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A Case for the Split Squat Part 1: Why Squat?

For as long as strength training has been around, the Squat has been the king of all lower body exercises. It’s one of the first exercises high school athletes are taught when they begin their journey in the weight room, it’s the lift that appears in hundreds of collegiate weight room hype videos during max out week, it’s a large component of training for weightlifters, and it is literally one of the three events we use to measure strength in the sport of powerlifting. It’s a tool in the weight room that’s been used for years and is tried and true.

However, with our society progressively evolving more and more to fit our sedentary environment, finding a person with the mobility required to perform a proper squat is becoming increasingly rare. Peoples hips are tight, their ankles don’t bend, and their backs and knees are weak. Combine all of that with the heart of a weekend warrior who wants to squat double bodyweight and you’re headed for trouble. There’s a reason there are so many gym fail videos out there of people getting absolutely buried by a heavy squat, and there’s a reason why most people who consistently train the back squat end up with a back injury at one point or another. Even most coaches who spend their lives studying exercise physiology and have a complete understanding of proper technique, have hurt themselves at one point or another training squats. It just happens.

Due to the nature of the back squat, the stronger you get, the more weight you literally stack on top of your spine. Unless your hips stay perfectly underneath your shoulders, and your spine remains stacked, you are going to have shearing forces on the vertebrae. Now, if progressed correctly, the muscles that stabilize your spine will continually get stronger to help support it while under load, but that's in a perfect world. The slightest change in form or shift of your weight may push those muscles past their strength threshold and shift the additional pressure to the spine itself. Those lacking the proper mobility to squat only amplify this effect.

Now this isn’t meant to be an excuse for you to skip leg day. This isn’t even a message that you should stop squatting all together. If you are a powerlifting and 1/3 of your sport is squatting, you need to squat! If you are a weightlifter and you need to be proficient at squatting to get out of your catch position, you need to squat! If you are an athlete trying to increase your leg strength for the sake of your sport, or an adult trying to get strong legs for the sake of being strong, there may be better options for you. In comes the spit squat...

Part 2 Coming next week...


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