The following is an e-mail from a reader and competitive power lifter. I thought it was really good and have decided to post it here with his permission. It’s easily the most well thought out and written e-mail I’ve gotten as a result of my posts concerning the barbell squat.
The title of this post and the image are my own. The e-mail is posted as originally received with the exception of bolded sections, which is of my own doing.
I realize I’m late to the party, but I felt compelled to offer a little feedback on the squat controversy stirred up as a result of your anti-squat articles.
I’m a competitive powerlifter in the AAPF. I lift AAPF because it’s drug tested – to validate the integrity of my lifts, and because I can lift raw in that organization. Now comes the bomb; Even though you said that the comments you made applied to people who squat for exercise, and excluded the squats application in competition, I STILL agree with you, and think the squat is a stupid exercise. For that matter, so is the bench press, but at least with it you can press from a stable position without any serious danger (I bench in the rack with spot pins), and it does develop strength without too much risk (I also use a narrower grip so I don’t over stress my shoulders).
Back to the squat though…
Speaking personally, I bought into a lot of the “squat, or you’re a pile of shit” and “the squat is the king of exercises” rhetoric. I began competing in 2010 – had lifted for 6 years before that – and had given the squat try after try after try in my training cycles. I always blamed myself for my lack of progress in the lift, mostly attributing it to needing skill development or flexibility. It was self delusion.
In October 2011, I squatted 402 lbs in Montgomery MN at the fall classic (AAPF). Not outstanding by any means, and it was a real grinder to boot. That’s when I began to question it’s value. I experienced low back pain (something not present when I left the squat out of training, even though I kept dead lifting), and would get headaches from the pressure I was putting on my upper spine.
Despite that, I kept backing off the weight, and trying again. But every time it was the same thing. Apart from the nagging low back injury and headaches, I had developed a mild pain / tick in my right shoulder also, which would go away when I left squatting out for a cycle or two (even though I still benched). I would still justify it, not wanting to cut it out of my lifting. Writing this now, it’s almost like I had a learning disability…
I’ve made the decision now to compete in the push-pull, which is offered in the APF/AAPF (and many others as well). I train my bench and dead lift competitively, but my routine has a lot of bodyweight moves, stretching, playing outside climbing on shit, etc… so as not to be exclusively a specialist in those two lifts.
One final note on my experience with the squat is this; It made me feel like shit. When I squatted regularly, I felt ‘leg heavy’ and bloated, and fat. I felt like my posture was all fucked up, and that I was curled forward somehow. I know this is subjective, and critics would immediately question my form, skill, and motivation. Yet, I want to underline, I included squats or squat variations for 6 years prior to competing the first time, and kept attempting to “give them chances” through the last 4 years. I’ve watched every video from every powerlifter I could find. I attended an Elite FTS seminar in London Ohio with some amazing powerlifters present (Matt Kroc, Brian Carroll, Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, etc)… this all in addition to me actually practicing the move based on what I learned. Despite all that, I still had problems, and have thus concluded the following;
I enjoy lifting, and the sport of powerlifting. As long as I can bench and deadlift without pain, or the feeling of “fucked-upped-ness”, I will. But I will not work through nagging bullshit discomfort for 364 days out of the year for the sake of 3 attempts at 1 lift on 1 day at the annual meet in Fargo, ND. There are hosts of alternatives to squatting – you’re right about that. Hill sprints, pushing a prowler, or dragging a sled, shrimp squats, etc… but barbell squats are a bullshit move, at least in my opinion. If one can do them, and they legitimately have no issues as a result, then fine. Go for it. But I hardly believe squatting is a measure of how much of a man or woman you are…