The title of this article is going to infuriate you. I know it.
If you’re a guy, you’ve been faithful to squats for the age-old benefits like monstrous legs, and more anabolic hormones flooding the body. If you’re a girl, you’re married to squats for the promise of sexier glutes and hips.
But are they really all those things? Lets explore three reasons why you shouldn’t squat:
From a strength standpoint, we are neurologically stronger unilaterally (onelegged) vs bilaterally (twolegged). And it makes perfect sense. Our body’s primary responsibility is bipedal locomotion (walking/running), not squatting.
When walking or running we are actually traveling one leg at a time, which explains the neurological strength correlation. Strength coach Mike Boyle says he primarily has his athletes performing single-leg squats, singleleg deadlifts, and rear-leg elevated split squats and has proven the bilateral deficit. Some of his athletes can single-leg deadlift 315 lb, but could never deadlift 630 lb traditionally – a prime example of the bilateral deficit.
It sucks being an adult.
More responsibilities, more bills, but also more physical problems.
As kids, our metabolisms were blazing fast like 4G LTE, our muscle elasticity was better than Gumby’s, and our joints were more mobile than the internet. But as we got older not only did all of that worsen, but we also started practicing something else religiously – sitting.
All that desk jockeying may have improved our financial health, but our movement suffered from it. We have poor seated flexion and poor shoulder mobility. So when you grab a barbell and put it on your back you immediately put your shoulders into external rotation.
Well, what happens when you force shoulder external rotation without good mobility? Lumbar extension. This means the lumbar is excessively arched which is a recipe for pain and injury. Also, because the barbell squat pushes your upper body forward instead of pulling it like a front or goblet squat, it puts excessive stress on the patellofemoral tendon – not great news for your knees.
What should be done instead? Unilateral (single-leg) work.
When we load the legs unilaterally, we activate more latent muscle fibers that help correct this imbalance better than traditional squats. Because of the stabilization requirements, unilateral work will get your glute medius, adductors, and opposite side quadratus lumborum – all necessary for increases in overall strength and correcting movement dysfunction.
If you think single-leg work is too easy and won’t get you shredded and strong like traditional squats, just try it. But make sure you use progressive range of motion before progressive resistance (if you can’t do a full single-leg squat, start with a partial range of motion and work your way up to full range before adding significant load).
Most people believe squats are the best way to develop the glutes and to build overall strength. But as I’ve explained above, the unilateral work is much more effective and necessary to do this.
Remember, our poor posture means our glutes are highly inactive to begin with. So doing a bilateral barbell back squat, a primarily knee dominant (most movement occurs at the knees) exercise, is a poor choice for this. In conjunction with the unilateral work I recommend bilateral hip dominant exercises like the trap bar deadlift.
With this exercise you hinge at the hips while keeping the shoulders retracted and lumbar stable (traditional deadlifts often stress the low back more because it is difficult to keep the shoulders retracted and back flat). If you’re hell-bent on doing bilateral squats I recommend the goblet squat as it loads the core better and helps you sit back more so you can hit the glutes while keeping the knees safe.
In our app, Exerscribe, we provide adaptive workout plans to help get you to your goals in the quickest, safest way possible. Like the “Pandora” of workout apps, it adapts to you with every workout (based on stress levels, sleep quality, personal preferences, etc). Plus, with our 24/7 support it’s like having a back-pocket Master Trainer (our coaches have over 10 certifications and 10,000 hours of experience each).
Our mantra with exercise is…
“function before vanity.”
Too many exercise systems promise to get your “ripped” but often fail because they lack a scientific backbone (no real method to the madness). Instead, we believe that vanity (i.e. 6pack abs) should come naturally as an inherent byproduct of a sound workout program – a program that is progressive, adaptive, and evolutionary (not revolutionary).
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