Everything in life changes, including the definition of what is the best way to squat. To be a comprehensive athlete you must develop as many techniques as you can and know when to employ them in your training. The most important of these skills is a great squat, but with so much variety in ways to perform them, when should you change styles? The best way to do this is to examine how they develop the body differently and then match them up with weaknesses or upcoming events.
The High Bar Full Depth Squat
This is globally the choice of weightlifters and is typically considered the absolute standard for a true squat. Because the athlete squats as low as the body allows, there is no debate to the quality of depth. The bar is placed high on the back, the athlete takes a shoulder width stance and then lowers the body all the way down and then back up to full lockout.
- Increased muscle gain
- Excellent stimulation for growth, power and strength of all muscles in the low back and the leg
- Increases in flexibility and ROM vs. higher squats
- Limits maximum poundage when compared to partial range of motion
- Increased learning curve for most athletes
When to Use:
- Year round as an overall strength and mass builder
- Especially important for beginners to develop athletic balance
- Athletes who jerk the overhead and rely on being more athletic
The Low Bar Squat to Parallel
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Typically this is the movement you see powerlifters and recreational gym athletes perform. The bar is placed lower on the body and the lifter stops squatting when they reach about a 90 degree angle in the hip and knee.
- Allows for heavier weights to be used
- Provides for great leg development with a smaller learning curve
- Knowing where the bottom is takes feel and high squats are often unintentionally performed (ego lifting can take over here)
- May create some imbalances in the knee due to the shortened range of motion
When to Use:
- Contest prep involving truck pulls and heavy front carries
- Overloading to help maximize the full squat
Box Squat and High Box Squat
This Louie Simmons invention simply places a seat under the lifter to allow them to stop the squat, release their hips then re-engage and stand.
In this video I perform a higher than parallel squat to overload my hips and hamstrings. This helps to ensure a great deadlift lockout.
- Depth is always met
- The relaxation of the muscles and then forceful explosion can rapidly increase power
- Crashing (falling on) or getting stuck on the box is dangerous
- Possible increased spinal compression when on the box
When to Use:
- For heavy yoke picks and walks this is one of the best static movements of all time
- When you have a sticking point in a deadlift, especially with higher pulls
If you only squat to parallel you should make sure you work in front squats to build your quadriceps. They are also great to improve your clean and rack position on the log and axel.
Zercher squats are a must if you have a Conan’s wheel coming up. By cradling the bar in your arms instead of on your collar bone or back you provide excellent stress on the core.
If you are having knee and/or range of motion issues try warming up each session with goblet squats. By holding an inverted kettlebell in front of you, you have a counterbalance that should help with your ROM and get the body ready for action.
The core movement of the squat is a must for every serious athlete. When you chose the right one at the right time, you will increase the efficiency of your time under the bar, something every athlete desires.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Photos courtesy Michele Wozniak