Last night, I watched my niece Gabrielle play volleyball. She’s on varsity as a junior and her games are getting more and more exciting as she advances in years. I wrote about Gaby in early 2010 HERE, and posted a video of her first training session.
Side rant: My dreams of her becoming a world class sprinter came to an end when she tried out for track & field, made the team, and was then told by her volleyball coach for her club team that she was not permitted to join track due to the time requirements involved in club volleyball. I can’t tell you how much this infuriates me, and it’s a serious problem that plagues youth sports worldwide.
At around 5’4″, Gaby is one of the shortest players on her team. There were a handful of players taller than 6’0″, with two that were 6’4″ or 6’5″.
I was amazed at the power that some of the girls were able to generate, especially from the taller players who haven’t yet developed into their bodies. You see some lanky, clumsy, awkward appearing physiques, but when they spike the volleyball, they’re able to turn it on and exhibit some serious explosiveness. I found myself trying to predict the 1RM squats of the various players on the team, despite having never trained them.
Another side rant: I have seen the way Gaby’s team trains as they go to a “sport-specific” training studio that posts videos on their Facebook page and it’s just about the worst training I’ve ever seen for volleyball. There’s an art and a science to strength & conditioning, and if you’re charged with the role of getting athletes better than you should take the practice seriously.
Prescribing solely circuits involving Swiss ball exercises, jump rope, and lateral raises under the guise of “building teamwork” and “working on their stamina” without ever performing a weighted compound movement is complete B.S. and is essentially robbing the naive parents who don’t know any better. It’s also far from “sport specific” and is an injustice to sports science. What’s worse is that the owner of the facility is good friends with the head coach so the players are expected to attend the facility. And what’s even worse than all of this is that the players are unaware of their vertical leaps as it doesn’t get measured. How convenient for the crappy training facility – no accountability!
At any rate, I imagine that some of the shorter, stockier girls would be capable of full squatting 95-115 lbs, but I imagine that some of the taller, lankier girls wouldn’t be able to full squat properly with a barbell. They’d most likely need to start off with goblet squats and master the technique before graduating to a barbell. This brings me to my next point.
An Athlete Can Suck at Squatting and Still be Incredibly Powerful
Out of the primary explosive actions in sports, including jumping, sprinting, cutting, throwing, striking, and kicking, the squat most closely replicates the jumping pattern. It doesn’t well-replicate sprinting, cutting, throwing, striking, or kicking in terms of joint angles and torques.
As I previously mentioned, when watching the volleyball game, I saw some lanky girls who most likely couldn’t full squat 65 lbs throwing down some serious spikes. Their timing and coordination for the spike was incredible, even though their squat strength would be laughed at in most athletic circles.
This doesn’t just apply to volleyball. How much do you think the typical basketball center could full squat? I bet most couldn’t get 225 lbs. What about Usain Bolt? He probably couldn’t full squat 225 lbs (see how Usain trains HERE), yet he’s the fastest man on the planet.
I can think of plenty of world class athletes who probably suck at squatting. Fedor Emelianenko, one of the best heavyweight MMA fighters in history, probably couldn’t squat that much, but he could knock your head off. I’m thinking back to guys like Jerry Rice, Carl Lewis, and LeBron James and pondering their full squatting prowess.
I’ve heard various claims of athletes squatting a lot of weight, such as Kobe Bryant using over 400 lbs (but this was a half-squat), Ben Johnson busting out 600 lbs for 6 reps (Charlie Francis says this was a half-squat in his book), and various other reports. But videos of form are lacking so I always remain skeptical of depth. I also realize that looks can be deceiving and sometimes a lifter’s squat strength can take you by surprise. The point is, you can be incredibly powerful, fast, and explosive without having a crazy squat.
Years back I trained a guy named Kenny Dobbs who had a 48″ vertical leap and could touch his nose to the basketball rim but could only full squat around 115 lbs. And yet he’s one of the best dunkers on the planet.
Now, I can think of some athletes who had great builds for squats. Guys like Barry Sanders, Herschel Walker, and Mike Tyson could probably have worked their way up to 500 lb full squats within 6 months if they worked with a qualified strength coach. But weight training should never out-prioritize field performance, so this wouldn’t be necessary or even optimal as there becomes a point where risks can outweigh rewards.
Squats and Performance Aren’t Well Correlated With All Athletes
As you can see, squats and athletic performance are not well correlated. The best players aren’t the best squatters, far from it.
Here would be my prediction if you were very strict with form and made the various athletes actually squat as deep as they could go, ass-to-grass (sure I’m assuming that they have the ankle/hip mobility to do so but this is just hypothetical):
Of course, I could be way off the mark here as I never trained these individuals or saw them train. But I do wonder about these things. If Ben performed 600 lb half-squats, then I imagine this would equate to 455 lb full squats.
I’d like to hear other coaches’ opinions about these athletes’ squat strength, and if any readers have knowledge of their squat strength, or impressive feats of strength with pro athletes for that matter, then please chime in in the comments section below.
Nevertheless, Squats are One of the Absolute Best Things You Can Do for Most Athletes, Especially in Their Earlier Years of Training
The point of this article isn’t to dismiss the squat. It’s a staple in strength & conditioning for great reason and it’s one of my favorite exercises to perform and prescribe.
Furthermore, the squat has been used in numerous training studies in the literature with great success for developing strength, vertical jump, acceleration, rate of force development, and leg mass – probably 50-100 studies at this point in time. Interestingly, it doesn’t transfer well to agility performance.
Just because an athlete sucks at the squat doesn’t mean that he or she shouldn’t perform it. The squat is a staple movement pattern and all athletes should employ some type of squat pattern that is determined by their anatomy, injury history, and goals. The lanky high school female volleyball players should be squatting. Some athletes such as basketball centers should stick to high box squats with vertical tibias, and perhaps light goblet squats in the warm-up. Other athletes should stick to parallel front squats or perhaps back squats with chains. Hell, some athletes should just stick to unilateral squat variations such as the Bulgarian split squat, but this is still squatting.
What’s the Point of the Article?
The point of this article is actually two-fold:
1. To help coaches consider the drawbacks of correlational studies
If you were looking solely at correlations between squat strength and athleticism, then you’d likely rate the squat low on the totem pole in terms of training prioritization.
2. To help coaches consider the superiority of training studies
To quote the brilliant physicist Richard Feynman, “if it disagrees with experiments, it’s wrong.” Theories in sports science can be esoteric and exotic, but if they don’t line up with training studies, then they’re just plain pseudoscience. The squat, especially in early training years, will improve an athlete’s acceleration and vertical jump while developing leg mass and core stability.
If you’re a coach, maximize your understanding of squat variations and employ some type of squat your athletes. Just don’t become obsessed with chasing records and piling on the plates. Taking an athlete who wasn’t built for squatting from 135 lbs to 225 lbs will enhance his athleticism, but forcing him to perform 315 lbs with crappy form could sideline him and greatly harm his career. Strength coach Anthony Mychal addressed much of this nicely in THIS article.
Thoughts are welcome and appreciated!
Bret, have you looked at LeBron James lately? He’s a house! At 250 lbs+, he has 50 lbs on Kobe and Usain. He’s gotta squat more than them.
Yeah, I considered that, but he’s 6’8″ and just looks like he’d be uncoordinated in the full squat to me. Could very well be wrong though! And Kobe is probably one of the stronger squatters as far as NBA strength is concerned. Again, I’m very open to being wrong though. He does have a great build indeed.
Great Article Bret. Hypothetical question: If you could only use one exercice between squat and deadlift for this young population, what would it be and why ?
It seems like anti-flexion core stability is very similar but deadlift maximize hip extension (depending on the form of both lifts).
Yeah, definitely deadlifts because the athletes already do tons of jumping. But with certain players I might opt for the trap bar or rack pull.
I too was wondering what would be better out of deadlift or squat for jumping/agility/speed/general athletic carry over.
I was thinking deadlift due to the already mentioned reasons. Glad I wasn’t the only one.
I realize this is an older post, but I was browsing your site. I agree most with this comment/discussion. With the exception of hockey players, female athletes are almost always quad dominant. Some to the point where they are at risk for knee injuries if they are playing at a high level. I continually am surprised how weak some high level athletes are in their hamstrings when doing any kind of functional movement screen (like a one leg deadlift.) I often eliminate squats from player training altogether until their hamstring strength catches up. Like you, I find the elimination of cross trained athletes (because of coaches) ridiculous. It is not good for psychosocial development. Also, cross training builds better overall injury resistant athletes. Athletically , my best soccer players have been hockey players as well. This also happens because most sport coaches pretend to be strength coaches. They train athletes often in simply a more is better approach. So I see players who perform tones of body weight squats where they lean over their toes – but more is better right? Anyways, rant over. I enjoy your site.
great article bret, i can’t believe kenny dobbs could only full squat 115 lbs? was that an initial test with him, or was that after you had done some training with him? Basically, do you think the 115 lbs was maybe bcs he was unfamilar with squatting or was that how pretty much his true max?
Initial assessment. I had him do goblet squats with 50 lbs the first week and then 60 lbs the second week for around 10 reps. Had I put a bar on his back, I’m guessing he could have done around 115, and within a month probably 185. In 2 months probably 225 assuming he trained 3X/wk. I wonder if this would have helped his vertical jump. Guys like these are freaks of nature and the rules that apply to normal athletes don’t always apply to them.
I’ve always found it very difficult to increase my squat much, however I can do significant loads for single leg variations.
Can there be something about a persons structure that lends to that?
After a couple months of practice, most guys can Bulgarian split squat and reverse lunge the same as they can front squat. That’s normal, except in the case of powerlifters who are skewed toward bilateral.
In my experience the biggest reason explosive athletes can’t squat well is that they operate on momentum, are really immobile (especially in the ankles, because they are so good off their forefoot), or just lack coordination and stability beyond 90 degrees of hip flexion because they never let themselves get there in sporting and general movement. Bret, what are your thoughts on how this correlates to “loading” quad dominant athletes, and “driving”, momentum based hip dominant athletes?
Agree very much Joel! I’m hesitant to make generalizations about basketball players as a whole as I’ve only trained a handful of high school bball players. They lacked coordination/stability going beyond 90 degrees of hip flexion, tended to be quad dominant (or just hip weakness), and did not possess sufficient ankle mobility to allow for proper deep squatting. I’ve never heard of your question before – are you suggesting that different training methods would be advised for hip versus knee dominant athletes in terms of intensities of load?
Bret, some untidy thoughts here:
Paradoxically, the design of basketball shoes is one the biggest culprits when it comes to talocrurial dysfunction. The idea of using those boots is to maintain ankle stability when the that joint is design to be mobile while assisting in knee mobility and avoid valgus collapse and so on, something that the big brands seem not to be to worried as, commercially speaking, “cool design” beats “bio-mechanics” anytime, which is really sad… I reckon, that despite vertical their explosive jump doesn’t imply that basketballer need to descend down to the hole during training, they still require to improve their dorsi-flexion mobility standards, while strenghtenning stabilisers and neutralizer (via unstable surfaces and perturbation) prepare their ankles for game situations (and giving them motion freedom from the bloody stiff boots) By the way, i find it so fascinating how basketballers take advantage of their own hamstrings stiffness to bounce and/or produce such amazing vertical jumps. Not always the most flexible is the fastest of the court in the same way the strongest in the weight room is not necessarily the best player of the team. Cheers. Will
I think most athletes who are strong double leg jumpers and explosive accelerators have to have pretty good leg strength in order to overcome their body’s inertia. Even if a guy jumps out of the building but cant squat well initially doesnt mean he doesnt have very strong legs. Ive seen tons of kids at the high school level, football and basketball and examined the correlative data religiously between squats, cleans, 40 yd, vertical jump. What I realized is that most kids that jump high and have good 40yds and good cleans relative to their bodyweight had good squat numbers relative to their body weight as well. This was not apparent in :A. inexperienced squatters or unmotivated squatters (uneducated on importance of leg strength) B. Kids with very short legs and good squats. I dont think the short legs express the squat strength as well in athletic events C. Some kids with good squats are grinders and do not have good rate of force development. Perhaps they are also grinding without activation of proper musculature aka all quads around the knee.
Has anyone seen RutgersDunker on youtube? He squats a ton, around 3x bw and I have picked his brain. The more he squats, the more everything goes up. Same for me. When my squat is up, so is my vertical and olympic lifts. Like very intelligent high jump coach Dave Kerin says on maximal strength “A high tide raises all ships”.
Agree with everything you wrote Mat. But this is assuming the athletes at some point had a coach who understood squat form and prioritized it in training. We both know that there’s a difference between a coach prescribing quarter squats or a coach just doing light squats with dumbbells versus a coach who properly progresses good squats and develops good squatting ability. I’m sure that many of the players listed above in my table could have greatly improved their squatting ability, but I doubt that many of them ever did. I very much agree that squat increases will drive increases in VJ and power cleans, especially with high school and collegiate athletes, but I think with world class athletes the correlations aren’t as high.
Great read Bret!
So if squats don’t correlate well with kicking ability, is there an exercise that does? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of research out there on the subject, which seems odd given the millions around the world who like to kick things…
Chris and I reviewed this study in our research review that showed that standing rotational training improved kicking performance:
“An Athlete Can Suck at Squatting and Still be Incredibly Powerful”.
Because all true power is generated from the core, not the glutes, not the hams, not the quads. If the errectors are overdeveloped, the multifidus (first link in the chain to fire) will suffer & body stability compromised. What is a house without foundations?.
John, I disagree with your wording.
I’d say that power is usually generated at the hips and transferred through a stiffened core.
I don’t think that strong erectors compromise multifidus function; I think they compliment each other.
Last, the erectors are probably the most important of the core muscles and are heavily involved in vertical jumping. Here’s a study that Chris and I just reviewed for our research review:
At any rate, I appreciate your input.
Here is from a Q&A with Fedor
“When I transitioned to MMA, I completely stopped weight training, because grappling completely replaced it. Stand-up and ground grappling ? all working with a partner is all I do. I realized that everything else is superfluous. Before you are 20 or so, weight training is needed, but after your body has formed, you need other work.
As far as my results, at the age of 21-23, I bench pressed 170 kilos (375lbs). I squatted approximately the same. Since then, I have never attempted to lift my maximum on a barbell. I devote no time to lifting weights, and try to spend as much time sparring with a partner. “
Awesome Evan! This is exactly what I was hoping to see. Very cool. Again, I wonder about depth – was this full squatting or just above parallel (which is most common for athletes that I see)? Thanks for posting!
I immediately thought of this research from my professors at App. State. Moderate to strong correlations between 1RM squat and 40M sprint times here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19675504
I agree with you though, big squats don’t always equal big power. But you can’t deny power is the product of work/time. So, peak force certainly can be a limiting component of power, as can RFD.
Hi Bert, I thought of that paper too as it’s one of my favorites. My supervisor John Cronin has examined these relationships too:
And as I’ve mentioned there are tons of training studies like this one showing improvements in speed from squats:
But I’m talking more about the lankier athletes who aren’t built for squatting. They can still be incredibly powerful even if they’re terrible squatters.
They can often produce great force in other movements such as quarter squats, midthigh pulls, or trap bar deadlifts, but they’re just not good at full squatting due to poor levers or compromised mobility. So they have the force and the velocity in order to produce a powerful vertical jump, but if their force is measured via full squat output then it would elicit a very low recording.
Oh okay, I see. Good stuff.
I don’t know the details of Usain Bolt’s training program. His height may be a reason why he can’t/doesn’t squat 500lbs. He’s 196cm – about 15cm taller than his competitors on average, and maybe he doesn’t need to squat big numbers because he has a huge stride…
I enjoyed reading this article, analyzing his performances: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661886/
John, I respectfully disagree to a certain extent, yet there is definitely truth to what you are saying. Usain Bolt had poor “core” abilities but was a world class sprinter because of his glutes, hammies, quads, etc. Improving his core turned out to help him a lot because it allowed him to transfer forces better, but without those forces there to help him he wouldnt run fast in the first place.
Awesome thought provoking article! In this industry we often think in black and white terms (i.e.: squatting is either good or bad.) However, there is a time and place for different lifts and modalities (periodization training has proved this works fairly well.) When I was training to fulfill a dream as a pro extreme ski racer, I squatted twice weekly for several years and had tremendous strength and strength endurance. I also was confident that my squatting significantly helped with explosive jumping power and more importantly deceleration while landing from ski jumps. However, as I entered into a career as a US National TaeKwon-Do team member, I struggled to make weight secondary to hypertrophic changes associated with squatting, was constantly tight and stiff from D.O.M.S. often experienced after squatting and as a result suffered multiple hamstring injuries. I found that the strength I had built up in my earlier years from squatting was sufficient for my sport and I got away from squats and moved towards sub-maximal oly lifts and functional training with med balls, planks etc. I felt my speed and power increase with less injuries removing squats from my arsenal. My “two cents” on squatting is that ANY athlete can benefit and should learn how to properly squat. Once they have “grooved” the movement pattern, corrected faulty posture’s like sacral winking/neutral spine/valgus collapse, etc., gained ankle/hip mobility and can perform their body weight squatting, it is up to their coach to determine where, when and how frequently it should fit into their program. The one thing I wish I had done to adjunct my squat workouts was more unilateral loaded movements like single leg RDL’s, Step-ups, lunges, etc. Bret: on a professional note, I am very impressed with your ability to research issues, create conversation and share your knowledge with others to continue moving this industry towards evolution. Thanks again for doing “what you do!”
I agree Pete, and I’d add to your mention of unilateral exercises and include posterior chain exercises and rotary core exercises as these enhance power production as well (which I know you’ll agree with!). Thanks for the kind words.
Something I observed is that on both NFL teams I played for the strongest guys in the weight room, overwhelmingly, played on the scout team. They did not start on Sundays. I think this article articulates that fact.
Thank you DB Cooper – now can you tell me where you hid the money 😉
There’s a video of Ben Johnson squatting here: http://youtu.be/w-K5An8qf1Q?t=2m42s
Awesome Chris – looks like 5 plates on each side, so 495 for reps. Makes me think that my prediction was right – if you had to do full squats and go rock bottom, I think 455 x 3 would have been about right assuming he was using 600 for the type of squats shown in the video, which are slightly above parallel in a quad-dominant fashion.
So many factors determine the physical performance and success in athletics. The primary factor not yet mentioned is genetics. As Hall of Fame Strength Coach Johnny Parker would say you can soup-up a Chevy but it will never be a Rolls Royce (nothing against Chevy’s :)). Genetics is likely why some athlete’s have great jumping abilities, are very fast runners, but at the same time may not have the ability to lift heavy weights.
As previously mentioned in this thread, this isn’t a “black and white” issue and also previously mentioned was that strength and power are in fact two different physical qualities (i.e. muscle force generated vs. elastic abilities, RFP, etc…). The continued enhancement of power is also dependent upon an enhanced strength foundation. Enhanced tendon and muscle fiber size via strength training will assist in muscle force output, the enhanced storage of potential energy for utilization during plyometric activities i.e. jumping, etc. Sprinting requires a high strength contribution at the initiation of a race (i.e. a “mechanical” force output into the ground surface area) prior to reaching the higher speeds that require more elastic abilities. As an athlete ages and loses their elastic abilities, (i.e. a decrease in the quality and quantity of collagen), there is a loss of force application into the ground surface area must now be compensated through “strength” efforts for the athlete to continue to be successful. There is also the factor of the nervous system to consider as well.
Now with all of this said IMO there is a level of strength (unless the athlete participates in a weightlifting type sport) that may result in diminished returns (i.e. how much strength is enough?) prior to progressing to the training for the enhancement of the other physical qualities and skills necessary for success in athletic endeavors.
As far as the squat is concerned in jumping type athletes, in addition to the supporting research, during my time at St. John’s University of New York, all of our basketball players (and in fact all of our athlete’s) squatted, Olympic Lifted and overhead pressed. One of our most powerful basketball athletes was Jason Williams who at 6’10’ 275 lbs. could back squat 335 below parallel for reps and hang clean 285 easily. In fact Jason could single arm snatch 135 from the floor with an Olympic bar effortlessly. Other strength coaches in the NBA have seen him do that as well. My friend and college strength coach Brendon Ziegler has 7 footers cleaning 110+ kilos from the floor and breaking parallel in their squats with heavy loads. Are all of these athletes performing like this day one, likely not, but form does follow function and good coaching can ensure a proper squat technique with the eventual application of heavy loads over time. With athleticism and skill being the same, it’s the stronger athlete that will usually prevail. How many basketball players could jump through the roof but not make it in the NBA because they were eaten alive by bigger and stronger players?
To ignore the value and benefits of a properly performed bi-lateral leg (strength and power) exercise performed over time would be unwise. A S&C Coach should not have the misconception that single leg work is a replacement for bi-lateral leg work. I am not against single leg work as these types of exercises also have their benefits in training. However, single leg work like any other exercise is an additional strength and/or power exercise (depending upon the type of exercise performed) of which to choose from, and IMO does not replace nor provide the same benefit as bi-lateral leg strength and power type exercises.
As an FYI, during my time studying in Bulgaria with the National Weightlifting team who at the time was coached by Ivan Abadjiev, I never saw a weightlifter or any Bulgarian National team athlete perform a “Bulgarian” type single leg squat. Wouldn’t this exercise be utilized by these national team athletes if it was considered best exercise for strength and power development?
Just my opinion
“As an athlete ages and loses their elastic abilities, (i.e. a decrease in the quality and quantity of collagen), there is a loss of force application into the ground surface area must now be compensated through “strength” efforts for the athlete to continue to be successful.”
Rob, Just a quick question with regards to collagen production & elastic abilities.
I’m not sure whether or not you train athletes?, & as you know diet can either produce/degrade collagen production, What are you advising your athletes to consume?.
A extremley important point because this can either make or break an athlete.
Thanks for the post, yes I do train athletes and have done so for 30+ years. I have been a Head S&C Coach for a D1 University and for 2 Professional teams and continue to presently train athletes at all levels of athletic competition at our 20,000 sq. ft. Athletic Performance Training Center.
I have many relationships (as I’m sure you do as well) with many professionals and scientists in various fields of expertise. When it comes to the area of soft tissue research I often speak to my friends Dr. Scott Rodeo who is a Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon and Scientist at the Laboratory for Soft Tissue Research at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City. His research is focused on the basic biology of tendon and ligament healing. He is also the Co-Chief of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at HSS, associate team physician for the NFL NY Giants and Head Team physician for USA swimming. Another resource I utilize at HSS is Dr. Thomas Wickiewicz who is also a Sports Medicine Orthopedist who has done a Fellowship in Muscle Physiology at UCLA. Both of these gentlemen are world renowned for their work in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics.
As you know soft tissue pathology and surgery are common in the field of Sports Medicine. According to these (and other scientists in the medical field whom I’ve consulted) the quality and quantity of collagen cells diminishes with aging initiating in the late 20’s to early 30’s. There are no methods presently known to reverse this process although there is ongoing research attempting to do so. Torn ACL’s do not repair themselves and presently there is no supplement or diet available to do so. When the quality of a shoulder joint and rotator cuff tissue is so poor that rotator cuff surgery or total shoulder replacement is not feasible, a reverse total shoulder replacement may be considered so that the deltoid musculature now is the primary factor for shoulder (arm) elevation and function as the rotator cuff is no longer able to perform it’s role. There is no product or diet available to restore these damaged tissues as well.
Look at world-class athletes like sprinter Donovan Bailey. He held the world record in the 100m 9.84 seconds. At age 31 ruptured his Achilles tendon and never ran under 10 seconds again so he had to retire. Wouldn’t we think that such a world-class athlete had an optimal nutrition regimen? In review of the list of athletes who rupture their Achilles tendon why do most of these types of injuries occur at the age of 30 – 30+ and not 20 – 20+? One main reason is due of the quality of the soft tissue (collagen). Why do most athletes who rupture their Achilles tendon (rare) in their early 20’s likely return to their previous level of play but those in their 30’s generally do not? The main reason once again is the (decreased) quality and quantity of the soft tissue (collagen) does not allow for the previous levels of performance to occur.
The same may be said of joint articular cartilage, as there is no present solution for restoration of damaged articular cartilage via medication nor nutrition. Some may take the supplement Clucosamine Chondroitin for such a condition and confuse the analgesic effect (pain relief) for articular cartilage regeneration, which in reality does not occur.
To my knowledge there is no research that supports any product or diet that reverses the changes that occur to soft tissue with aging. The world renowned scientists with whom I speak with are not familiar with any as well. For if such a product or diet existed, wouldn’t it be prescribed after every soft tissue injury and surgery?
Just my opinion
Hi Rob, You didn’t answer my question.
“According to these (and other scientists in the medical field whom I’ve consulted) the quality and quantity of collagen cells diminishes with aging initiating in the late 20’s to early 30’s. There are no methods presently known to reverse this process although there is ongoing research attempting to do so.”
I’ve proven that wrong. It’s to do mainly with diet regardless of age. I must say, that in fact, there is a lot of information out there that is correct.
“Some may take the supplement Glucosamine Chondroitin for such a condition and confuse the analgesic effect (pain relief) for articular cartilage regeneration, which in reality does not occur.”
Glucosamine Chondroitin or GAGs, are the lead suspect in what causes rheumatoid arthritis.: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12391302
“To my knowledge there is no research that supports any product or diet that reverses the changes that occur to soft tissue with aging. The world renowned scientists with whom I speak with are not familiar with any as well. For if such a product or diet existed, wouldn’t it be prescribed after every soft tissue injury and surgery?.”
Doctors/big pharma won’t prescibe anything which doesn’t relate to making $$$’s off drugs. Not all world renowned scientists will have a degree in nutrition but only a basic understanding.
Just to go back to my initial question. Can you give me an overview of the diet you prescribe to athletes?. Would you suggest to me/or other athletes to consume animals products to increase the likelihood for collagen production?.
“I’ve proven that wrong. It’s to do mainly with diet regardless of age. I must say that in fact, there is a lot of information out there that is correct”.
John just so I am clear I do support and agree with an optimally prescribed nutrition program as an important component of an athletes training. However do you disagree that older athletes (age 30 – 30+) have a higher number of soft tissue/tendon injuries than younger athletes (20 – 20+)? Do you also disagree that the older athlete has a much more difficult time returning to their pre-injury level of play and most do not return to their previous level of performance after such an injury? If true (and it is) how is age and quality of tissue is not a factor?
Let’s discuss nutrients and soft tissue injury. Let’s take the rotator cuff of the body. The circulatory system of the body is the transporter system of the nutrients we ingest. Why is it that PRP, the blood plasma, which has the highest levels of blood nutrients, has been proven to have no effect on accelerating the healing process of a rotator cuff repairs when compared to those rotator cuff repairs performed without augmenting PRP? This is true even though PRP is concentrated, the PRP dosage is specific, and the PRP injected DIRECTLY and not transported into the site of injury. The natural history of rotator cuff injury is not promising as well. Small tears may become larger tears and then over time fatty infiltrate enters the muscles and eventually the rotator cuff is impossible to repair. Where is the proven nutritional protocol to restore the tissue quality (i.e. collagen) so that these tears do not continue to progress as well as block the process of fatty infiltrate to occur? If nutritional protocols reproduce tissue quality then why do soft tissue injuries and surgeries of the body heal via scarring and not reproduce the same exact tissue quality and anatomy of the injured soft tissue anatomical structure?
As I stated previously, the professionals and scientists I have consulted with, at major medical institutions around the country, including many physicians who are the head team physicians for many of the USA 4 professional league sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) as well as USA Olympic teams have the opinion that I have posted. One could think how all professional teams have soft tissue injuries (i.e. an increasing problem in the NFL this pre-season and season) and all have similar post-operative recover times, and how all of these teams also have highly valued nutritionists and training tables yet this problem appears not only continue but appears to be getting worse. We provide the physical therapy to 2 professional teams and we have not been made aware of any such nutritional protocol. I restate, I am not saying nutrition is not important, it is, but I am unaware of any nutritional protocol that changes/accelerates either the aging or healing process.
In addition to the resources I’ve mentioned, I am a founding partner in a physical therapy company with 21 facilities and 200+ rehabilitation professionals i.e. Physical Therapists, Physical Therapy Assistants, and Athletic Trainers. All have a significant financial CEU benefits to attend continuing education courses annually. Of all of the courses attended over the years, to date none of our professionals have returned from a National or Regional conference with a nutrition protocol proven to reduce the incidence of soft tissue injuries or accelerate the regeneration of soft tissue after surgery vs. traditional methods of care.
We require all of our clinicians to present to our staff on the conferences that they attend. We have physicians present different topics to our professional staff, and various members of our staff attend 5 different Medical Institution grand rounds each week. We also have weekly conversations with all of our clinical directors with regard to specialty cases and patient care as well. We perform literally 100,000’s of thousands rehab treatments per year treating every soft tissue injury/surgery imaginable. These patients are referred by literally thousands of different surgeons and physicians (all who also attend and present at National Conferences) and none have ever provided us a specific nutrition regime proven to accelerate the healing process vs. the present standards of care. Does this mean that these physicians (which include all of the NY Metro Professional team physicians) do not think that nutrition isn’t valuable, certainly they do, but to date there is not a “Holy Grail” of nutrition so to speak. So are literally thousands of medical professionals and scientists around the country missing what you are stating?
With regard to Glucosamine Chondroitin, it appears that we both agree it doesn’t work re: articular cartilage regeneration and as you point out may be detrimental. My point was that because of the analgesic effect someone taking Glucosamine Chondroitin a person might think it is restoring articular cartilage due to the pain relief, but in reality that does not occur. So what some may believe may not be fact.
In regard to your nutrition question I don’t prescribe specific nutritional diets to any of my clients. We have sport nutritionists whom we utilize for our athletes. I would assume based on your posts that you have a specialty in nutrition. So as an analogy although you may have an understanding of the field of sports rehabilitation you may not specialize (practice) in this field. I specialize (practice) in sports rehabilitation and the training of athletes (from high school to pro athletes with $100+ million dollar contracts). In my 30+ year career I literally have seen 10’s of thousands of soft tissue injuries and surgeries and although I have a base knowledge of nutrition, my specialty (professional practice) is not sports nutrition, which is the reason why we utilize sports nutritionists (their specialty). Since no one professional knows everything isn’t that what is best for our clients, someone who actually practices their professional of specialization? You wouldn’t have a spine surgeon perform open-heart surgery or a have a nutritionist perform the rehabilitation on a post-op patient would you?
Your comment that all doctors don’t have a degree in nutrition may be true but don’t you think that institutions have PhD’s in nutrition on staff as well as PhD’s in biomechanical laboratories, PhD’s who specialize in the research of soft tissue, cartilage, physiology, and biology, and Orthopedists who see sports injuries day in and day out and during surgery actually see the condition and changes of the soft tissue anatomy? All of these professionals meet weekly to discuss the progress that they’ve made in their research, new research projects, and as a “team” work to improve how to address soft tissue injuries and improve the treatment and care of these types of injuries. That’s what occurs at HSS. Again you’re correct, a single doctor may not have a degree in nutrition, but I personally would put the knowledge of any like type “team” of professionals against any one professional in any field of practice any day of the week.
Lastly I while I enjoyed and thought we could have a professional conversation and educate each other, you then played the “doctor card”. You stated, “ Doctors/big pharma won’t prescribe anything which doesn’t relate into making money off drugs”. To make such a statement is certainly insensitive and implies that ALL doctors only care about making money. You obviously don’t know the physicians I mentioned or the hundreds of other physician and scientists in various fields of practice who are world renown in their work not only because their research is valid but they are driven to get patients better. Do you think physicians prescribe post-op meds for their patients to help them feel better and function or to just make more money?
For the last 8 years we’ve run a program at our athletic performance center called “Back in the Game”. This program was initiated and continues to exist for the physical training of post-chemo cancer children ages 5 to 18 to restore their strength and skills so that they may return back the gym class or competitive sports i.e. “Back in the Game”. Do you think these children’s doctors are prescribing medications to save the child’s life or to make money? To play that “card” is so offensive and unprofessional I honestly have no desire and will not to continue with this conversation. John let’s just leave it at this, we agree to disagree.
John, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this topic. What should coaches tell our athletes to do and not do if they want to maximize their soft-tissue health and prevent osteoarthritis, etc.?
Skimming through research on glucosamine/chondroitin is fuzzy but it does indeed appear to be ineffective.
With the paper you linked above, you’re indicating that you feel that GAG’s are the source of rheumatoid arthritis and that certain carbohydrates might play a role in this development?
Great to hear your anecdotes as always Rob! I was hoping for some insider-information and you delivered.
And btw, I know that about Bulgaria, but I still call it that out of tradition. The alternative, “RFESS” which Mike Boyle uses, has too much terminology to me as it’s 5 words long, but I understand it if others prefer using it.
If only we could expose some of these high level athletes to proper strength and conditioning.
This is a hysterical reminder that genetics are indeed real.
Trent Richardson squatting after knee surgery. LOL
Holy shit that’s incredible!!! Thanks Pat.
Hey Brett, not to knock the concept your bringing across in this article cause it’s really interesting but most of the examples your giving involve more posterior chain work than the squat is going to train.
If I’m missing something let me know but to me the question is how much could some of these guys deadlift or hip thrust since it seems to me these exercises would have a better carry over to their sports.
Great point Bill. One of these days I need to write out my thoughts on this as they’ve changed a bit. I used to feel like the squat was very overrated, but now I think it’s the cornerstone for a good S&C program. Nevertheless, I do agree that the deadlift and hip thrust will have better carryover to sports, but the squat keeps your form on deadlifts and other exercises in check as without quads, you use all hips. When you use all hips in the weightroom, the back takes more of a beating. So the squat is paramount IMO, but alone it’s vastly overrated. Only when used with the deadlift and hip thrust can athletes reach their full strength potential IMO. But then again, some athletes completely transform themselves with strength training, whereas others don’t see as good of results. Hope that makes sense, BC
The other day, I was listening to an interview with Zoltan Mesko (formerly the Patriots’ punter, now with the Steelers (ugh)). Among other things, he was talking about differences between fellow players in the weight room and their performance on the field. He said people were often surprised at how much he can bench while, puzzlingly to him, as well, his squat sucks.
In an article for one of the golf magazines, quite a few years ago, Bob Duval (father and teacher of David Duval and, then, Senior Tour player) said that people mistakenly assume that strength plays a major role in hitting long drives. He said that it is flexibility and technique that are the keys.
It seems to me that kicking, punting and hitting a golf ball are similar in that they rely so much more on elements other than strength, that taking too much time to get stronger in the squat may be a waste of time better spent working on technique, going against the principles of specificity.
Thanks for all the articles. I very much enjoy your open, earnest writing.
Mike, rotary strength is indeed very complex and integrates aspects of strength, power, flexibility, and coordination. However, to balance out your thoughts, think of pro baseball players such as McGwire and Sosa. They started using anabolic steroids and their rotational power exploded. So it depends on the task, and also the athlete! Some bodies weren’t well built for squatting, but it still places incredibly torques on the joints and activates certain muscles to very high degrees. Is it the end-all-be-all for athleticism? Hell no, but will it help the vast majority of athletes? Hell yes. Is it the panacea for rotational power? Probably not, but having strong core muscles sure helps create twisting torque. Great comment though!
Charlie Francis says in his book that Ben Johnson did half squat, but in his weight for speed series that the squat were down to parallel with use of a box. He then says something like, “Whether you call it a half squat or parallel squat, that what we used.” I’m guessing the video shown earlier is what they used through Ben’s athletic career.
Yep, I agree.
Most coaches, athletes, and trainers accept the theory that running is primarily a horizontal activity and that squatting is the best exercise to get stronger for that activity. As posited by Dr. Michael Yessis, one of the famous old Russian coaches and accepted by many in the field, forward motion is accomplished, starting from stance, by swinging the leg forward, eccentrically pulling it back down under the body using the glute/ham complex (the cause of many hamstring pulls) and from there extending the hip and powering forward with ankle extension and from there swinging the leg forward rapidly to be pulled back down again.
However, about 6 years ago I ran across an article by Barry Ross who had a completely different theory of how to run fast and it uses a vertical spring effect, think a pogo stick, rather than horizontal propulsion through ankle extension. At his site he had a video that makes a compelling case http://www.bearpowered.com/resources/videos/iceman/iceman.html.
Since I was a distance runner and coach a number of distance runners, including the 24th fastest female finisher at Boston this year, out of curiosity I ordered his e-book called “UndergroundSecrets to Faster Running”. Barry was initially a S&C coach for track and field, mainly the strength events. Then he took on the task of improving the strength of Allyson Felix, then a 14 year old high school sprinter with great potential but needed to get stronger.If you are interested here is a link to an article about that. http://www.bearpowered.com/post/Barry-Barry-Barry-slammed-again!.aspx.
Barry’s primary strength training for Allyson was the deadlift and how he trained her (and others)is quite different. Since it is now generally accepted that to run faster you have to apply more force to the ground and to do that you have get stronger. However, according to Barry, what you want to do is get stronger without adding mass because that decreases mass specific force. The way you do that is to maximize myofibrillar hypertropy and you do that by lifting heavy weights often. I tried his protocl (below) and even at age 66 I could do 3-54 workouts/week and still continue running daily or most days. Standard workouts tend to emphasize sacroplasmic hypertrophy which adds muscle mass and makes it hard to run with much mileage or intensity.
Without getting into the details he prefers the deadlift to the squat because it works more of the total body and can be done without assistance or special equipment such as a squat rack. So the workout would start with a dynamic warm-up, bench press or push-up and then deadlifts. The deadlift protocol is limited to a maximum of 5 sets and a total rep range of 15 with the minimum load of 85%. The workouts are not periodized at all, i.e. each workout is different in the fact that you might do 2 sets of 2 reps at 90% 1RM and the next time you might try a 1RM followed by 2 sets of 5 at 85% or 1RM. The goal is to always be working towards a PR or virtual PR. Each set is followed by a few eccentric drops from a box with spring up or out followed by a 5 minute total rest (no supersetting allowed). Surprisingly that can be followed by something like 20m-60m flys.
So how did that workout for Allyson? In high school in 2003 she ran a National high school record of 23:14 and had a High School 200 record of 22:11. In school she had worked up to a 315 lb. deadlift at about 124 lbs. After she turned pro, Bobby Kersee became her coach and didn’t like Barry’s deadlift protocol and started Allyson on traditional sacroplasmic hypertrophy. The results? Well she did win the 2012 Olympic gold medal in 21.62, a whopping .49 second improvement in 9 years. Of course when you start that close to the world record in high school it is hard to improve much in that short of a race and must take some mental fortitude. At the world championships this year she fell to the track halfway into the 200 final with a pulled hamstring.
There is much research by Dr. Peter Wyand that supports Barry’s position and he was the one that did the study on whether or not Oscar Pitorius had an unfair advantage when they allowed him to compete in the Olympics against able bodied runners(he concluded that he did). There was also a long argument between Barry and Dr. Michael Yessis in the Supertraining Forum. I used to participate in the blogs at bearpoweredrunning.com until Barry (nickname Bear)kicked me out because I said that one of the posted pictues of a high school male was flexing his lower back on a heavy deadlift. Barry took that as an assault on him and that I couldn’t tell from a picture what was going on. He may have been right but I spent too much time there anyway.
Bob, this is my area of expertise. Barry Ross has a neat protocol (I don’t agree with it but I love it’s simplicity, I’m sure he doesn’t agree with everything I write either).
However, Weyand’s data from 2000 doesn’t paint the entire picture, and so Ross is basing his methods on outdated conclusions based on limited data. “Mass-specific force” is indeed critical, but that force must be directed in the most appropriate direction possible for maximal sprinting performance. This has been shown in numerous studies in the past several years, but Morin’s data is the best in this area.
And by the way, the published articles on Pistorius were fascinating – different groups of researchers were chiming in, which was great for a guy like me who loves studying sprinting biomechanics.
I’d like to see the video of Allyson’s deadlift – is there still a link?
What other adjustments would you make to Barry Ross’s protocol besides adding hip thrusts, squats and single leg movements?
I think an optimal sprint program contains a blend of sprints, sledwork, plyos, and strength work, and the strength work should incorporate hip thrusts, squats, RDLs, back extensions, Nordic ham curls, and cable hip flexion.
You mentioned you could be way off on the “estimates” of the various squat athletes squat max. Bret, I respect your credentials, like your website, but this whole “rant” was way off, Starting with your nieces coach, who do you think she will resent if she gets a hold of your article about her sub standard training of “her” girls? Serious, think about it. Would it be fair if she took out her bile on your neice instead of you? No. Would she do it, absolutely. She could stand corrected and thank you for your valuble insight, but NOT. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words can be worth one enemy.
Dan, I appreciate your sentiments, honestly I do. However,
1) I’m fairly certain that the coach will never see this as it’s quite apparent that she doesn’t follow S&C – I thought about this before I posted and determined, perhaps foolishly, that the risks were very low, and
2) If she did start treating Gaby unfairly, I have my resources too. I used to be a teacher and I trained the assistant superintendent and taught her kid, she loves me haha! I would never pull that card having not tried to talk to the coach myself, but this is why I’m not intimidated.
That said, I love my niece and would hate it if any actions of mine backfired on her, but I just wish there was something I could do to help. I thought about training the team for free, but some of the parents told me that the owner of the training facility would never go for it. I suppose I should discuss these things with them face-to-face rather than rant about it online, but I’m spread very thin lately. Again, I appreciate your concern very much.
Bret or Anyone That Can Answer This,
My question relates only to the concentric portion of the squat and deadlift. If an athlete lacks RFD (rate of force development) and thus has to “Grind” out the completion of a very heavy lift, is there a bench mark time limit when one performs a 1 rep max that would indicate superior RFD versus average versus poor RFD?
This is an excellent question and I’ve thought about it a lot over the years. I think a 2-second concentric lift is appropriate in this regard. RFD is measured in different ways but usually measures the slope of the line between the start and the peak force. Body structure influences RFD with certain lifts such as squats and bench, but not so much deadlifts. And height will influence the time component of the lift – a 5’6″ guy will knock out his squat reps much quicker than a 6’10” guy. Hope I’ve given you some things to consider.
Two comments on Facebook that I thought I’d share here:
First one from Seán Campbell Harris:
Glen Mills doesn’t believe in his athletes performing squats… There does seem to be a correlation between quad:psoas-major and sprint performance.
Speed is all about the posterior chain, so it’s all about deadlifts, hip thrusts, hip extension based exercises etc.
I know your told me the highest PM activity was induced on the back leg during the lowest part of the Bulgarian Split Squat, but would this be superior compared to using a sport specific movement with the dual assisted pulley machine?
The video I showed you of Usain Bolt doing the quadruped hip extension exercise has him doing the aforementioned. If I had the equipment, I would do the research myself. Would certainly be a good one to try out.
Second comment from Danny McLarty:
Bret, not sure why it’s not letting me post in the comments section on your ‘site, so I’ll try it here. In this article (http://www.biggerfasterstronger.com/…), you’ll see it says that Barry Sanders “benches 360, parallel squats 556, and power cleans 365 pounds.”
I have limited dorsiflexion in my ankles, due to various injuries from waterskiing competitively. As a result, squats without lifting the heels are not possible.
Would a squat machine (45 degree incline leg press) work as well?
What age would be appropriate for a girl to start lifting? My 11-year-old daughter is quite interested in it since she sees me lifting. Also, she is an equestrian rider and has been researching equestrian related weight training programs.
I remember when I was a kid that the view was that one should be in their teens before they start lifting. Not sure if this still holds.
She is already 5’4″ at 11 years of age, has good coordination, and is relatively lean. Would it be too soon for her to start something?
Sorry about the late reply, but I’ve been out of town on vacation and missed the replys because I forgot to check the notify box.
The one compelling video on Barry’s site is the iceman. I fail to see how you can use horizontal force to push yourself across the ice without slipping. Also, check out this post and associated slow mo video. He has quite a few force plate graphs at his site. Could you please provide a reference or 2 supporting horizontal push-off as the major means of running velocity. I have tried that method and done exercises as proposed in Dr. Michael Yessis’ book “Explosive Running” and ran much better using Barry’s protocol after implementing it for a short time (see following below).
Unfortunately I have never seen a photo of Allyson doing the deadlift.
On an anecdotal note, 6 years ago when I first read about Barry’s program I was 66 and had never done a deadlift. At the time I was 165 lbs., about 10% more than when I ran my best races. In 5 weeks my 1RM deadlift was 220. I was also doing sets of drops from a 15″ step between sets and after the deadlifts did 6-8 20-60 meter flys.
I had done many bodyweight excercises such as step-ups and Bulgarian split squats with dumbbells and other bodyweight exercises. Even those took a lot out of my legs the next day. I was was running 40-50 mpw in 5-6 days/week with a few hard days each week.
Surprisingly, I was easily able to run the day after those deadlift days and after those 6 weeks my easy pace (65-70% of VO2Max) dropped by 30 seconds/mile. Unfortunately a chronic peroneal tendonitis returned and I was not able to race at that time. I continue to have the problem with my left peroneal tendon and have noticed since then that sometimes when I do a deadlift and especially a squat that it also bothers the tendon. I think that is because I tend to over pronate and am prone to valgus collapse and forcing my knees out puts some extra stress on the perioneal tendon.
Anyway, I recently started doing glute bridges and hip thrusts and really like them. I train now more for strength than anything else so thanks for what you do. I also coach a number of runners and have started a 73 year old female who usually wins her age group who has been slowing down with hip glute bridges, hip thrusts and Romanian deadlifts. It will be interesting to see if it helps her times or not next year.
Here are some references…there are more but these are some of my favorites:
Haven’t seen the iceman video but if someone is running on ice then they need to create maximal horizontal force within the confines of what friction allows. Overdo it and your feet will slip. That’s my take at least.
I think Barry’s protocol worked well because it kept you fresh so you could focus on sprinting, all while strengthening the hell out of the two powerhouses for speed – the hamstrings and glutes. Again, it’s a great protocol. Is is optimal for everyone? Methinks not. Is it very effective? Sure.
Your 73-year old female client is getting slower with posterior chain strengthening? I suppose this could be due to fatigue. I’d reduce the volume.
You asked for some famous athletes squatting
Trent richardson 700 pound squat
Ben johnson squat at around 2:40 into the clip
At around 2:00 you see Martin St louie squat
Thank you Jay, I appreciate it!
Great article. I feel full squats really work my calves a lot more than parallel squats. Have you noticed this yourself?
are these projected 3 rep maxes of athletes with or without a belt?
I consider a person very strong if they can squat 2x their bodyweight with no belt. A belt makes it way easier to stay tight 6″ or 7″ inches below parallel at the bottom.
Maybe I missed this in this thread but one factor not mentioned is inherent
genetic elasticity of muscles, tendons and ligaments before someone
even steps into the gym. It is this tissue property that explains elite
jumping, sprinting and throwing in individuals who don’t have impressive
numbers in the weight room.
Now head Coach at Okie State, Mike Gundy told me he saw Barry Sanders squat 700 lbs before practice while they were teammates at OSU. I don’t know if they were full squats,but he he did know that squatting was important.
.The one consistent quality I’ve observed in football players at the college and NFL level is “great strength”; given that they most likely for the most part have “great genetic profiles” for their sport, I wonder if there are different types of “fast guys”; maybe power sprinters who have great strength and can apply great force and then others who are more reactive but not as strong. I’ve seen many examples of people who weren’t strong but fast.\and vice versa. However as I said before the DivI/NFL players all appear to be very strong in the squat, dead lift, power clean, bench press. thanks