A Part of Me Died

Life is spinning out of control,
seems the whole world is out to get you,
Everything is wrong, nothing seems right-eh.

But you can’t let it bring you down,
No you’ve got to fight-ehhhhh…
Baseketball

I’m really good at pointing out things that are wrong, so let’s get started.

1. Nobody in this video can string a sentence together confidently. At one point Maurice Greene says that the coach is going “to facilitate us on the weightroom”. Huh??? Then he says, “Here we have Montel Douglas who is the British national record holder…for Great Britain…and shit.” I added the last part because they undoubtedly had to edit that part out. Then the coach makes up his sentence as he goes along as if he’s never had to think about it before. Then he says the squat is “important for a track athlete to simply create force into the ground”. To clarify, we don’t summon force out of thin air like a demon, we apply force into the ground so that Newton’s third law occurs (equal and opposite reaction) to move. I’m not expecting this explanation, but I am expecting correct terminology when you’re a supposed expert.

I could keep going. “We go a hip-width distance” — of what? “We feel that halfway to a quarter is deep enough,” — sharing your feelings is not a way to prove why to do something.

Sure, even I have bad days with communicating, but this was terrible. What is Montel the world record holder of? Why should track athletes lift weights? What is this squat movement accomplishing? Why is this “new” movement beneficial?

2. “What better exercise to load the lower body than the barbell squat,” and then he hardly loads the body by doing a partial rep. And wasn’t this the reason that Maurice stated that they didn’t want to go deeper?

3. “Puts a lot of stress on yo body, creates injuries…and shit”. If you perform the squat like Maurice Greene, who is labeling himself as the expert, then yes, they can be injurious. In fact, decent squats can be injurious if regular mobility work isn’t performed. This is why a proper squat is done with the hip going below the knee so that it trains the lower body joints and musculature through a full range of motion. This is also why proper foot attire is worn to increase the efficiency and subsequently the safety. Remember that lifting shoes have the slight heel increase, the non-compressible sole, the meta-tarsal straps, and the wider sole base to help solidify the articulation of the athlete to the ground so that they can properly apply force. Furthermore, lifting shoes help utilize the body’s mechanics more efficiently to distribute force evenly across the thighs and hips regardless of anthropometry. A belt will only increase all of this efficiency by increasing the intra-abdominal and thoracic pressure, increasing the stability of the trunk which will not only improve the transmission of force (AKA performance), but help protect the spine by improving the pneumatic “brace” against the anterior portion of the spine.

4. Since when do sprinters run with a short range of motion? I haven’t watched sprinting in this year’s Olympics, but my understanding is that good sprinting takes the hips through, or nearly through, a full range of motion. Wouldn’t we want to train all of this musculature through a full, albeit safe, ROM so that we are as strong as possible? Even if this wouldn’t help us apply force, which it does, it would at least strengthen the musculature through a full ROM to help reduce the chance of injury since the structures adapt to handling greater forces.

Oh, that’s weird. Here’s a pic of Maurice Greene with both of his hips near or at their limit of hip flexion and extension.

5. I could understand an argument that full ROM squats may be too stressful for inclusion in a sprint program in the same way that I say deadlifts are too stressful for certain stages of programs (i.e. for Oly lifters, soldiers, or football players), but that’s not the argument here. Furthermore, even if it was, the sprint athlete most likely has a periodized approach to their training year, especially if they are peaking for World Championships or the Olympics. Therefore they’d be changing the volume, intensity, and frequency of their squatting. Also, they would, at this point, be adapted to handling both squatting and sprinting during the week because they have been progressed into it.

6. I’m pretty sure that when I was younger I read an article in Men’s Health (or similar crappy magazine) that Maurice Greene was squatting 315 for sets of 10 in his training. I’ve seen reports that he squatted above 500. Even if it wasn’t Maurice in the mag, there are many documented reports of him squatting decently heavy to prepare for his sprinting. We can assume he at least went to the depth he showed in the above video. Wouldn’t that show us that it worked? He held the world record in the 100m at 9.79s, he won two gold medals, a silver, and a bronze. He won five world championships as well as one indoor world championship. Can we not say that squatting supported all of this? When he won his gold medals at the 2000 Games, he was 26. In 2001, he started having issues with injuries, but still won the silver and bronze in the 2004 Games at 30 years old. He eventually retired in 2005 at the age of 31. His first major international tournament was in 1995 when he was 21 years old and he failed to make the Olympic team the following year. This means that he had at least 10 years of hard, elite-level training. We can assume that he was training for at least 3 years before his first major tournament, putting his highly demanding competitive years at 13. He probably ran track in high school, but we’ll ignore those four possible years.

What does all of this mean? He was very accomplished, but as he got older, his body broke down. This happens to everyone. There isn’t enough performance enhancement drugs to account for getting older (Greene said he bought PEDs, but allegedly didn’t use them). 30 years old is ancient in demanding professional sports. Most guys are out of the NFL before they are 28. It’s not that crazy to assume that his body couldn’t keep up with the demands of elite level sprint training anymore, and this is almost certainly what happened. Sure, he could have gotten hurt squatting, but he was “getting old”. 30 isn’t old, all things considered, but it is for Olympians in a high demanding sport. Sorry Maurice, just because you regret having to retire and don’t accept the fact that you can’t retain physical prowess forever doesn’t meant that full squats are bad or injurious. And we aren’t even taking the fact that you don’t squat efficiently into consideration. It’s hard for me to take a guy seriously who squatted his whole life, had an amazing career, and then campaigns against doing them.

7. Track coaches do some weird things. Barry Ross has his sprinters deadlift the bar to the knees, then drop it to the floor. This removes the eccentric portion which apparently helps reduce injuries. It’s a “halting deadlift”, which is typically really fucking useless, but in this case I can see the applicability because it strengthens the concentric action of the hamstrings, but more importantly strengthens the back and hip musculature to stabilize everything for sprinting. I explain this concept in my seminars, but if your hips are not held in place during sprinting, then you are losing out on some arbitrary amount of force you area applying to the ground with each foot strike.

I can understand the above example for a specific type of athlete with a specific mechanical and structural demand for a single modality athletic event. I concede to the fact that something weird may be applicable to a very specific athlete. However, the above example is supported by anatomy, mechanics, and logic; the quarter squat is not. It mostly loads the knee extensors through a few degrees of motion. I guess it looks like that stupid VMO exercise people use while standing on a block. I’m not against using weird, yet specific assistance exercises to build up an area that can enhance total movement. But don’t label it as something that is the holy grail or the primary strengthener. In other words, don’t use a cute, gimmicky exercise and sell it as the “main thing to do”. That’s the only way that I could see the quarter squat being used, but even then it doesn’t make sense from an anatomical, mechanics, or logical perspective.

8. The athlete can be good in spite of stupid exercises. There’s a guy who trained in the gym in Texas. He is a white guy of average height and weight and played collegiate football. He is a freak. He has at least a 40 inch vertical and would be squatting 500 for reps within several minutes of walking in the gym. In basketball shoes. He didn’t really listen to coaching very well and just did his own thing, but he was strong as hell doing it his way. He reportedly squatted 700 pounds in college and was the quarterback.

My point? In spite of not having completely sound mechanics, this guy was strong and powerful. And he’s not an Olympian or an elite athlete. Imagine someone who is not only gifted physically, but has the drive and determination to be great. They are truly a freak in the average person’s eyes, capable of outstanding performances. People like this can and will make progress in spite of inefficient training techniques or programming because they have such a great genetic potential and an iron will to work hard.

We see this all of the time with crappy strength programs in collegiate, even high school, settings that produce beasts that can bench 500 pounds and squat 600+ with little to no training. It’s not absurd to have an elite athlete do a stupid, meaningless exercise and they will improve nonetheless. Some strengthening is better than no strengthening, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

This means that regardless of ability, a coach should do his job to strengthen the relevant musculature through full ranges of motion, maintaining or improving the mobility of the athlete, and not only not injure the athlete, but train them so that they are harder to hurt. By these qualifications, the coach in the video failed.

At least there are some Olympians who understand the power of squats.

Robert Forstemann and Andre Griepel have a “quad off”

52 thoughts on “A Part of Me Died

  1. After reading this, I now know how my wife must feel whenever we watch some half-assed boxing/MMA conditioning on all these ‘fitness makeover’ shows.
    I get pretty enraged and incredulous, and there might be some wild gesturing towards the TV.

    Just goes to show you though, there’s a lot of terrible information out there. I’ve been working out and training for a while now, and even I would probably give this training advice some credence, because Maurice Green has some legit numbers behind him. So it’s good to know there’s vigilant people out there calling B.S. when they see it.

    Great analysis here.

  2. Part of you died today, but since you’ve trained smart you’ll rise again in three days.

    I have seen this exact explanation of how to “squat”–including the unintelligible syntax–almost daily at my gym for years. I’m by no means a perfect squatter, but I think I do them well and I’ve had the Gold’s Gym “trainers” point to me doing my below parallel squats as an example of what not to do. Bullshit squats are as much of a pandemic as stupidity. Maybe we can reduce the amount of misinformation out there, but as the great Ron White so eloquently put it, you can’t fix stupid.

    • I dunno, second vid looked deeper than the first one – kinda looked like hip crease was lower than top of knees… Not that it matters, lol.

        • In the videos he is high bar squatting though, which is incredibly easy to hit depth. If its lowbar, that depth isn’t bad, but it could be slightly deeper in my opinion. For high bar though, there’s no reason to stop there.

    • So brave!

      And no, they made a claim with zero evidence. Justin doesn’t have to scientifically prove them wrong. They never proved themselves RIGHT.

      This is every full blooded American’s duty, to question “experts” when they sound like they are full of shit.

    • You keep shouting for “scientific proof” of things. You’re naive to think that there is proof of anything that is actually effective in “exercise science”, especially with lifting mechanics.

      I was going to say, “What the hell do I know, I don’t train Olympians,” but then I actually analyzed it and there’s no basis for doing the movement in the video other than the fact that it’s meaningless, doesn’t apply much of a stress, and therefore allows the athlete to train harder on the track (I pointed this out in the post).

  3. I really can’t stand how he had her put one foot back, then said “which puts 80% give or take on one leg.”
    Think about this. You are already doing something in between a quarter-squat and a split-squat with a top-tier athlete and then guestimating the amount of stimulus administered. Why not just do a single-leg squat? That’s sloppy and inattentive coaching. Obviously, there’s more to their “system” than this 2 minute video provides, but this is not a good start. I do doubt a program that has an athlete doing single leg ANYTHING instead of an actual squat.

    Here’s a question. If you knew how an athlete trained, would it change the way you placed your bets regarding their matches?

    • Training in the gym is only part of the equation. Stupid training in the gym can be harmful at worst or meaningless at best. We’re only getting a small taste of one facilities method here applied with one, maybe two high level athletes.

      That being said, I do wonder what kind of training that people who are injury prone perform. For example, Andre Davis (wide receiver for the Houston Texans) just got hurt…again. I’d be curious to see what he does during the off season and what type of training he recently has done as well as historically done. My hypothesis is that poor gym training will open up an athlete to more injuries (due to lack of adaptation on structures because the joints and musculature aren’t trained properly, and potentially some muscle imbalances). There’s not really any way of testing this by collecting data though.

      • To any fantasy owner, (or sports fan) this is a very intriguing point. There are just some guys who are constantly pulling something. What the hell are they doing (or not doing)? I’ve seen team trainers get blamed, maybe for good reason, but it would be very interesting to look at the out-dated mobility (i.e. stretching) work pro athletes are doing, not to mention their (potential) shitty form in the weight room…

        And what’s with the oblique injuries this year in baseball?

        • I don’t think the trainers are to blame. They all come from the same stock and their techniques are not going to vary much. My opinion is that it’s more so the long and short-term training history of the athlete. Athletic Trainers do not know strength and conditioning because it isn’t in their job description. They specifically treat injuries after they occur. Part of their mindset may be in “prevention” during rehab, but that’s more in the vein of “how do we not re-injure this?”

          They aren’t the ones who physically train the athletes. That would be the role of the “strength coach” for a given team. We know how that goes. Methods vary significantly from machines to basic, crappy dumbbell work. Either way, strength coaches act primarily in a “maintenance role”.

          It’s up to the athlete to choose where or how he trains in the off-season. It’s up to those coaches to determine whether he is balanced or not. My opinion and gauge on the matter is that a majority — not all — of the “high dollar training centers” do not accomplish things very well. There are some that put a premium on movement prep and mobility, but are those athletes performing optimally? There are places that claim to strength train athletes (like in the video in this post), and they are way off the mark. There are others that train old school style, but with some fancier programming (Joe DeFranco), and I wonder how his athletes do throughout their seasons.

          At the end of the day, a sport like football is still a contact sport and injuries will occur in a career. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to discern whether it’s a “predisposition to being injured”, if certain injuries will occur no matter how the athlete trains, or if there are links between certain training techniques and injury rates.

          Some sort of meta-analysis would be interesting, yet it wouldn’t be specific enough to compare across the board.

      • As a houstonian and Texans fan, I share this sentiment regarding Andre Johnson. I think about the hell he must have gone through last season and wonder what he did, of anything, to prepare his body for this season. I hope Foster has things in order and doesn’t have something happen considering he is now a VEGAN! That’s another issue altogether but who am I to have an opinion on his diet decisions…

  4. Pingback: Partial Squats or Full Squats? « Strength Disciple

  5. i’m sick of this apparent need to mimic a sports specific ROM in the gym. Like when people are like “i’m a cyclist i don’t need to do deep squats, i squat to mimic the range of motion while pedaling.” really? so do you also never stand up straight? because you sure as hell don’t ever reach full extension while cycling, so why don’t you just spend your life in flexion so you’ll be a better cyclist, champ. I guess Pitchers should only use one fucking arm in the gym now, eh? Or better yet, they should be squeezing a stress ball with their glove hand to improve their catching strength.

    jokesters.

    The gym should be for getting your body strong in its FULL ROM, period.

    I’m injured right now, I can’t fucking squat more than 200lbs without pain. And I have to watch elite athletes take their perfect, god sculpted bodies for granted? fucking quarter squats?

    Yes I’m mad.

  6. what struck me was the line “we don’t need to go that low, it creates less injuries”. That is probably exactly what those coaches of elite athletes do, they are already proven in their respective sport to be one of the best and they are sent to these facilities to ‘work-out’. The trainer there would be out of his mind to let that athlete do something that might cause an injury. So let them squat with friggin light weights and get them about a quarter down. John Welbourn talked about this with Rip in his interview with him, if some of you are interested in this point of view: http://startingstrength.com/index.php/site/video/sss_wel1/

    • But these athelets always claim huge squats in the 5-600 range. And I doubt they change their form from these “instructional” videos to their heavy attempts. So if they kept with light weight, sure let them do it halfway down, but I guarantee they’re piling on a ton of weight in training.

      • If so than that is even more stupid. But I guess we are going into a ‘ hear-say’ kinda discussion. Though it always strikes me that there a lot of videos out there of these top-athletes with awful technique in strength training. I guess if you are a good enough, you can get away with a lot. But I always wonder how much better they good be if they trained correctly

  7. I’m surprised nobody has said it before me but here goes: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…..THIS IS WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST!!!

    “We have a very unique way of squatting” No you don’t, every dipshit and his wife worldwide now think this is the correct way to squat. If I had the opportunity to train in a facility like that, you better believe Id be squatting ass to ankles.

  8. Well what were you expecting from this video. It was just a citi card commercial to make lazy fatties that workout at planet fitness feel better about being lazy and fat so they will pay for their “health” food and gym membership with a citi card. Also don’t think Maurice was there to impart some knowledge he felt everyone needed to know, he was there to not miss a mortgage payment. BTW the last thing anyone says in the video is incorrect and misleading. “Fox sports for all your Olympic needs.” Except the fucking Olympics!

  9. Hey guys, sorry to break it to you, but proper squats have changed over the years. Also, sexual intercourse has changed too, we now only need to use just the tip. Anything more and you’re just trying too hard. You can thank me later.

  10. This video was brilliant. Why squat when I can do the cliff notes version? It’ll leave me with more energy to run a marathon.

    (this was sarcasm)

  11. Following up on your earlier comment about predicting athletes injuries, what are your thoughts about some of Gray Cook’s work on FMS and looking at imbalances being a predicting factor for injuries?

    Also, it’s been a while since I read about those Barry Ross partial DLs, but I thought the reasoning behind them was that cutting out the eccentric lowering created less strain on the muscles allowing them to get more sport specific training on the track. This makes sense to me for someone just concerned with their competitive running times; obviously not for someone with strength goals.

  12. I feel like most “elite” trainers are just in the business of not injuring the athletes. I want to see the training that got them to elite status, not what some tool is having them do after they already got there.

  13. I would say it’s a sad day for the strength and conditioning world, but I don’t think logic like that demonstrated in the video even qualifies for the realm of S&C.

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  15. Although Maurice did not offer any scientific evidence, neither did your reply. Anecdotal evidence may work in some instances, but does not in your plight. Maurice “running in a full range” for example has nothing to do with squatting in a full range of motion. As long as his hip has the proper flexibility throughout his running range of motion (which can be accomplished by stretching), and his intramuscular coordination is properly sequenced (which one acquires from running) then an athlete can run fast in a full hip range of motion (which is technically only the hip flexors and hip extensors that are in a full range… which one could argue is still not even as full of a range as possible).

    I think a lot of people forget about the fact that the hamstrings are attached to the hip, and have an action of hip extension as well as knee flexion. Hip extension helps in the squat all the way to the top of the squat, meaning the hamstrings are working along with the quadriceps and gluteus maximus (femoral abduction) at the beginning of the squat decent (eccentrically), further proven by Shelburne (2002), “Quadriceps and hamstrings muscle forces increase with increasing knee flexion angle. The quadriceps muscles develop higher forces than the hamstrings at all flexion angles greater than 20 degrees. Peak force in the quadriceps occurs as the model accelerates upward from the initial squatting position (Quads at 79 degrees). Hamstrings muscle force increases slightly as the model approaches the final standing position.”

    There are some false personas about squat depth mostly coming from studies from the 1960’s to 1974, coming from the idea that maintaining center of gravity was the only deciding factor on whether squats were safe.

    The knee to toe principle was tested in 2003 (Fry) proving that more pressure indeed was placed on the knee when the knees were allowed to pass the toes. Although the hips torque increased while keeping the knees behind the toes, I think we can all agree that the muscles supporting this extra hip torque is far more capable of handling it than the alternative future knee damage.

    There also have been studies illustrating numerous different knee vector angles that can add to knee stress during a squat, most of which is problematic with a further decent (more problems with more range of motion).

    Most text-book studied professionals (surface level understanding) will cite the idea that a full squat offers less torque on the knee than stopping before the full squat position. Although biomechanically the moment arm has decreased offering less overall torque, the muscles supporting the knee are in an almost fully stretched position offering a significant decrease in possible contractions. Since the quadriceps, hamstrings (in their hip extension action) and gluteus maximus are all in their mostly stretched positions, very little help leads to larger torque percentage being transferred to the tendons and ligaments. Innervation levels will still appear high, but according to Farina (2006) “Detection of the timing of muscle activation is a reliable analysis technique with relevant applications when crosstalk is limited. However, the modulation of signal amplitude is not easily related to the excitation level of the muscle,” which only relates to increased calcium releases into the sarcomere (muscle fiber smallest compartment). This more than likely (it cannot be observed with current science) means that less actual contractions happen since there needs to be a three molecule chain in order to make a contraction (troponin, calcium, tropomyosin), which is less likely the further these molecule are apart.

    So technically the science supports the idea that shorter range is actually more efficient. In fact, Clark (2011) stated that full range of motion is “sub-optimal.” This would explain why in Massey’s two studies the full range received statistically similar results compared to majorly restricted range of motion, since the partial range participants were able to get the same results by working out about 40 minutes less each day.

    The idea that partial range is more efficient may be difficult to swallow, especially for those that have spent their lives teaching otherwise… but the shoe appears to fit.

    References:
    Shelburne KB, Pandy MG. A dynamic model of the knee and lower limb for stimulating rising movements. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering; Vol. 5 (2), 149-160, 2002

    Fry AC, Smith JC, Schilling BK. Effect of knee position on hip and knee torques during the barbell squat. J Strength Cond Res. Nov; 17(4): 629-33, 2003

    Farina, Dario. Interpretation of the surface electromyogram in dynamic contractions. Exercise & Sports Sciences Reviews; 34 (3): 121-127, 2006

    Clark RA et al. The influence of variable range of motion training on neuromuscular performance and control of external loads. J Strength Cond Res; Mar; 25 (3): 704-11, 2011

    • “Maurice “running in a full range” for example has nothing to do with squatting in a full range of motion.”

      Actually, it does. We’re talking about strengthening structures, including musculature, of the knees, hips, and related segments (like the trunk) so that the strength can then be developed through skill work (sprinting/drills/etc.) to be faster.

      You suggesting that I “forget” where the hamstrings attach is pretty misinformed too. Unless you’re agreeing with me? In which case you you’re not making any sense. You “I need to see the science” people don’t understand that there is no “hard science” for these things, because even the studies that would look at the squat don’t say anything (they some times don’t even define what a squat is, much less perform an accurate squat). You cite exercise science literature as if it’s relevant.

      Yes, in your case here, there is support for it, but

      1. The studies could have crappy methodology
      2. The studies could look at an irrelevant population, one that cannot be generalized to others
      3. They may not have quantified a squat
      4. If they did, it may be wrong anyway
      5. If they look at something like net forces at the knee, that’s irrelevant to us because we know that people who squat correctly and not stupidly won’t have knee problems, and the forces will help improve the structural integrity of the knee.
      6. One study showing something doesn’t prove anything anyway

      This field does not have good science. Sorry.

      • “Actually, it does. We’re talking about strengthening structures, including musculature, of the knees, hips, and related segments (like the trunk) so that the strength can then be developed through skill work (sprinting/drills/etc.) to be faster.” –
        This doesn’t offer any reasons why running in a full range has to do with squatting in a full range. It also ignores the fact that your hip flexors and gluteus maximus are the only muscles that “could” be construed as in a full range, even though they likely are not.

        Strengthening can take place within any range of motion. There is no such thing as “range specific” strength training since the same fibers are being used throughout. The difference is simply the lack of ability to contract due to numerous physiological inhibitions.

        My explanation of the action of the hamstring was dealing with a generic idea on hamstring involvement; not necessarily directed at anyone specifically.

        Blaming a lack of scientific understanding would make sense, but to directly say that there is no science in squatting seems extremely naive. If someone does not understand the science and research then how could they know if the research is relevant?

        “Yes, in your case here, there is support for it,” – Although I am always glad when someone agrees with me, the fact that you continued with a generic hypothetical statement about the grand scheme of studies makes me wonder why you would be so quick to skip to the fourth step of the scientific method without merit?

        There is science in this field, though I fully agree with you that there is a complete lack of understanding of much of the information; however, understanding that in itself is part of the process towards a better answer.

        A good amount of knowledge has been accumulated over the last half of a century, and bobbing and weaving through it can be tiresome. It’s best to start from the most basic level of mechanics with the actin and myosin. These structures overlap (or don’t when they are stretched) and create a contraction when their troponin and tropomyosin are mutually attracted to the calcium that is deposited within the sarcomere. If they are too far apart (from doing a full range squat for example – the bottom portion of the movement) then they will not contract. You will always have some that are close enough, but the further you stretch the more you lose out on a contraction.

        By this logic performing a full range squat is a very inefficient way of contracting a muscle, when you should focus on the range that offers the best possibilities for the most amount of fibers to maintain their overlap.

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