Death of the Back Squat?!

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

I’ve gotten a lot of questions the last few days about my opinion on Mike Boyle’s video claiming that the back squat is dead. Like I said, I don’t agree with everything Mike says. Nor do I agree with everything Alwyn  Cosgrove or Chad Waterbury say. But they are smart guys who know their shit. I learn something from each of them and I like a lot of what Mike has to say about warming up, rehabbing and staying injury proof. But I’m never just going to throw out what I know works based on one guys theories.

So here is my opinion on Mike’s claim that the back squat is dead …

Bullshit. Long live the back squat.

It’s a great exercise that is far from dead. We all know that the limiting factor in the back squat is not leg strength. Anyone who’s ever done a single set of leg presses has proven that to themselves. The limiting factor is the strength of the lower back, abs, obliques, etc. The whole core region goes way before the legs do.

So does that mean you should throw it out and instead only load guys with split squats and step ups? Of course not. When it comes to training economy you can’t beat the back squat. No single leg exercise will do what it does for you.

What about the squat not maximally overloading the legs? Invalid argument in my opinion. Squats load the legs while also training the entire abdominal/lower back region simultaneously. This builds real world, “functional” strength. You can’t get the same effect from pistols and split squats.

Furthermore, most single leg work is dangerous when done for low reps and will place far greater stress on your knees than the back squat will. A balls out, heavy triple on split squats is a hip flexor tear waiting to happen. A double on a step up seems a little risky to me. So out goes CNS stimulation and maximal strength work.

The back squat transfers greatly to running speed and jumping ability as has been demonstrated many times before. It trains the core more effectively than almost anything else, provides spinal loading and enhances your overall strength from head to toe. A step up doesn’t do that.

Now, that’s not to say there is no place for unilateral work, as you could easily throw it in after squatting. But it’s supplementary to squats, not in replace of. Many coaches argue that single leg work is necessary here because sports involve the transference of power from one leg to another, blah, blah, blah. That’s irrefutable but I’m not sure how much of an impact a few sets of split squats after your max effort squats are really having. I still use single leg exercises but I could easily make the argument that all you need to do is squat and go home. As long as you are also, jumping, running and doing agility work at some point during the week, you may not need much more than that in the weight room. And that’s not just a guess because I’ve done it with guys before.

Another thing to consider, if you train athletes for a living, is that many of them will be getting tested on the back squat when they report to camp. So even if you hate it you had better know how to coach it and get strong on it.

Finally, and of critical importance in my opinion, is that squats create a training atmosphere and an attitude that could never, ever be matched by single leg work. Imagine your guys knowing that every Wednesday was Max Effort lower body day and screaming, “YAY! We get to do a five rep max on split squats today! I can’t wait for that.”

I can imagine nothing worse. Guys love to squat. Most of the guys I have trained LIVE to squat. It’s a big, bad ass, fun exercise that you can pile plates on and get all fired up for with some smelling salts and head butts and just get fucking nuts. When guys squat heavy weights they excited. And when they do it all offseason they develop a chip on their shoulder and a “fuck you” attitude that makes them a force when they walk into camp.

This aint happening with lunges.

So it would suck for the atmosphere of your gym and your business and the guys would be missing out on countless benefits.

That’s why there’s not a shot in hell I’ll be cutting out back squats any time soon.

I suggest you follow suit.

Please leave your comments below.