T Nation

Squat technique question

Ian King calls squats quad-dominant.
Louie Simmons doesn’t work the quads much and says that squats use the hamstrings, glutes, etc.
Why do these two ‘experts’ talk about the squat in totally different ways?
Which is it? a quad or hamstring dominant exercise?

What are your goals with this movement? It also depends on how you’re squatting. Box squatting and the like are definitely hamstring/hip dominant movements.

I think the key word here is DOMINANT. While squatting with a narrow stance the quads and hamstrings are both active. However, the muscle group that is DOMINANT is the quads. With a wider stance a greater amount of stress will be placed on the glutes and hams. The angle of your torso will also have an influence. If you’re leaning forward your glutes will have to contract harder to keep you upright. Whether the hams ever become DOMINANT (i.e., the primary mover) in a squat is dependent on who you talk to.

In short, you have to define your goals and test either strategy for yourself. See where you feel it. I’m with Ian King in that I believe it is best to alternate squat and deadlift workouts.

[quote]
I’m with Ian King in that I believe it is best to alternate squat and deadlift workouts. [/quote]

Depends on the person. He says that deads and squats can be interchanged because deads can be a decent quad workout. This isn’t always the case. A taller individual will not get as much quad work out of deadlifting. For me, deadlifting is all upper (and obviously lower) back. There is minimal quad involvement.

I’ve been box squatting, trying my best to do the Louie Simmons style.
I don’t get much quad workout that way. I’ve been doing heavy leg press work to balance quads with hamstrings.
Seems like if a squat is quad dominant, you are mostly working the leverage around the knee joint. If you work primarily from the hip joint, the hamstrings and posterior chain do more of the work.
As a sports athlete, I favor the latter (posterior chain) since I use that for running, jumping, all kinds of explosive movements. Plus thats a stronger group of muscles so I can move more weight.
Seems like, from the feedback I’ve gotten, that both variations are valid.
Thanks.

Thunder,

I don’t think that Ian King is suggesting that the quads are going to get a great workout from deadlifting. On the contrary, I think he is putting them into his programs to counter the quad dominant focus of most programs. He specifically addresses the issue of training the hip extensors during this movement. This is why he suggests alternating quad dominant and hip dominant leg training. As an aside, I agree that taller people will tend to feel deads more in their back. Personally I find squeezing my glutes and hams at the start of the movement helps me focus on using this area.

Dan,
As an athlete you should be squatting, but to emphasize the posterior chain you should also be deadlifting as well.

Thanks. I emphasize the squatting more but I do deadlift. Stiff legged deadlifts and some other variations as well as some max deadlift workouts as variation from the squats.
Should I balance the squat and dl work more evenly?
Louie Simmons says that Westside trains for squats and that it carries over to dl - essentially the same movement. I’ve found that to be generally true with my limited experience.

My personal opinion might differ from others, but then again I generally squat like a bodybuilder (with a quad emphasis). Alternating your squat and DL workouts for legs may be a good idea.

[quote]
My personal opinion might differ from others, but then again I generally squat like a bodybuilder (with a quad emphasis). Alternating your squat and DL workouts for legs may be a good idea. [/quote]

Are you a free bar, FULL (below parallel) squatter?

Yep, I squat ass to grass. I realize that hams and glutes will kick in here, but doubt that at any point they become dominant of the quads.

Hmmm, you’ve trained at Barton, and used to be a personal trainer there?

Powerlifters are generally squatting to parallel, depending on the federation they are lifting in.

If you watch a PL’er squat, they tend to lean forward and lean forward more than they break at the knee joint. This is the key to determining whether the exercise is ‘quad’ dominant’ or ‘hip dominant’.

King generally splits the two up by assessing the trunk angle of the movement in question. A quad dominant movement is any lift where the trunk angle is 45 degrees or more, in relation to the ground. So a Front Squat, Split Squat or Snatch Squat would be considered more quad dominant than a traditional Full range Back Squat.

That said, by King’s definition, there is more hip involved in a back squat because the trunk angle is closer to 45 degrees. If you watch a PL’er squat in competition, you’ll often find that they are leaning as much or even in excess of 45 degrees at the bottom of the squat, flexing forward at the hip more than bending at the knees.

So Simmons’ is correct to recommend all the glute work he does because of the trunk angle involved in a typical Pl’ers squat. Poloquin echoes these sentiments by recommending front squats as a variation that decreases glute involvement and increases hamstring and quad involvement.

So assess the trunk angle and the amount of knee break to determine what is Quad dominant and what is hip dominant.

Conversely, a rock bottom squat will involve the glute to a very large degree. King would argue that even if this is the case, the effect on the Pelvis would be more towards anterior rotation, hence it being quad dominant. It doesn’t always work that way in theory, but it’s an excellent way to assess muscle balance in your programming.

You can also decide what lift to specialize in based on Posture. A flat back individual will see positive effects towards neutral spine and pelvic positions by specializing in squat. Also if you are a sway back posture, you can see positive effects towards neutral spine and pelvis by squatting.

Hope that helps.

Nice post Rob.

Thunder,
That is a major reason for having to leave Barton. Can Fit Pro rules there. The generally don’t hold trainers in high regard if they chose to have clients squat rock bottom. “You know, it could hurt their knees”. :slight_smile:

This is hard to say lol…but very good post rob coates…big martin

Kinetix, the reason I asked about Barton and your squatting habits is that I’m pretty sure I know who you are. The thing is I have only seen you leg press or if I remember correctly, use the safety squat machine.

Thunder,

This is unlikely as I haven’t touched the safety squat in about two years and I’ve trained legs at Barton once in the past 6 months. Generally I train in my studio so you’d rarely have occasion to see me there.

I will admit though, that two years ago I did have a fascination with the leg press, but that is FAR behind me.

Good to hear.

Rob-
thanks for the post. That put a lot of things in perspective for me.

What are the issues with leg press? I’m not up to speed on the pros/cons there at all.

I have a question about squatting as well. I want it to be a quad dominant movement since I do stiff-leg deadlifts for hams. Therefore, I try to maintain a more narrow (slightly wider than shoulder width) stance and try not to lean forward too much.

However, I find that when I try to not lean forward too much, I feel a lot of stress on my lower back. I also feel a lot more stress on my knees around the time when the movement hits parallel (I try to do full squats ass to grass). Anyone know why this might be? It usually results in me leaning forward to try to cut down on the stress I feel in my lower back. Also, for several days after the quad workout, the area right above the knees where the quad connects to the knee is sore. Sometimes I end up having to skip a quad workout for the cycle in order to let that part heal.

BTW, I’m 5 feet 9 inches so I’m not really tall I think…

I work as an assistant strength coach, and we use King’s methods all the time. However in the past i am well versed in westside methods. The reason they differ is that King teaches shoulder width stance with a tail tuck, (see his how to teach series)or tilting the bottom of the pelvis foward before squatting, and allows athletes knees to protude out over the foot. This is def. a quad dominant way to squat. Louie teaches the sit back onto a box method, (see his squats tape, on one of them he shows how to squat using Chuck Vol.) this means ass back shins parallel wide stance.
King also uses deadlift as the main Hip extensor lift, as Matrix says to counter balance the quad dominant squats.

As far as leg press goes, (although im not positive on kings stand) neither he nor louie use it much.