A lot of times the strength and conditioning community likes to put artificial limits and rules on things that are completely arbitrary and detrimental to the mind set and progress of the average exerciser. The requirement that everyone be able to high bar barbell back squat ass to grass is one of these common themes you will read about and listen to in articles, podcasts and videos.
Due to this cultural mantra, many athletes come to me and their thought process goes as follows:
- I read that I need to be able to barbell back squat and my butt should almost touch the ground because this is the ideal exercise for ALL humans.
- I’ve tried working on it and have hurt myself a few times or made no progress.
- I guess squatting and weight training is not for me, maybe I’ll stick with running.
The false hood here is that there is an IDEAL movement variation that covers the whole spectrum of human beings. What should be taught is what the squat represents in terms of movement patterning. The squat pattern or hip flexion pattern is 100% a fundamental movement we should all be capable of including in our workouts to keep our hips healthy, happy and getting stronger, your body was made to do it (common strength and conditioning media loves to show photos of babies with perfect squats). But what’s not often talked about is there are MANY ways to squat and finding the one that suits your body morphology, injury history and skill level is more important than shoe horning yourself into a single variation. Humans come in all shapes and sizes, some are healthy movers while some are not, so while the “best” squat variation may be ok for 75% of people you may not be in that 75%.
Your coach should be able to help you work through all hip flexion squatting patterns in order to find the most appropriate movement for your level. Whether it is DB squats, trap bar squats, safety squat bar squats, goblet squats, off-set squats, bottoms up squats or front squats there is a movement that will ensure you are getting the most out of the pattern. This is not to say that the barbell back squat can’t be your goal or that its not an amazing exercise, perhaps you use this as your assessment to gauge your progress in improving movement dysfunction. What I am saying is that unless you earn your money barbell back squatting or your goal is to compete in powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting nobody HAS to do a specific movement variation in order to achieve their goals.
Many folks simply want to build strong and big legs, maintain healthy hips and be pain free but they follow the rules and mantras of a sport they never intend to compete in. If you fall in this group understand that there are no REQUIRED movements only the required patterns that these movements represent. Choose the exercises that allow you the greatest range of motion with the greatest amount of control and you will be knocking down your goals pain free in no time.