|Here is the iconic picture of Ivan Chakarov showing us what a full range squat looks like.|
Of course no single study can "prove" anything and I don't think this really "settles the squatting debate" as Coach Probst titles his article. Any single study has limitations and we don't know much about the subjects in this case. What is their training backround, how frequently were they training, and what kind of weights were they squatting? However this does lend support to the idea that merely mimicking the sport positions in the weight room is not the way to optimize sport performance. Get strong through a full range of motion in the weight room, then apply that strength and power as you master the technical aspects of your sport on the field, track, or ring.
Settling the squatting debate
Jörg Probst – Throws Coach
Posted on 21 January 2012
Recently I’ve been reading some articles by German sport scientist and strength guru Dietmar Schmidtbleicher, who has been around since I can remember - a terrifyingly long time.
The debate about how to squat (deep or high, front or back) has been ongoing for just as long, it seems.
Personally, I never deep squatted. Worried about my knees and convinced by the argument that you don’t have to go that low because the knee angles in the discus movement are never that low anyway, I stuck to parallel and quarter squats, and most of these were done with the weight on my back - at least before my back injury.
So you could say I was clearly in the anti-deep squat camp.
Recently, Schmidtbleicher and his colleagues addressed these squatting issues with two well-designed research projects. Three groups of about 20 subjects were assigned evenly according to their performance in the counter-movement jump as measured during the initial testing phase.
The subjects then trained over 10 weeks with either deep front squats, deep back squats, or back squats to 120 degrees. During the first 4 weeks they did 5 sets of 8-10 reps, for weeks 5-8 they did 5 sets of 6-8 reps, and for the last two weeks they did 5 sets of 2-4 reps, always with 5 minutes rest between sets. We’re not told how frequently they trained.
The post-training dynamic maximum strength tests were carried out 3 days after the last training session, the counter-movement jump, drop jump and isometric strength tests were done 7 and again 14 days after the end of the training period.
The results were staggering: The two deep-squatting groups showed statistically highly significant (p ≤ 0.001) improvements in the 1RM for all three squatting variations, whereas the quarter squat group only showed highly significant improvements in the quarter squat, but actually went backwards in the two deep squatting 1RM tests.
Also, both deep squatting groups showed very significant or highly significant improvements on the jumps tests, whereas the quarter squat and control groups showed no statistically significant improvements at all.
So the increase in quarter squat strength could not be transferred to the counter-movement jump and the drop jump, although the maximum knee angles achieved in these jumps are more similar to the quarter squat than the deep squat. In other words, there was no transfer of the more angle-specific, faster type of squat to the jumping exercises.
Judging by the average values achieved by the various groups, the study was conducted with a sports student population rather than performance oriented athletes, but nevertheless, the fact that the results are so clear-cut to me is a good enough indication that deep squats, in particular front squats, are more effective for improving maximum strength as well as power/speed strength, provided you execute the concentric part of the movement as explosively as possible.
These studies only confirm what Schmidtbleicher and others have concluded in previous experiments, and they also explain why my maximum strength and power levels were never as good as they could and should have been.
The results also confirm Peter Lawler’s and Vern Gambetta’s credo that it is crucial to perform exercises over the full range of motion whenever possible.
So in relation to squatting my advice would be to squat deep, and preferably use the safer front squat variety, executed always with correct technique and after warming up properly, of course. Overhead squats are also an excellent squat variation to develop correct technique. I also like to use overhead squats with just a bar as a warm-up.
■D. Schmidtbleicher et al. (2009) Vergleich unterschiedlicher Kniebeugentechniken zur Entwicklung der Schnellkraft, BISp-Jahrbuch – Forschungsförderung 2008-09, pp.97-102.
■P. Lawler (2011) Australian Track & Field Coaches Association 2011 Conference, presentation.
■V. Gambetta (2011) Australian Track & Field Coaches Association 2011 Conference, presentation.
■V. Gambetta (2006) 2006 en vision ASTYM.