T Nation

Why Are People So Militant About the Back Squat?


#1

I did an experiment over the last three months. Instead of focusing on back squatting I focused on deadlifting and supplemented with something else.

Besides being conducive to competing soon, I wanted to try something different as my back squat has always been a point of contention, eg I have always struggled to maintain good form, avoid back pain, and make significant progress after hitting 315lbs. Also I noticed if I did not back squat frequently my form would change naturally. I've tried many variations, high bar, low bar, box, wide stance, narrow stance, above parallel, below parallel, parallel, etc and none seemed to provide a long term solution.

So basically, the back squat and I never got along so I tried something radical: I dropped the lift completely and replaced it with Zercher squats. I will say I have seen an increase in my leg and back strength and a big jump in my deadlift. In two months I got my Zercher squat to match my back squat (315lb) only treating the movement as an assistance exercise.

I also modified the exercise slightly by starting from a dead stop every rep (in the rack or in my case using a special implement) and using a thicker bar. I also learned to hold the bar a little different, holding my hands together and pulling the bar towards my rib cage instead of facing my fist upward(imagine giving yourself the Heimlich maneuver).

So who says back squats are the end all, be all. 100% first class bullshit. Maybe in power lifting they are necessary, but other wise I feel other variations are a much safer alternative to building strength.

/Endrant


#2

It’s one of those things that started off with noble intentions and then spiraled in a very stupid direction. You go from people not doing any lower body training to people thinking that, if you don’t do the barbell back squat, you’re not even training.

I blame it on beginners who just repeat popular ideas in order to quickly fit in to lifting “culture” and feel superior to other beginners. It’s right up there with

-You ALWAYS have to touch your chest when you bench
-You ALWAYS have to hit depth when you squat (ATG is even better)
-You ALWAYS have to lift RAW (why “raw” is in all caps I still don’t understand)
-You ALWAYS have to have the big 3/4/5/6/12/89/147 in your program

and the list goes on.

Also, fun fact: several strongman don’t use the back squat, mainly because it’s difficult to fit into strongman programming, so the discovery you have made is on pace with your training style.


#3

[quote]Aero51 wrote:
I noticed if I did not back squat frequently my form would change naturally.[/quote]
Were you surprised by this? Depends a bit on what you consider “frequent”, but if you go a while without doing an exercise, it’s pretty normal for technique to get rusty.

I’m not sure “safer” is the right word, but I do agree with your general idea. There was a thread a few months ago pretty much talking about this same thing. I’ll repeat my thoughts on the topic:
https://tnation.t-nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_bigger_stronger_leaner/squats_24

[quote]If you don’t want to squat, don’t squat. Fine, whatever. Unless you compete in powerlifting, like Pwnisher was saying, there’s nobody who has to squat. It’s a good and useful exercise, but there are options.

Just be aware that you shouldn’t want to avoid squats simply because they’re hard. At least try to find a better reason than “It’s too tough, so I don’t wanna.”

Barbell back squats (and the immediate variations - low bar, high bar, whatever) are not mandatory for anybody, or literally any body, except for competitive powerlifters. But I agree that the general “squatting” movement pattern is a basic human movement and must be addressed in training.

I also agree that the barbell back squat is a top notch exercise… but… the particular squatting exercise used always needs to suit the lifter’s current physical capabilities and goals, not some old school macho line about how “[back] squats are the undisputed king of lifts” that sounds cool and hardcore, but is actually a bit unrealistic.

for the overwhelming majority of people, a well-designed training program will include training for the upper body and the lower body, and part of that lower body training will include some kind of squat.

As was said, the “squatting motion” is a basic human movement pattern and should play some part in training whether the person is a baseball player, a strongman, a teenager, or an 80-year old. Whether back squats, goblet squats, reverse lunges, or unweighted box squats are the particular exercise used is much more reliant on the individual lifter’s situation (condition, goal, etc.). [/quote]


#4

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

[quote]Aero51 wrote:
I noticed if I did not back squat frequently my form would change naturally.[/quote]
Were you surprised by this? Depends a bit on what you consider “frequent”, but if you go a while without doing an exercise, it’s pretty normal for technique to get rusty.

I’m not sure “safer” is the right word, but I do agree with your general idea. There was a thread a few months ago pretty much talking about this same thing. I’ll repeat my thoughts on the topic:
https://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_bigger_stronger_leaner/squats_24

[quote]If you don’t want to squat, don’t squat. Fine, whatever. Unless you compete in powerlifting, like Pwnisher was saying, there’s nobody who has to squat. It’s a good and useful exercise, but there are options.

Just be aware that you shouldn’t want to avoid squats simply because they’re hard. At least try to find a better reason than “It’s too tough, so I don’t wanna.”

Barbell back squats (and the immediate variations - low bar, high bar, whatever) are not mandatory for anybody, or literally any body, except for competitive powerlifters. But I agree that the general “squatting” movement pattern is a basic human movement and must be addressed in training.

I also agree that the barbell back squat is a top notch exercise… but… the particular squatting exercise used always needs to suit the lifter’s current physical capabilities and goals, not some old school macho line about how “[back] squats are the undisputed king of lifts” that sounds cool and hardcore, but is actually a bit unrealistic.

for the overwhelming majority of people, a well-designed training program will include training for the upper body and the lower body, and part of that lower body training will include some kind of squat.

As was said, the “squatting motion” is a basic human movement pattern and should play some part in training whether the person is a baseball player, a strongman, a teenager, or an 80-year old. Whether back squats, goblet squats, reverse lunges, or unweighted box squats are the particular exercise used is much more reliant on the individual lifter’s situation (condition, goal, etc.). [/quote][/quote]

I usually squatted once a week. I found if I skipped even 1 week I felt “off”. How little it took was most surprising.


#5

That’s good you didn’t quit. I went down the same path and learned the same thing by trying out different variations. The problem is in thinking that all these variations are completely different when they actually have a lot more similarities than differences. The more different a person makes the variation, the less carryover it can have.

In general I think it’s all just a part of the learning process. It’s human nature to learn visually and copy. For some people everything can click. For others, more training tools may be needed.


#6

Nobody says you have to back squat, unless you compete in powerlifting. But to just throw them out completely cause you have shitty form is kind of a cop out, I bet you would feel different if you had success with them.


#7

I now front squat, because I prefer to.

I do no deadlifts except dead-squats.

The humanity…


#8

Do whatever works toward your goals. I started doing safety bar squats a few months ago, and so far it has made me better at low bar. Stronger is stronger, in most cases.


#9

I am the opposite, I don’t deadlift. Squats, for me, have been an insanely beneficial exercise. Pretty much the only thing I do for my lower body is squat, maybe some RDLs or leg curls here and there sometimes.


#10

A beginner (who’s interested at all in lower body strength) should back squat, until they figure out it’s not an optimal movement for them. But it’s too basic a movement for someone who has no experience to avoid. It should at least be given a chance, and it sounds like you have.

I’ve been focusing on front squat recently myself.


#11

No squatting… A sure sign of weak bloodline.


#12

[quote]goochadamg wrote:
A beginner (who’s interested at all in lower body strength) should back squat, until they figure out it’s not an optimal movement for them. But it’s too basic a movement for someone who has no experience to avoid. It should at least be given a chance, and it sounds like you have.

I’ve been focusing on front squat recently myself. [/quote]

I think this is a great advice. I have also started to lean more towards FS. Awesome exercise. It feels much more natural movement for me as a tall lifter. Numbers are going up nicely too.


#13

[quote]Evolv wrote:
I am the opposite, I don’t deadlift.

[/quote]
That’s crazy talk. You don’t DL? What’s wrong with you that you don’t do the most awesome exercise on the face of the planet?


#14

I always thought everybody should squat. But for me that does not refer to doing barbell back squats or using a barbell at all (depending on level of advancement and mobility). There is a squat movement for pretty much everybody (I have tried that). For a lot of beginners it is the goblet box squat for some really unfit people it even is a bw squat assisted with a suspension trainer, for some it is a landmine squat. Obviously most people on this site are too advanced for these methods but what I meant to say is that squatting refers to a movement of (mainly) the hip and knee joint, its definition has nothing to do with a barbell on your back.


#15

[quote]JFG wrote:
I now front squat, because I prefer to.

I do no deadlifts except dead-squats.

The humanity…[/quote]

Dude, do you even lift?

What would Rippetoe say?


#16

[quote]Aero51 wrote:
Why Are People So Militant About the Back Squat?[/quote]

Because Rippetoe.


#17

[quote]JayPierce wrote:

[quote]Evolv wrote:
I am the opposite, I don’t deadlift.

[/quote]
That’s crazy talk. You don’t DL? What’s wrong with you that you don’t do the most awesome exercise on the face of the planet? [/quote]

I know :frowning:

I guess I’m not a real hardcore lifter bro guy…


#18

Me neither :frowning:

I haven’t done a flat bench press in years. I can’t even answer the quintessential hardcore bro lifter question.