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Why Abs-Out Squatting ?


Hey all...

I have read Chek's Abs-in argument and now want to explore the opposing point of view.

It does seem that the 2 schools of thought often argue at cross purposes. Chek says abs-in is best, beacuse it is anatomically based, and will prevent injuries. Tate say abs-out is "best" cos it produces bigger lifts, but I cant find a good explanation as to why this works and whether it is safe to always train like this.

Can anyone help?



The way I understand the arguments, there's also a third position, that of abdominal "bracing". Think tightening the torso musclature, locking the sternum to the pelvis, not particularly emphasizing pushing the umbilicus in or out.

This is the position I, not an expert in any way, prefer.


When I squat, I breathe in and my abdomen goes out. Then I flex my abs. Meaning, my abs are pushed out, but they are also tensed. When I squat, this braces me and keeps my lower back from rounding.



Cheers.. yeah that is basically what I do too, and seems most consistent with Cheks argument.


Especially with a belt on this causes the belt to be even tighter thus providing more support.


Unless Paul C.H.E.K start producing 1000 pound squatters, I will continue to listen to Westside Barbell.


In saying this you are making an awful lot of assumptions, and oversimplfying things too much.

Anyway, Im not denying facts, just looking for reasons.


No... I would just train instead of questioning things like that. Lessons from the strong cannot be debated. You don't need to appreciate how a plane works to fly a plane.

Strength training is more of an art then science sometimes. There are plenty of scientist spending their life doing research supporting HIT.

How many world class squatters has Paul C.H.E.K produced? Do you think any of the athletes he train squats more then what the Westsiders bench?



This is from Joe DeFranco's article 10 training myths exposed

Myth #8: Activating the transverse abdominis (pulling the stomach inward) is the key to stabilizing your spine when squatting.

This is one of the most hotly debated topics among strength coaches and physical therapists. Personally, I feel that "pulling in your belly" is potentially dangerous when squatting.

When you pull your belly inward, it tends to flex the spine, a.k.a. round your back. This is the last thing you want to happen when you have a heavy weight on your back! After all, unsupported spinal flexion under a compressive load is one of the most common causes of disk herniation. Unless you want to herniate a disk while doing a nosedive onto the floor, I'd advise against pulling in your stomach while squatting.

The correct technique would be to contract your erector spinae (arch your back) and fill your stomach with air by taking a huge breath. Then, hold your breath while forcefully pushing your belly out during the most strenuous phase of the lift (Valsalva maneuver). This technique will not only stabilize your spine by increasing the intra-abdominal pressure, it'll enable you to squat more weight!

Remember that both techniques of stabilizing your spine have their place in training. For example, I feel that learning how to activate your transverse abdominis is a valid and valuable technique during the lifting of lighter loads. It?s also very important for lower-back rehabilitation.

On the other hand, if you?re participating in heavy strength training, I'd highly recommend performing the technique I described above. Remember, attempting a max squat is a lot different than teaching an abdominal crunch to someone who just had back surgery.

Note: Even after this article gets printed, I?m sure this myth won't go away. I just have one request to all of the physical therapists and rehab specialists who'll choose to debate me regarding this topic. I don?t care how many books you?ve read or how many college degrees you have, if you?ve never had a heavy weight on your back, you?re not qualified to argue this topic!

I?ve always found it funny that all of the people who preach pulling in your belly during heavy lifting can?t even squat off the toilet with a newspaper. Practice before you preach!


Are you serious?? LOL. Everything can be debated. I'm sure I can find someone that happens to be stronger than someone else, but knows far less. Your principle is wrong.

You are pretty naive if you will follow what someone says, without questioning them, just because they are stronger.

I wont respond to this, least to say that is a completly unapplicable analagy.

No its not, it is absolutely, 100% a science when it comes down to it. The reason it can appear as an "art" sometimes, is that there are so many, complex, interacting variables it can be difficult to objectify, and apply correctly, but ultimately there is only ever one best answer in a given situation. The more knowledge we can gain, the closer we will be to making that correct choice.

As I said, I dont deny more elite powerlifters come out of westside than from Chek, but thats not the point.

You are assuming:
- that the fact that westside makes powerlifters elite is because of their abs-out policy.
- that Chek couldnt do the same if that was his goal.
- that most weight lifted = "best" way of doing things, regardless of health repercussions, or any other consideration.

All I wanted to know was Tate's reasons for his argument, and if it is a safe technique for longterm spine health.

If you can't help me with that, don't just tell me to belive them "just because".


Thanks for posting that.

OK so the only reason why it enables you to squat more is due to the increaed intra-abdominal pressure, according to this....


That then begs the question: If this method increases IAP more than abs-in - something is different to allow this.

Are there any risks associated with whatever it is that has changed?


^^^ (I guess I'm coming from the premise that abs-in is the "safer" option for spine health; and that abs-out might be equal, or maybe more risky than abs-in - which is what I am trying to ascertain)


I think I remember one of the Westside guys (maybe Dave??) saying that it also creates a more stable base for the weight of the bar and your upper body, and that, in turn, made it safer for the lower back.

I would guess it would be harder to stabilize with a more narrow mid-section and possibly put more stress on the stabilizing muscles throughout the movement.

Also, if you breath air "into the belly" you can also generate more pressure around the core with (I'm assuming) the diaphragm's pressure (I'm not saying air actually goes into the belly).

That's how I understood it anyway. Either way, I think everyone agrees that the core muscles should be tight and flexed.


the valsava manoeuvre increases intra-abdominal presure as noted, this helps to stabilize and support the lumbar musculature during maximal effort. The Abs and obliques provide a corset. Spinal stress has been shown to be significantly reduced with the valsave and increased with exhalation upon effort.

By forcing the abdominals out and filling yourself with air you essentially create 'fluid balls' (lower torso) and air balls (in the upper torso) that supports the spine, the bigger the ball the bigger the support I suppose. Think of It biomechanically too, the role of the abs is to provide support for the spine, the further the abs are away from the pivot point, the less effort the abs would have to produce to provide support, as the muscle force acts through a longer moment arm . The closer the abs are to the pivot the greater the effort it would take to provide a stable base.

The Abs in debate is based on the premise of creating your own lifting belt with your abs, if during a max exertion you wear a belt you push against it increasing Intra ab pressure, providing a more stable base etc etc. The abs in argument is to create your own natural belt by activating the TVA and increasing Core stability, as an over reliance on belts decreases it.


Looks like everyone has it almost right. The two main points of using the "abs out" style are a) increased intrabdominal volume and then b) compressing this increased volume to create more pressure (which provides the greatest spinal stability).

Just sucking in your abs without filling your belly with air doesn't create much pressure. I'm not sure if this is exactly how Chek prescribes this method, but if he does, it's wrong.

Just filling your torso with as much air as possible (merely pushing your abs out) doesn't create much more pressure either - you need something there to limit the volume of the container to increase pressure.

Thus, the best way is to fill the torso with as much air as possible and either wear a very tight belt (which will artifically limit volume of the container) or powerfully contract all the muscles of the abdomen to limit the size of the container. This is both the safest and will allow for the most weight to be used.

Just as a point of note, the abs can be trained well enough so that a belt doesn't help this process at all. Just ask Dr. Hatfield about that one :slightly_smiling:



how many olympic weightlifters do you see lifting with belts?

not too many!


From one of Dave's articles here on T-mag.

Secret #7: Learn to use your belly!

I've caught more shit over this than any other aspect of training. But the truth is that every big squatter I know has learned how to use his abdominals while squatting. You must learn how to breathe into your belly. You want to pull as much air as you can into your belly, then flex and force your abdominals out.

Walk over to a mirror. Take a look at your shoulders and take a deep breath. Did they rise? If they did, then you're pulling all the air into your chest, not your belly. You need to learn how to breath into your belly. This is how we teach everyone to squat. For the squat, we advise the use of a weight belt worn one notch loose. This is to teach you to pull air into your belly then push out into the belt. The belt acts as a great training aid to push against.

As a side note, we use the same technique for all of our max-effort work, but don't use the belt in that situation. This is one aspect of our training that has been misunderstood for too long. We use the belt to teach how to use the abdominals for the squat, bench, and deadlift, and do not advocate its use for anything else unless the lifter feels it's needed. Many in the gym have worked up to 600 and 700 pound good mornings without any adverse effects and have been doing them this way for over ten years.

This brings me to the next point. We've been told breathing and using the abdominals this way will lead to back injuries. Louie Simmons has been coaching this for the past twenty years at Westside and hasn't had any lifters with these problems. Learning to use the belly has made a profound difference in all of our squats, especially for those who've never tried it. I've seen squats increase by 25 to 50 pounds on this aspect alone. Now that's what squatting big is all about.

Filling your belly with air will also create a larger torso and give you a bigger base of support from which to drive. Ever wonder why those with bigger waists squat so much? Think about it. We want as much tightness and support as we can get from the gross muscles of the spinal errectors, abdominals, and obliques.



what scientists show that HIT is superior to other methods?

Research is often limited in scope. Meaning that the studies, only test a small population and only test a few outcome measures. The problem arises when people misinterpret or take the research out of context to incorrectly apply the findings.

Understanding how something works will undoubtedly make you better at using it.



What I actually meant was that non of the 800 pound squatters I know can give a highly scientific reasoning for what they do; in fact a lesson I learn from them is to simply find out what works for you. The only way to do that is to find out which is better through actually training.

Scientific studies are useful for one to explain what he does and why he does it that way; however, for every research, there are always other researches that proves the opposite. For example, effectiveness of ZMA, Vitamin C dose, whether good morning is a good exercise etc etc


Very good post!