If there's one exercise on which I feel confident I can be a Tyler Durden to the assembled masses, it is unequivocally the squat. At the moment, I'm 17 lbs off a world record that has stood since 1973, and my latest third attempt was easy as pie. As such, I feel pretty confident acting as a vocal authority on the king of exercises. Making my level of comfort even greater is the fact that I wasn't always a great squatter, and for years was a barely passable squatter. That did not, however, deter me from breaking my ass on it. Thus, you motherfuckers need to sit back, grab a fucking notepad, and forget every single thing you think you know about squatting, because it's highly likely all you have in your mental Rolodex for squatting is a pile of horseshit written by people who suck at squatting for people who've accepted they're always going to suck at squatting. No woman worth her salt would seek advice on prepping for a hundred man gangbang from a Catholic nun, and no man is going to seek advice on changing his oil from an effete, coiffed Frenchman on a moped.
"You do the little job you're trained to do. 'Pull a lever.' 'Push a button.' You don't understand any of it, and then you just die."From the emails and comments I've received on my squat form, there appears to be a pervasive and hilariously nonsensical opinion that one's squat stance must be moderate when squatting raw. At best, the reasoning online appear to be "a wide stance will kill your hips eventually", and at worst, people posit some preposterous bullshit about power transfer in the hips versus the legs in a pathetic attempt to bolster their bullshit with officious wording. Having squatted with a moderately to extremely wide stance for years, I can say that you're in no danger of "killing your hips", whatever the fuck that means, any more than you are of incurring any other injury squatting, and that this point is especially moot considering the downright embarrassing numbers most people put up on the squat. As such, you should worry less about eventual injuries, since they only exist in the fantasyland where your squat is elite and you are still competing in 40 years, and worry more about what fucking works. Instead of blindly accepting the conventional wisdom of a fuckload of people who know less about lifting than I did 15 years ago and lift less than a 14 year old kid with a pair of balls and some contempt for safety, you might want to try to absorb knowledge from those of us who actually know a thing or two about moving weight on the squat.
Let's take a look at what works, shall we?
Tony Fratto- World record holder since 1974 at 198 with 688 squat. Moderately wide stance, toes out, wide grip.
Jill Mills- World Record holder at 181 with 473 lbs. Moderate stance, wide grip.
Stan Efferding- World record holder with 854 at 275. EXTREMELY wide stance and grip.
Kirk Karwoski- World record holder at 242 with an 826 squat. Moderate stance, toes out, wide grip.
Scot Weech- World record holder at 308 with an 826 squat. Wide stance, toes forward, extremely wide grip.
Sam Byrd- World record holder with 782 lbs at 220. Wide stance, toes out, extremely wide grip.
Don Reinhoudt- World record holder with a 934lb squat at SHW. Wide stance, toes pretty much forward, extremely wide grip.
Me- 17 lbs off a 40 year old world record with a 633 squat. I squat wide as shit, and have started pointing my toes more forward than this picture shows, with a moderate grip.
Jennifer Thompson- 314 at 132. Wide stance, toes pointed slightly out, super close grip.
Konstantin Pozdeev- World record holder at 220 with a wrapped 815. Horrifyingly narrow Olympic stance and grip. His squat is as awesome as it is unbelievably awkward looking.
Suzie Hartwig-Gary- World record holder at 114 with a 319 squat. Moderate stance, close grip. By the way, time to stop patting yourselves on the back for your 315 squat and get pissed that a 114lb chick makes you her punk bitch every day.
What did we learn from this? The idiots on your internet message board, Reddit, and in your gym know exactly fuckall, for one. For another, the best of the best seem to squat primarily with a wide stance, even when raw. If anything, the close and moderate stance lifters appear to be the outliers, rather than the norm.
"I really wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every endangered panda that wouldn't screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin that gave up and ran itself aground."
As always, what is needed here is not the blind faith in idiocy that most people seem to have, but rather an overwhelming contempt for the opinions of the majority and a burning desire to determine what works best for you. No one will be able to tell you what your best form is without 1) the requisite experience in powerlifting that comes from a great deal of training and a great deal of successful competition, and 2) seeing you attempt squats with a wide variety of squat forms. This should be the most basic, simple to understand element in this equation, but for some reason people seem to think that blindly asking people so stupid and ill-informed that chimpanzees seem sage-like by comparison is the best course of action for them.
It's fucking not.
Before you consult a single other person for advice on the squat, spend a week squatting every other day. These don't need to be marathon, balls-out sessions. The goal is, in fact, to see what feels most comfortable squatting. After months of squatting close to Olympic-style, I opened up my stance as much as my flexibility would allow and dropped the bar as low on my back as I could, and I watched my squat jump up like I never thought possible. What I discovered was that the strength was there- I simply was using the wrong form to maximize my leverages. As such, your goal for the next couple of weeks should be to determine, through trial and error, what your best form is. If possible, find an elite lifter whose body type most resembles your own and see what form they're using. Try that first and foremost. You might think that the new form would take some time to acclimatize yourself to, but that's not the case- I realized the benefit of my new form within a couple of sets. Once you break through the mental wall of "this feels wrong", you'll determine what works the best for you. Four variables with which to play:
- foot placement. Test different widths ranging from shoulder width, slightly outside shoulder width, and as wide as you can get your feet inside the rack.
- foot angle. Conventional wisdom dictates that your foot should be in line with your knee, but I've found that angling my feet more forward seems to reduce the amount of tendinitis pain I get in my knees.
- bar placement. I've found that the lower the bar, the easier the movement, which would be exactly what one would expect with any knowledge of physics- Archimedes postulated this thousands of years ago, and it's correct. The closer the bar is to the fulcrum, the less your effort force needs to be. Thus, if you squat with a high bar, you're making the lift harder than it needs to be.
- hand placement. This will be a combination of shoulder flexibility and what's comfortable.
Go forth and squat.
Involuntary muscle spasms! Enjoy the show!