Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is the Back Squat Breaking your Kids Back and Athletic Career?

Mike Boyle has advocated the use of single leg squats over traditional back squats for years.  An interesting article entitled  "Squat Lifts likely the cause of of stress fractures in Young Athletes."  just came out.  I couldn't find the actual research the article was based on.

My personal opinion.  I don't think 13 year olds should be back squatting.  I started at 14 and by my senior year of high school at 163lb could squat 465 for a single.  I think it had direct correlation to improvement in sprint times and in football performance.  I think it has a lot to do with later episodes of back pain in my 30's.

At the time I had no strength coach and no Internet back then.  I had Muscle and Fitness.  I had never seen a split squat or a trap bar.  No one did heavy sled toes.  No one did deadlifts where I grew up.

Looking back I can see all the benefits and all the consequences of squatting.  What I would do different if I could send my younger self a message.  Learn to deadlift with perfect form, don't max out.  Quit benching (another article).  Trap bar deadlift.  Do lots of single leg work.  Spend lots of time pulling a sled.  Only start back squatting in college, if you hit a plateau with your other lifts.  I managed to squat 515 for 3 as a senior in college.  Not much improvement in four years.  Go to the well to early and you eventually will run out of adaptations to make for continual improvement.  (Jim Wendler recently talked about the use of bands and chains in lifting only if you stalled)  Same reasoning.

Squatting isn't evil.  There are just potential consequences to it.  I don't think it's healthy to heavy back squat.  But, playing football isn't healthy, rugby or bobsleigh.  But they are awesome, and to me were worth it..  Back squatting has a heavy cost/benefit potentially on both ends.  Read the article and interpret the info as you see fit.


Anonymous said...

As another alternative to back squatting, what do you think about the Olympic lifts (Snatch and Clean) for kids? I realize that this requires a lot of skill and technique work, but you get the added athletic benefit of power training with lighter weights than in the back squat. The front squat on the Clean puts the weight on the shoulders instead of the spine. The overhead squat on the Snatch almost has a Yoga-like effect stretching and strengthening the the entire back and shoulder area (as well as legs) and "hidden" stabilizer muscles.
Single-leg squats sound like a good idea in theory, but the trade-off with going easier on the back might mean trashing the knees. With a back squat it's easier to "sit back" and keep the knees from going to far forward past the toes and it's also easier to keep the knees and feet aligned in the back squat.
I think the back squat is too important a lift to be ignored entirely. I think in a one-to-one professional coaching situation and sticking to lighter weights most of the time, the squat still has a place in youth training. Use a Manta Ray to keep the barbell from compressing the spine, mix in plenty of Hex Bar, Front squats, Overhead Squats, single leg stuff, pulling, etc.

Jason Ross said...

Single legs won't trash your knees. Again it's technique, vertical shin. Pushing through the heel ect.

I would have a hard time letting my son or daughter olympic lift before a certain age. Again I don't think the cost benefit is there.

lonr said...

front squat is easier on the back, and it's better for overall athletic developement. i wouldn't trade squat for single legs, even though unilateral movement is better i just can't lift heavy weights with barbell to keep track of my strength progress and gains.