Squatting - two techniques to help get you lower
Hopefully the world has recovered from the much discussed "when squatting, your knees can't go over your toe" debate. (If you are still wondering about this simply Google Karl Klein and you might find out some interesting things.)
As opposed to a blanket rule for everyone, how low you go in your squat should be dictated more by your training goals and anatomy. Including your upper body.
Which brings us to today's discussion – the position, or angle of the torso while performing squats.
As always I feel like a politician on Election Day because there is no definitive answer to this question. I implore you to be cautious of the person who tells you, as an absolute, you must perform the squat (or any exercise for that matter) in a specific manner.
There are two general variations of the squat which we'll focus on in order to explain why there is not one single correct method: one is a more hip dominant movement, and the other is a more quad dominant exercise.
The hip dominant style positions the bar lower down on your back and requires you to initiate the movement by sitting back with your hips. This means, in order for the bar to stay over your base of support, you will have a significant forward lean of your torso.
Some fitness enthusiasts will cry out that this places too much stress on the lower back and the movement now looks more like a good morning than a squat, which may be true if when performing the ascent of the exercise the hips rise early.
However, if you drive out of the bottom and maintain the same back angle for the first portion of the lift, not only is this technique safe, it generally favours those looking to maximise load. It does this by placing the majority of the load on the hip area, which is a stronger area generally than the quads.
But if quad development is something you are looking to emphasise, then look no further than the high bar squat, which utilises an upright torso position.
This will mean the knees travel over the toes (which science has determined is totally okay for knee health), and place more stress through the quadriceps. For those who suffer lower back pain this may be an alternative that is worth attempting as the lack of horizontal movement of the hips minimises the load placed on this area.
This variance in squatting technique is highlighted in two common strength sports and the athletes that compete in them, powerlifting VS Olympic weightlifting.
Traditionally a powerlifter will perform the more hip dominant style, as their goal is to maximise load lifted. Conversely an Olympic weightlifter needs to get underneath the bar as quickly as possibly to perform the catch of the clean or the overhead position in the snatch, and this is done by getting the hips under the bar as quickly as possible.