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Barbell Where to focus on Squats for athletics

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
Hello All,

My question this time around, and I've seen differing opinions on the interwebs, is what attribute helps a non-strength athlete more when doing squats: heavier weight, or more depth? Obviously in powerlifting you want to go just to the legal depth which will theoretically allow you to use more weight, but for a wrestler, martial artist, football player, etc do you think it would be more beneficial to use a lighter weight through a larger range of motion?

I'm doing low bar back squat, but I wouldn't mind hearing about different squats if it makes a difference in this discussion.

Thank you.
 

Ryan Toshner

SFG TL, SFB, SFL, FMS
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Hey @BJJ Shawn .

(Also a BJJ brown belt typing here...) For a non-strength athlete, the time spent trying to figure out the answer to that question is probably better spent squatting in any fashion.

That said, I typically squat low bar to full depth (and would recommend that as long as you have healthy knees). And I also clean & jerk with a single, heavy-ish kettlebell, the jerk & drop being a very shallow "squat". The variation is nice and seems to work well.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Elite Certified Instructor
Obviously in powerlifting you want to go just to the legal depth which will theoretically allow you to use more weight, but for a wrestler, martial artist, football player, etc do you think it would be more beneficial to use a lighter weight through a larger range of motion?
In my opinion, unless your sport requires the additional ROM of a deep squat, most people will be best served by using more weight. One could even ask whether PL-legal depth is necessary. The other important variable would be which might carryover better to your sport among front, high-bar back and low-bar back squats. Front squats offer the most focus on quads, low back back squats on hips and hamstrings.

-S-
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
Agree with @Ryan Toshner and @Steve Freides

My advice for a non-strength-specific athlete or a general strength trainee would be general in nature -- to 1) squat to full depth and 2) stay tight and maintain good position, wherever that is. Also to be fairly consistent about what depth that is in the short term for development of technique and management of training variables, but also, allow that depth to change in the longer term if you decide to pursue lightly more depth for strength or ROM development , or less, to be more competitive or use more weight. If full depth is less than parallel, it's worth pursuing to get there or lower, but not essential. (Just don't make claims of "I can squat x for 1RM or x number of reps" if it's not at least to parallel ;) )

Also, you can do both -- For example, do some goblet squats for warm-up (lighter weight through larger ROM) and then low bar back squat to parallel for strength development.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Elite Certified Instructor
Also, you can do both -- For example, do some goblet squats for warm-up (lighter weight through larger ROM) and then low bar back squat to parallel for strength development.
I sometimes train like this, often doing front squats or light back squats with lighter weights, full depth, and sometimes even prying, like a prying goblet squat, for the first set. Next comes pause and exhale but not pry, next comes pause but don't exhale, and finally get into competition practice.

-S-
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
Well, it's kind of a false dichotomy - depth or weight. But, for the sake of discussion, I'm just going to say that if you are truly hitting 'parallel' (in PL terms as in the hip crease being in line with the top of the knee or just below), then it's probably not a huge difference in depth.

And, even though Rippetoe et.al would disagree, I'm going to say that the difference in load for most moderately trained people is not so different when comparing their high-bar "atg" vs. low-bar "parallel" numbers.

Bar positioning and combined center of gravity probably does matter for some athletes and depending on body type and mobility some postures and positions will be more or less favorable for some individuals, so there's that.
 

Don Fairbanks

SFG II
Certified Instructor
Something I used back in the day for Am. football. Back squat with your bodyweight on your back. As many reps as possible in 7 seconds ( ave. play lasts 6-7 seconds) . Put the bar wherever you like, depth around 110+ degrees. Regular heavy and deep back and front squats also used.
 
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BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
In my opinion, unless your sport requires the additional ROM of a deep squat, most people will be best served by using more weight. One could even ask whether PL-legal depth is necessary. The other important variable would be which might carryover better to your sport among front, high-bar back and low-bar back squats. Front squats offer the most focus on quads, low back back squats on hips and hamstrings.

-S-

I guess that should all be included in my question...how do you know if your sport is better served with full ROM squats? I could use myself as an example, but really I was interested in how one decides what the best thing would be assuming there's no pain.

If I AM going to use myself as an example, my sport of course is BJJ which it feels to me doesn't use the anterior chain muscles nearly as much as posterior chain so I'm not sure quad development helps nearly as much as hamstrings and glutes. I have no knee issues and no paint squatting full depth, but again this was more of a general question.

Well, it's kind of a false dichotomy - depth or weight. But, for the sake of discussion, I'm just going to say that if you are truly hitting 'parallel' (in PL terms as in the hip crease being in line with the top of the knee or just below), then it's probably not a huge difference in depth.

And, even though Rippetoe et.al would disagree, I'm going to say that the difference in load for most moderately trained people is not so different when comparing their high-bar "atg" vs. low-bar "parallel" numbers.

Bar positioning and combined center of gravity probably does matter for some athletes and depending on body type and mobility some postures and positions will be more or less favorable for some individuals, so there's that.

That's why I said" theoretically," because I have not done anywhere near enough squats to really know. This was just something that was bumping around in my nearly empty skull and thought I would put it to the group to give me opinions.

For me, personally, I don't want to think about depth since I don't compete and going ATG is easier to not have to worry about it than trying to stop at "legal" depth. I just didn't know if that is holding me back since I presume it *could* be keeping me from lifting as much weight vs a shallower squat.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
I've seen people used to good depth squat shallow with greater load much better than people used to squat shallow try to go lower even with smaller loads.

Overall, I don't have to choose, and I don't. I'll rotate different squats that reach different depths naturally, or by choice of box or pin height or such. One day I'll have vanilla, one day strawberry, one day chocolate.
 

Chimp

Level 1 Valued Member
I guess that should all be included in my question...how do you know if your sport is better served with full ROM squats? I could use myself as an example, but really I was interested in how one decides what the best thing would be assuming there's no pain.

If I AM going to use myself as an example, my sport of course is BJJ which it feels to me doesn't use the anterior chain muscles nearly as much as posterior chain so I'm not sure quad development helps nearly as much as hamstrings and glutes. I have no knee issues and no paint squatting full depth, but again this was more of a general question.



That's why I said" theoretically," because I have not done anywhere near enough squats to really know. This was just something that was bumping around in my nearly empty skull and thought I would put it to the group to give me opinions.

For me, personally, I don't want to think about depth since I don't compete and going ATG is easier to not have to worry about it than trying to stop at "legal" depth. I just didn't know if that is holding me back since I presume it *could* be keeping me from lifting as much weight vs a shallower squat.
I can see you probably have more BJJ experience than me but but probably most sweeps and takedowns use quad muscles a lot. And let’s not even talk about biceps or shoulders in the anterior chain.
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
I can see you probably have more BJJ experience than me but but probably most sweeps and takedowns use quad muscles a lot. And let’s not even talk about biceps or shoulders in the anterior chain.

I definitely could be wrong. For me, most sweeps and takedowns feel like they use way more hips than anything, as it's generally about shifting your weight under your opponent. On a double leg takedown you shoot in, but the finish involves straightening your hips to bring your weight under your opponent. Biceps, i can see, but I guess I equate that to posterior since it's used for pulling and most of the pulling I do in BJJ is back heavy. In my head, I (inaccurately) equate posterior to pulling and anterior to pushing. My style involves much more pulling than pushing, but that could just be a preference in how I do it and not universal.
 

Stephen B.

Level 4 Valued Member
I vote full depth, but I honestly can't think of many situations where it matters. I think that it might not matter most of the time, but I would go full depth with a heavy weight just so I don't have to worry about it. Most sports that are not throwing or competitive lifting do not require so much strength that you can't achieve it full depth.

But if I had to choose between full depth with a light weight and half depth with heavy weight...
For sports like BJJ, wrestling, I pick full ROM because being comfortable at full depth is that important in my mind for taking shots or playing guard, keeping a low stance, ect.
Anything like sprinting, football, soccer, heavy weight with lower ROM would be my pick, because you'll just never go that deep.
 

Chimp

Level 1 Valued Member
I definitely could be wrong. For me, most sweeps and takedowns feel like they use way more hips than anything, as it's generally about shifting your weight under your opponent. On a double leg takedown you shoot in, but the finish involves straightening your hips to bring your weight under your opponent. Biceps, i can see, but I guess I equate that to posterior since it's used for pulling and most of the pulling I do in BJJ is back heavy. In my head, I (inaccurately) equate posterior to pulling and anterior to pushing. My style involves much more pulling than pushing, but that could just be a preference in how I do it and not universal.
Definitely you use the hips as well as quads. And I think BJJ is more push and pull based on the reaction of your training partner because if it was all pull you would pull yourself into mount and then pull yourself into getting squashed ;)

But I do think back and hips are used the most although every muscle needs to be strong!
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
For me, personally, I don't want to think about depth since I don't compete and going ATG is easier to not have to worry about it than trying to stop at "legal" depth. I just didn't know if that is holding me back since I presume it *could* be keeping me from lifting as much weight vs a shallower squat.
I really doubt it's holding you back. Like I said (or tried to say), most people, unless they are highly trained or have extreme leverages, don't demonstrate a huge discrepancy (in load or even ROM) between high and low bar positioning or parallel and atg.
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
One could even ask whether PL-legal depth is necessary. The other important variable would be which might carryover better to your sport among front, high-bar back and low-bar back squats.

If I'm going for leg hypertrophy, I do much better if I don't use my full ATG ROM -- simple parallel-ish keeps it in my quads.

Once I go ATG, the recruitment shifts much more to my butt.

So while ATG is best for my sport needs, it's not so great for my general strength or hypertrophy.

My conclusion: I don't think PL-legal depth is necessary if you want to grow your legs.
 

Pantrolyx

Level 5 Valued Member
(Fresh purple belt in BJJ who has not barbell squatted in forever).
I think the mobility and stability from (really) deep squats is valuable in BJJ.
One can be more or less in a bottom squat when, for instance, defending against triangles or armbars, and to work efficiently from there, one needs a steady base. A combination between mobility and strength has obvious carryovers to takedowns and defence against takedowns as well.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
This is what Steve Maxwell, by the way a whole life BJJ practicioner, thinks:
I like and respect Steve Maxwell and no one can question his knowledge of jyuujitsu, BUT sometimes I have to really wonder at his conclusions about sports training and S&C. It's kinda hard to write a rebuttal to this because I don't even know where to start...
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
I like and respect Steve Maxwell and no one can question his knowledge of jyuujitsu, BUT sometimes I have to really wonder at his conclusions about sports training and S&C. It's kinda hard to write a rebuttal to this because I don't even know where to start...

This bit...

Placing a loaded bar upon the upper traps and shoulders creates a tremendous shearing force on the spine, as well as vertical compression of the spinal column. The body is constantly resisting the impulse to pitch forward--to correct itself--and this is what creates the shearing force. It's not good.

This same shearing force upon the spine in turn encourages partial range of motion--because you can't go deep into the squat without compromising the back.

...caused me to raise an eye brow.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
This bit...



...caused me to raise an eye brow.
Yeah, I mean it's such a broad, sweeping, and false statement that I just don't know how to argue against it except to say it's wrong... There is more to the article that I would say the same to but yeah.

I love squats, but as much as I love them, I am acutely aware that they aren't for everyone and everything. As a GPP exercise, it's a good one. Don't like/don't want/can't do/won't learn/can't coach them? Okay, there are other exercises!
 
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