Performing the Powerlifting Squat for Raw Lifters

Posted on 31 Mar 2013 19:26

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By Ashiem Matthn

I was browsing through some videos on YouTube and I came across some very important questions regarding squats. A lot of people are getting into powerlifting and training for maximal strength and one of the exercises that all powerlifting clubs and fitness fad programs tries to push is the back squat. This is why everybody is very obsessed with squatting. For all the powerlifters out there, the number one important exercise is the back squat because their entire meet begins with this exercise and they are able to use their gear to make the most of it.

I am not going to discuss gear usage or whether it is right or wrong or whether it is the black sheep in the powerlifting family. I really do not care about gear.

What I do want to discuss is my observations regarding beginners and people new to strength training. I recognize that both the new tech-savvy generation and the older generation that embraces technology are very impressionable. We love to watch more advanced and stronger guys lifting heavy weights; it inspires us all and provides motivation. I get that. But a lot of these impressionable people are watching powerlifting videos and trying to mimic the squat.

To begin with, one should never try to mimic somebody’s maximal attempt because it will never be picture perfect nor will it provide a concise view of what the trainee’s form in day-to-day training looks like. Maximum attempts are about getting the job done no matter what.

What I have observed is that people watch these big guys squatting insane numbers and when they try to replicate their form on the squat, they end up complaining about knees hurting or hips being in pain or groin strains or the movement feeling unnatural. The thing that nobody is mentioning out loud is that most of the famous big boys and girls who lift the big weights are squatting using squat suits, knee wraps, belts, briefs, and a whole assortment of various gear. So the insanely wide stances and the almost upright torsos while hitting “legal depth” just cannot be replicated by raw lifters training in shorts and a tee. Powerlifters who squat while using gear do not squat the same way when they don’t use the gear. The gear forces them to use such wide stances and it enables them to keep a more upright torso. It is natural for the movement – the powerlifting type squat - to feel utterly alien and unnatural for regular folks training without gear.

These videos of 1200 pound squats or other massive weights are almost always done by powerlifters wearing gear. There is nothing wrong or immoral about it but if you try to mimic this movement without sporting the gear, it is very probable that you will find it unnecessarily difficult and you will run into a wall either due to injury or some strain due to the impractical nature of the gear-assisted movement when one is not using gear.

As a raw lifter who is new to squatting, focus on opening your hips, pulling the bar down (instead of pushing it up or “palming it”) during both the eccentric and concentric phase of the movement, and keeping a tight core.

Furthermore, if you want to learn how to squat, check out the following three articles because they will be of great help to you. But before I post the links, let me say that if you are not using gear and you are currently struggling to do what you see the geared big boys do when they squat and if while doing this you are feeling pain, unnatural aches, or you are hurting yourself: please stop. That is not the way most raw lifters perform the squat. Yes, it might work for a few lifters but if it is not working for you, then you should not push the envelope on this.

Tweaking the Overhead Squat by Eric Troy

The Wrong Way to Squat by Joe Weir

Curing the “Buttwink” during Squats by Eric Troy

To end on a humerous note, check out the video below that pits the Weightlifting Squat and the Powerlifting Squat against each other:


This page created 31 Mar 2013 19:26
Last updated 19 Jul 2016 22:06

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