Friday, September 14, 2012

THE SQUAT: A Strength Training Essential

The squat should be considered an essential strength training exercise in the athletic weight room.  Why? The squat exercise aids in developing balance (muscular and proprioceptive), strengthening the knees (when properly instructed), activating the posterior chain (most important for athletes), increasing the vertical jump, and increasing sprint speed. 

The depth of the squat plays a huge role in athletic and strength development.  Squatting butt to floor, or to parallel, allows for proper posterior chain activation, balances quadriceps and hamstring strength, increases range of motion, and aids in hip stabilization and extension.  If your squat is not hitting parallel, then the hamstrings, adductors, and gluteus maximus ARE NOT ACTIVATED.  

Word of caution to the athletes --- if you think that half squatting 350lbs is impressive, then leave the athletic weight room and take it to a local neighborhood gym.  You should also prepare yourself for the future injuries that are often associated with improper squatting techniques, such injuries include those to the low back, hips, knees, hamstrings, quadriceps, and the ankles.   Athletes - you must learn to squat to parallel.  

The majority of sports require rapid change of direction, cutting, and deceleration.  The only way to properly master these sport-specific mechanics is to be eccentrically strong. The descending of the hips in the squat is an eccentric strengthening movement. For those athletes who do not hit parallel, there will be an imbalance in the quadriceps and hamstring muscles which could lead to future injury.  So in conclusion, squat deep, stay injury-free, get strong, and listen to your strength coaches. 

Coach Leonard works in the Athletic Performance facility training all varsity athletes at Tarleton State University.  She is currently certified with the Strength & Conditioning Coaches Certification (SCCC), United States Weightlifting (USAW), and CPR/AED.   

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the topic of squatting being addressed. As I read through your post, I found myself being in agreement with ALL of your verbiage. I am curious about a possible muscular imbalance by going too low repeatedly. As you stated, the ideal depth of a squat is parallel. It would have been beneficial to other readers to mention the proper positioning of the upper body during a squat. One aspect of squatting that had evaded my mind for a temporary time was the eccentric contraction when lowering during the exercise. There are more muscle fiber tears from eccentric contractions than from concentric or isometric; providing optimal room for muscle regeneration. Thank you again for addressing this topic specifically. I once again feel affirmed in what I know to be a squat with proper technique.