Fall is amongst us yet once again. Quarterbacks are being gently lowered to the gridiron, Lebron is in LA, and Rocktober is once again back in the Mile High City. And if the leaves changing colors and pumpkin spice lattes weren’t enough for you, there is also a little thing known as #Squatober in the strength and conditioning community. Each October, training enthusiasts spend the entire month grinding out daily knee bends to test their physical limitations, and challenge the mind and body. While we do believe in squatting here at Sparta Science, we also believe in having a plan, or goal in mind when choosing an exercise or concept. Continue reading to make this #Squatober your best one yet!
As we have seen time and time again, the squat is simply not a squat. Cues, along with pelvic positioning and trunk angle seem to always dictate the desired effect. Loading schemes aside, a vertical torso along with positive shin angles will elicit one adaptation, while hinging a squat with vertical shins will create another. It’s not always the exercise that changes movement sequencing, but rather how it’s executed.
Load, or Average Eccentric Rate of Force, is the number one target when squatting for our partners. To accomplish this, most coach the vertical torso with those knees shifting out over the toes (wait, isn’t that a sin?) to increase the tension on the anterior musculature. This can be utilized by those who are younger in training age to build strength qualities, but we see it especially beneficial for those who seem to compensate for other reasons. Those with stiff ankles from previous injury, or patella femoral issues typically avoid a positive shin angle due to pain without realizing it. To fix the sequence issue we choose to have the athlete flex instead of hinge, even if just bodyweight. If the individual cannot do this initially, we believe footwear (such as weightlifting shoes), or elevating the heels can help. Eccentric rFD is highly impacted by this method and it’s a great way to improve sequencing, along with improving mobility in the ankle joint.
Low bar squatting while hinging will have another impact on the force distribution. Instead of flexing – hinging tends to disperse the force much differently through the trunk. Watch a powerlifter squat and you can tell it’s much different than most Olympic lifters. When weight is the goal, one will compensate (use of erectors/extension) to achieve the best result. Most powerlifters we have seen through force analysis tend to have very high levels of relative concentric force production, or Explode. Stiffness is a huge key to their success – being able to brace and resist massive loads is what makes them successful. Sequencing is not a top priority. What is your goal of squatting? Performance? Health? Numbers? That should dictate the technique, or style of squat pattern.
One other metric that we track through the counter movement jump is relative concentric impulse, or Drive. Drive is indicative of expression of force over time. We see the Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat have a tremendous impact on this variable, along with the Overhead Squat. The theory that these exercises work for improving Drive is because you can’t do them fast – correctly, anyway. Longer ranges of motion and with higher rep schemes has been shown to increase total impulse. That being said, those who are extremely twitchy in the vertical plane may have success implementing higher rep ranges and deeper ranges to improve prolonging force production.
At Sparta Science, human optimization is always our number one priority, whether you choose to squat or not. Assessing each individual’s needs is the first step we take when an individual walks through the doors. We believe diagnosing each individual is the first step in successfully improving their well-being, performance or return to sport. Make the most of this month – and as always, “Measure, Train, Win, Repeat!”