For any given individual, any specific exercise is only as good or as bad as it allows for them to accomplish those things. No specific exercise is required for this.
#2: Everyone Can Squat Effectively
From dumbshit idea #1 comes dumbshit idea #2, that not only SHOULD everybody squat but that everybody CAN squat effectively or well.
Now, I have a long standing belief about how most approach exercise selection which is this:
- When people say an exercise is GOOD, it usually means it’s good FOR THEM. That is, they are built well for it biomechanically and get a lot out of it.
- When people say an exercise is BAD, it means that it is bad FOR THEM. That is, they are built poorly for it. In some cases, they just didn’t learn to do it well (i.e. how to bench with the pecs). But as often as not they just aren’t built to do it well.
And the problem is that neither individual is capable of grasping that not everybody is built like them. But they generalize their experience with one trainee (themselves) to the world.
As a singular example, a current luminary in the field (who I will not name because I’m classy like that) has stated, more or less that :
You must include squats in your routine to get big legs.
And well, he’s like 5’2 with excellent squatting mechanics. But is apparently incapable of grasping that anyone might not be built like him. Because for people with poor squatting mechanics, squats will be a waste of time for them to build their legs. FOR THEM. FOR HIM it’s a great movement and that’s fantastic. FOR THEM it’s a pointless waste of time.
I have seen various teams put out their powerlifting programs that are invariably being used successfully by lifters with nearly perfect biomechanics for the lifts. And they fail completely for lifters without those mechanics.
A Personal Example
Case in point, I’m built pretty well to squat. I’ve got short femurs and I can (well could) sit very upright when I squatted. For me, the high bar squat was an excellent quad movement (and I had built myself a giant ass from previous years power squatting and skating). I was able to do higher repetitions and not tip over or have my low back give out. My old training partner was similar. He was shorter than I was with very short femurs and could squat bolt upright.
In contrast, my current female powerlifter Sumi Singh has insanely long femurs and is not built well to squat. To put this in perspective, I am roughly 2″ taller than she is. When I’m spotting her, her pelvis is above mine because her legs are so much longer than mine. Read that again: I’m taller than she is but her pelvis is higher than mine due to enormous differences in leg/femur length. My personal squat biomechanics have nothing in relation to hers.
Now, she still squats but simply because she has to do it for powerlifting. But she’s not built well for it. She’s very tipped over to begin although she’s worked tirelessly to get as upright as she’s gonna get. And she’s still pretty tipped over. And the tipping gets worse with reps. She hasn’t done more than a double in the squat in over 2.5 years and that’s only for submaximal chain work. She usually does singles only. To do higher reps with any quality would mean stripping too much weight off the bar. So she does fairly heavy singles all the time and I build her muscular strength and size with everything but the squat.
Back to Generalities
And for someone using the squat for, say hypertrophy, who has bad mechanics, well….If their goal is to build their quads and they are bent over due to super long femurs, their low back will almost assuredly give out first. That means that there is no way their quads will get an effective growth stimulus. At best they might get some glute growth. But mostly what they will get is a hellishly strong low back. Which I guess is fine?
But honestly if you’re using the back squat to get a strong low back, I think you’ve missed the point of the exercise. Yes, there are exceptions. But by and large most want to squat to get big legs. And if they have shitty mechanics for the squat, it will be a waste of time for them for achieving that goal.
Now, yes, if they want to improve their squat numbers, they will absolutely have to squat. That’s basic specificity. They might need to build actual size and muscular strength with other movements (Like I do with Sumi). But they will have to practice the squat to one degree or another. Even there if they are built poorly for the squat, they can toil and toil at it and may still not make a huge amount of progress.
For any non-squatting goal, not only is the squat not required, but many won’t be able to squat well no matter what they do. And that will make the squat a more or less pointless exercise for them.
#3: Everyone Can Full Squat Part 1
Continuing directly from the ideas that everyone should squat and everyone can squat effectively, is the idea that everyone should be able to full squat. And possibly one of the dipshittiest ideas to support this is the baby example. I imagine most of you have seen this meme.
And yes what you see is this baby/toddler performing a perfect full back squat. Ass on heels, flat back, chest up, etc. And the description says we lose this due to a sedentary lifestyle and some vague “other factors”. And well, this is dumb as shit.
If you get bored go find a picture of a bunch of babies or toddlers standing in a line. What you’ll see is that they are more or less built identically at least within a fairly small variation. Their little armies and leggies and bodies are all about the same lengths. And they have giant heads relative to their torso. That alone impacts on things like their center of gravity and balance.
And then this magic thing happens that makes the above picture utterly irrelevant….
It All Changes at Puberty
Because when puberty hits, all of that nearly identical toddler biomechanics goes right out the window and human body types can vary enormously. Here’s an image from a book called Athlete.
Notice anything? I mean except that the body types are all enormously different. Look at the three women on the left. The first and third are of similar heights but with very different limb lengths and the one in the middle is a giant who towers over both. The girl second from the right is sort of in the middle between girl 3 and 2. The same is true of the two men, look at the enormous differences in height and limb lengths.
And what you mainly see is that except maybe for the guy on the far right, exactly zero of them have biomechanics like the toddler in the dipshit meme above.
Hell, just go into your freaking gym and look around. You will see tall people, short people, folks with long femurs, short femurs, long shins, short shins, etc. And they don’t fucking look like toddlers anymore. They might act like toddlers but they don’t have those biomechanics anymore.
Here’s an extreme example, Chinese basketball player Yao Ming.
I don’t know basketball so I have no idea who he’s standing next to. But Yao Ming is 7’6″ tall (2.3m). He’s a giant compared to most humans. He’s A GIANT compared to the average Chinese person. Hell, his legs are probably nearly as tall as my entire body. Or damn close.
And you’re going to tell me that he should able to FULL SQUAT just because a toddler can do it? C’mon. I’d say that nobody can be that stupid but clearly that’s not true.
Which is why the baby example is just utterly dumb as shit. Because unless those vague “other factors” mean “Every single component of your toddler biomechanics probably changes”, then the baby example is asinine.
Because the only way that the toddler example would have any bearing would be for athletes who maintain biomechanics similar to that after puberty hits.
Olympic Lifters: The Exception that Proves the Rule
And it’s interesting to note that most top Olympic lifters do have biomechanics that are more similar than not to the baby in that above picture. Naim was at the extreme but, well….
He is the only Olympic lifter to have snatched 2.5 times his bodyweight and one of only 7 to clean and jerk triple his bodyweight. Because his mechanics were essentially perfect (and he was extremely short).
And if you look at most top OL’ers, they are built along those lines. In fact, European coaches did tons of selection to find athletes with the right mechanics to succeed at the sport.
Are there exceptions? Sure. There are some taller gangly dudes who reach the top. But it’s not most of them. There are many reasons that China is currently dominating OL’ing but one of them is that, as a generality, Asian cultures tend to have biomechanics in terms of femur length and such that benefit them (this is also true of gymnastics).
If you look at most of the best squatters in powerlifting, they are built similarly. Although here you will see somewhat more variance in body types that are successful compared to OL’ing. Because in OL’ing there is a real limit to how much you can alter technique.
In powerlifting, it is more than possible to alter technique to some degree to make up for relatively poorer mechanics. Someone with very long femurs may take a wider stance, toe out a bit more, wear a heeled shoe or even do a sumo squat. This lessens the impact of their sub-optimal biomechanics. But, outside of the occasional freakshow contortionist, they can’t get to full depth which is what this section is all about: the idea that everyone can get to a full squat based on the logic that:
Because toddlers with identical toddler mechanics can do it. Said toddler mechanics going away at puberty.
The whole idea is just utterly dumb as shit. Like I said, just look around you at different bodytypes. After puberty, most aren’t built biomechanically like a 3 year old. It’s just dumb as shit.
#4: Everyone Can Full Squat Part 2
So this is really just a continuation of #3 but it made more sense to separate it out. That’s because while the idea is still the same, that everyone should be able to full squat, the example being used to argue it is different than the toddler meme. I mean, it’s just as dumb as shit.
The specific example used here has to do with what is usually called the Asian squat. This refers to the fact that in many Asian (and some non-Asian) cultures, it’s common for folks to just pop a full squat and sit there for extended periods of time. And that because of this it means that everyone should be able to full squat. Here’s what it looks like.
And I’ll just be referring back to that picture.
Deep Squats and Knee Health
Before getting to the full squat issue per se, let me address a slightly different argument I once saw. This was made by Mel Siff (now passed and I will do my best not to speak ill of the dead) who had a tendency to make arguments like this that sounded really logical but fell apart upon examination.
This specific argument was that full squats couldn’t be bad for knee health because individuals in Asian culture often spent hours sitting in a full squat as in the picture above and didn’t get knee problems.
Now, before I continue let me make it very clear. I don’t think full squats are bad for the knees, in general. And factually I know people who have found that full squats make their knees feel much better than worse. So don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying deep squats are bad for the knees. It’s one of those old ideas that has been rattling around the weight training world for like 60 years now and it’s not true. But that’s not what’s at issue here.
What I am saying is that this argument is dumb as shit. Because the fact that individuals in Asian (and other cultures) sit like the above for hours at a time has exactly jack shit to do with full squatting with several hundred pounds on your back. Hell, look at the above picture, the guy in the white shirt. Nothing he is doing looks anything like a barbell squat. His butt is tucked, his upper back is rounded and if you put a weight on his shoulders he’d fall over on his ass.
The comparison sounds really profound but it was ultimately just dumb as shit.
Back to Full Squatting
And well it’s pretty much the same point. The Asian squat is often invoked as being “proof” that humans are meant to perform full squats with a barbell. And well, look at this picture again. Upper and lower back rounded, balance only being maintained by arms being in front. This has NOTHING to do with a barbell squat biomechanically or otherwise.
And to be incapable of seeing that is just baffling to me. When I first recorded the video for this piece, I saw one dipshit make both the baby argument and the Asian squat argument in the same article to argue for full squatting. But I guess anyone dumb enough to go half potato is gonna go full potato.
I think it’s worth re-mentioning something I brought up above which has to do ethnic difference in average biomechanics. I mentioned above that one reason the Chinese are dominant at OL’ing is due to having average biomechanics that are suited to the movements.
Well, gee, has anyone thought that maybe those same biomechanics suit individuals in Asian culture to the squat? And that maybe folks without those biomechanics wouldn’t do it comfortably? Or that perhaps this is just a behavior that tends to be specific to a given part of the world due to people in that part of the world have certain average biomechanics?
Clearly no they have not thought that or they’d quit using this particularly stupid example. Or the toddler example. Or any of the other utterly dumb as shit “logical” arguments that get dredged out when this topic comes up.
What Is Going on Here?
So what the hell is going on here? Why are people insistent on just making these utterly idiotic comparisons to try to argue for either why people should squat, can squat or that everyone can squat full? Well invariably it comes from the type of logic where you reach your conclusion and then find a way to back-argue/back-justify it.
Basically it’s clear that these folks are starting from their conclusion which is that everyone can/should full squat.
Then they just go looking for utterly moronic examples of why that should be the case. Examples that it only takes eyes and a semi-functional brain to see that these examples are idiotic.
Because what should be done is to look at the actual real world, or data. Look at how adult humans actually function biomechanically with a bar on their back. Or how individuals differ in terms of their biomechanics. And then you see that the conclusion is utterly dumb as shit.
Whether or not you agree with that idea that everyone MUST squat, it’s clear that not everyone can squat effectively and even more clear that not everyone can perform a full squat. Toddlers don’t matter. Asians sitting on their heels with a rounded back and no barbell on their back don’t matter.
Or let me put it differently: does anyone reading this thing think that 7’6″ Yao Ming has a chance of doing a full squat? Of course not. Yes, he’s at one huge extreme. I’m just making the point. Not everyone can squat well and they certainly can’t all full squat. And any other idea is just macho horseshit.
Charles Poliquin (also passed) used to make similar claims. Specific to this, he once said that “If you couldn’t teach ANYBODY to full squat” you were a shitty coach. Ok. I’m sure he and he alone could have gotten Yao Ming to do it. Sure.
Mind you, he used to throw around stuff like this mostly as macho bullshit. To whit he once said something to the effect of “If you can’t get a woman to 12 bodyweight chins in 6-8 weeks you’re a shitty coach.” Ok. I want everyone reading this to think of how many women they’ve seen do 12 bodyweight chins who weren’t elite athletes or gymnasts. The number is about zero. And it’s absolutely zero if you’re talking about taking a beginner woman to that level in that time frame. Which he was.
But whatever, this is all just making the point. People are starting from their conclusion about the need to squat/full squat and then working backwards with dumb as shit arguments.
The Rocket Surgeon in My Facebook Group
A while back (I say a while since I never know when I’ll run articles or videos relative to when I record them) someone in my group said that their physio had told them that their hip structure wasn’t built for squatting.
And this brain surgeon in the group just couldn’t see how that was possible. They stated that they saw people squatting all day every day. And I had to ask what environment they were in that they saw “people squatting all day every day”.
They said that they were in an office and people were always squatting to their office chair or on the toilet or whatever.
For fuck’s sake.
Because now we have someone trying to compare a situation where someone is doing at most a half squat to a chair or toilet to squatting with a bar on their back. Now make no mistake, cueing someone to sit back like they do on the toilet can be great for teaching the squat.
But they aren’t the same. We’re dealing with partial movements. And most sit down and back to a chair because you can flop down and back and not end up on the floor for the most part.
And as soon as you add a barbell, you’re constraining the movement. The bar has to stay over the base of support or you tip over. And well, duh derp, it’s not the same. It’s just not.
But this person couldn’t get it. They couldn’t grasp the potentiality that someone’s hip structure couldn’t accommodate squatting with weight. That perhaps the way that the head of their femur fit into the acetabulum might prevent it from being a safe movement for them. It was inconceivable to this person that anyone couldn’t squat because HUMANS ARE NATURALLY BUILT TO SQUAT.
And that’s because they were starting from their conclusion that everyone can or should squat and working backwards with dumb as shit examples to support that conclusion. And as I see it that’s all this is.
So let’s briefly run through them again.
The idea that everyone MUST squat (or they are a pussy or whatever macho bullshit if they don’t) is nonsense. Exactly three athletes must squat. For everyone else no movement is required. This entire idea is just based on a macho emotional attachment to movements that were primarily used because that’s all there was.
The idea that everyone can squat effectively is equally dumb. What happens here is that people with good squatting mechanics get a lot of out squats. Ergo they must be good for everyone. Sorry, no. Someone with shitty squat mechanics won’t get much out of the movement except maybe for a really strong low back. And there are easier ways to accomplish that.
The idea that everyone can also full squat or that it is some natural human movement because toddlers can do it is just beyond moronic. Toddlers all have essentially identical mechanics that make full squatting very easy for them. And as soon as puberty hits that all goes out the window. And you only have to open your eyes to see that. Stop sharing that dumb as shit meme.
Following up on that is the idea that full squats must be a normal human movement because many in Asian cultures will sit on their heels in a deep squat. Except that what they are doing has no bearing to a barbell squat and might even be related to the types of average biomechanics seen in that culture to begin with.
It’s all just utterly dumb as shit. The first is just a macho attachment and that leads into the next 3. Because once you’ve decided someone must squat, you hit the next steps and then start to justify your conclusion after the fact. And the people in the fitness industry are doing it with just utterly dumb as shit examples.
Now let me say it again for the people who missed it the first time.
I’m Not Anti-Squat
Let me say it again that I am not anti-squat. If someone is built well for it, it may be an excellent movement FOR THEM. And if they are not built well for it, it will likely be a waste of time FOR THEM.
Get it? I’m not saying it’s good or bad in absolutes. It’s a function of how effective it is for the individual.
Because unless you’re a powerlifter, Olympic lifter or possible strongman/woman/person competitor who has to squat for competition purposes you don’t have to squat. You might choose to squat. You might want to squat. But you do not have to squat. Does that make sense?
Because unless your explicit goal is to improve the squat itself, there is no requirement for it to be done.
Now, I would probably say that in general I think most should learn the squat. I am speaking in gross generalities here. If I was training someone hands on, I would make a decision based on their biomechanics. If I looked at them and it was obvious that they would never get much out of squatting, I probably wouldn’t bother (unless they really wanted to powerlift or something).
But on average, I’d probably say most should at least learn it. They might make it work, they might not. If not and they aren’t one of the three athletes who must perform it, I say ditch it. It’s dumb to keep throwing energy at a movement that isn’t a useful one for you.
Because I’ve seen a lot of people toil away at the squat with little to show for it except maybe low back pain. They are too tipped over, nothing they do can get them more than moderately upright. It’s not a good movement for their legs and they just don’t make much progress on it. So ditch it.
But you say, don’t you have to squat to get bigger legs? And the answer is absolutely not. As I said above, muscles respond to tension and volume/metabolic stress and that’s it. For any given individual any exercise is only as good as it lets the trainee expose their muscles to those stressors in a safe and progressive way.
And just to piss everyone off, I daresay I could build more people a good set of quad/legs without them ever squatting than with squatting. Why? The goal of building a muscle is to locally stress that muscle with the aforementioned tension and volume with progression over time.
And if my goal is to train the lower body, it make MORE sense to pick a movement that does not have the huge weak point of the low back or upper back than one that does. Because if my goal is to expose the quadriceps to an optimal stimulus, any set that is ended when my low back gives out is not an optimal set. And for people with less than ideal biomechanics that is always what happens. The low back will always give out before the quads. And that may mean less of an optimal stimulus for the quads.
Letting the low back limit the quad stimulus because you’re not built to squats is as dumb as letting your grip limit your back stimulus on pulling movements. This is why a lot of people benefit from wearing straps even if hardheads think it’s not macho to do so. Because it’s utterly dumb as shit to let a muscle you’re not trying to actively train limit the one that you are.
If I take that person and pick literally any exercise that makes the low back not limiting as it is in a squat, I can put a far more effective stimulus on their quadriceps/lower body muscles. Because now it will be the quads or what have you experiencing the majority of the stimulus. Put differently: if I take someone to 1 rep short of failure on squats it is likely 1 rep short of failure for their low back but not their legs. If I take someone to 1 rep short of failure on a leg press, I can guarantee you that’s 1 rep short of failure for their legs.
DSFPS #2: Squat Edition
You don’t have to squat. Not everybody can squat effectively. Not everybody can full squat and using toddler mechanics or individuals sitting in a squat that looks nothing like a barbell squat doesn’t change that.
So how’s about the fitness professionals stop saying the same dumb shit to the contrary?
- Squats vs. Leg Press for Big Legs
- Is There a Best Way to Squat?
- The 300 Pound Bench 400 Pound Squat and 500 Pound Deadlift
- Is the Hip Thrust Better than the Back Squat for Glutes?
- Categories of Weight Training: Part 5