When you squat you don't drive through your heels. Or at least as a weightlifter you shouldn't. I watched a video today published by Juggernaut Training Systems involving Chad Wesley Smith and Max Aita talking about weight displacement in the squat. Generally whenever they publish anything, be it a video or a podcast, I take notice. Not only have they been successful athletes, but more importantly, they have been successful coaches.
Your weight should be directly over your mid foot. For a while I have been convinced of this myself, that driving through the heels isn't right, and now backed up by these two coaches, I feel confident enough to explain why.
It is worth understanding the importance of maintaining your weight over your mid foot. As a weightlifter, if you squat 200kg with your weight over your mid foot it is logical that you will be a more developed weightlifter, and that the strength you have developed will transfer better to your snatch and clean and jerk, allowing you to lift more than if you squatted 200kg sat far back on your heels.
IAs always there are a few reasons. The first is positional, the second to do with muscular development.
So in terms of being in the correct position, weightlifting requires as much of an upright torso as possible. This lends itself to catching a snatch, but more importantly catching and standing up a clean in a perfect position. This should not be news to any of you.
If right now you squat down your weight will be on your mid foot. Watch a toddler squat down and you will see the same. Look at people in who's culture they tend to squat while in a resting position. Their weight will be on their mid foot. Now YOU try and shift your weight back far onto your heels. As you do so you will notice 2 main things happen. The first is to do with your knees, something I will get into on the next portion of this blog. The second thing, which falls under the subheading positional, is that to shift your weight back without falling you must lean over further forwards with your torso. The only way to truly lean back onto your heels whilst remaining as upright as possible is to do so by holding onto something in front to prevent yourself from tipping over.
Not only does sitting on our heels make us lean forwards, it pushes our hips back. This is why it is often said in powerlifting, namely equipped powerlifting, to sit back on your heels, and quite rightly so! Because in that sport, the squat is a competitive lift. They care only about how much weight they can lift. For us as weightlifters the squat is a means to an end. We use it solely to develop strength where we need it for our OWN competitive lifts. If squatting as much as possible regardless of form was the most important thing to us we would all low bar and wear triple ply gear. But it isn't our goal. Our goal is to squat as much as possible with the correct form to develop the correct muscles for our sport. This is the reason that powerlifters squat high bar in the off season; to develop strength in their quads which they can then transfer over to their own low bar technique and lift more later on.
The high bar squat is an exercise and only that.
So if we want to get the most out of the squat, we must mimic the clean and snatch as much as possible. The further back on our heels we sit, the more likely our knees are going to be pushed back, and the more likely we are to lean forwards. In this position our quads have a less dominant role, leading me onto the second overall reason for keeping our weight mid foot.
2) Muscular Development
The transference of exercises is the most important thing to think about when picking exercises. We pick the squat because it has a great transference to the sport of weightlifting. We don't pick the bench press often because it has far less of a transference. The squat allows us to stimulate the quads far greater than a clean would so that we can develop a surplus of strength with which to pull the bar and then stand it up. Louie Simmons is famous for saying that the quads do nothing for the squat. Perhaps for his sport of equipped powerlifting he is right... But honestly for weightlifting he is entirely wrong (Listen to the Weightlifting House podcast episode where Glenn and I talk about Westside for Weightlifting. We speak about this exact matter). The quads are knee extensors. They are the prime movers in the squat. So we must squat in a way that develops the quads the most. The most advantageous portion of the squat to develop the quads is as you stand up out of the hole. Keeping our knees forward and not letting them shift back (thus overloading the back instead) allows us to develop the quads appropriately. If we keep our weight on our mid foot this becomes possible. If we shift our weight onto our heels it becomes very difficult to achieve much quad stimulation as our knees are likely to shoot back and our lower back takes over.
I need to wrap this up now.
I happen to be a lifter with a strong back and weak legs. I do everything I shouldn't when I squat. My knees shoot back out of the whole and the lifts becomes a lower back exercise and not a quad exercise. The transference of this style of squatting is limited. Having recently realised this I went to the gym yesterday to squat with the weight more on my mid foot whilst keeping my knees further forward the entire time. I could not squat anywhere near as much as normal. BUT for one of the first times in my weightlifting career, I have awoken today with some very sore quads... lower back, not so much.
I am going to keep this up until I can squat the same amount as I used to be able to with this perfected form. I guarantee my snatch and clean & jerk will drastically improve.
Don't forget to listen to this week's podcasts episodes. The first on powers and sets of 5 for strength lifts, the second on the weekly weightlifting news.
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