Although it rarely comes up in many local competitions these days and doesnt show up in international events all that much either (at least in comparison to deadlifts and variations of it) but squatting is a movement that you just cant ignore.
Squats and squat variations will add more muscle and strength to your legs that any other movement that you will come across.
From time to time I will come across strongmen that don’t squat that often because its not in there upcoming competitions and “there only focusing on the events coming up” which I believe isn’t a great idea but we can talk about the other events on another post, for today i’ll stick with squats.
No matter what event your doing your using your legs, when you deadlift, pick and run with a yoke, clean a log, push press, run with a sandbag, load a stone or pull a truck you use your legs! In fact you’d be hard pressed find a strongman movement that you dont use your legs in.
So wouldn’t it make sense to have very strong legs?? Yes, yes it would which is why im often baffled at the lack of attention given to squats by alot of strongmen.
Below im going to give my 3 favorite squat variation for strongman and explain why they are my favorite.
1. Front Squat
From my experience of having worked with well over 100 strongmen and women no other squat variation transfers better to strongman than the front squat, for car deadlift(side handle), atlas stones, keg load, leg drive for overhead etc you just cant beat it, its a must in every strongman and strongwomans programme!!
2. Safety Squat Bar Squats
What I like most about the safety squat bar is that it can be loaded alot heavier than the front squat while working similar muscle groups, the fact that it can be loaded that bit heavier often makes it easier to transition to back squats from it because your body is fairly use to the heavy loading but what I like most is that it causes basically no shoulder stress whatsoever allowing you to avoid overuse injury and add more volume to your press training.
3. Bulgarian split squats
Yes a painful exercise that no one likes to do but very effective. Other than the obvious of building quads and glutes it can play a role in building stability and single leg strength, keeping a good strength balance between both legs.
Look at most moving strongman events(Super Yolk, Truck Pull, sandbag carry) and chances are you’ll see yourself driving off of one leg so its something you undeniably should be working on.
Yes you can and will build single leg strength doing these same strongman events but they are alot more taxing on the body and not something that you want to be doing constantly. Yes they are painfull but doing 3-4 sets of bulgarian split squats are just as benifical if not more benifical to build single leg strength and are no where near as taxing and dont carry anywhere near the same risk of injury.
You may notice that regular old squats are not in the list, the main reason for this is again squats don’t come up that often in competition and I think using some of the movements above transfer better to strongman events.
Regular back squats (even high bar) can sometimes wreak havoc on peoples elbows and shoulders which is another reason not to use them, if your elbows and shoulder are beat up chances are your press will suffer.
If your squat variations numbers go up then your back squat will go up with it so if it pops up as a competition event its just a matter of becoming technically proficient in it again and the numbers will be back above your best in no time.
Now lets be clear I’m not saying to never do back squats, if you have found that they transfer very well into other events for you then you should consider having them in your program, this is where things get individual and you know what works for you. I would recommend that most people use the back squat in an off-season block unless they have it coming up in competition.
If you have any follow on questions please feel free to send us a message!