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“To Squat or Not?”

Should you squat or not?

It really is your decision.  Nobody has knowledge about the future.  Your body is unique, and you will live with the consequences either way.

If you have never done squats, deciding about (regular) squats can be confusing  Some people say that the squat is the king of exercises, while others advise you never to squat.

Even if you do squats, you may not be doing them correctly.  Even if you do them correctly, as you get older, you may give them up because of knee pain.  (I’m 63.)

In my judgment, if you want to enjoy the benefits of getting stronger, squats and deadlifts (and their variations) are the most productive exercises.  Nearly everyone can learn how to master them.  However, I also say, never squat in training!

Instead, train using box squats. According to Louie Simmons, “Box squatting is the most effective method to produce a first rate squat.”  Furthermore, since you use less weight doing box squats than doing squats, they are safer.  I agree.  In the last couple of years I found it necessary to wrap my knees when doing squats.  Because I now do box squats instead,  I don’t have to wrap them anymore.  I’m excited that I’m still able to squat productively!

So, unless you do them occasionally in contests or to establish a one-rep max, stop doing squats; instead, always use box squats for strength training.

Mr. Simmons has links on the Westside barbell site where you can watch people doing box squats for free.  I encourage you to have a look at them.  He also sells useful DVD’s.

Here’s how to do box squats. Set them up in advance.  You’ll be picking the bar off a power rack (or something similar) and squatting down to a box or bench.  Ensure in advance that the tops of your thighs will be at or just below parallel.

Doing box squats is very similar to doing regular squats.  Make sure you wear a weightlifting belt; before descending, fill your abdomen with air and push out against the belt for the duration of the rep.  Keep your back tightly arched.  When descending and ascending, push your knees outward.  Use a wide stance and supportive (preferably high top) shoes.  When you are sitting on the box for half a second or a second, keep everything tight except for somewhat relaxing your hip and glute muscles.  When sitting on the box correctly, your shins will be just past perpendicular.   When ascending, keep your head up and try to push your traps into the bar first, followed by the hips and glutes and finally the legs.

Don’t rock on the box.  Don’t just touch-and-go off the box.  Don’t wear knee wraps.  Except for your hip flexors, don’t fail to keep every muscle group tight throughout the rep.  Don’t sit down when descending; instead, sit back and down.  When ascending, don’t turn it into a good morning by raising your hips first.

Don’t expect to master them the first time you try them.  Since box squats are more difficult than regular back squats, start with a relatively light weight.  However, assuming that you already know how to squat, after several training sessions, they’ll begin to feel very familiar and you can start increasing your poundage.  Do 8 to 12 sets of just 2 reps with one minute rest between sets.  (During  my third training session, I used 230 lbs. [without chains or bands] for 10 sets—perhaps not too bad for an old philosopher.)

If you learn how to do them properly and give them a good trial, I predict you’ll never go back to using regular squats in your normal training.

Posted in physical well-being

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