Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Bulletproof Squat

It is probably no surprise to anyone that I think we can learn from how children build strength and then apply what they do to our own training. Children seem to know how to build amazing strength on their own simply by learning how to move and exploring their surroundings. 

No one teaches a child how to crawl. They learn how to do it through the spirit of exploration. No one teaches a child how to walk - sure they encourage the child to walk, but a child just figures it out through determination and adventure. The same is true for squatting. No adult needs to teach a child how to squat, though every adult could probably learn how to squat from watching a child. 

You may be thinking, "but these are just movements, this is not strength training." It absolutely is strength training though. A child builds a tremendous foundation of strength while they are growing and developing. They even engage in real strength training once they establish a foundation for strength. Have you ever seen a child try to pick up a heavy ball? They test their strength and build new strength by attempting to lift things up off of the floor. Why do they do this? For the joy of exploration. 

Kids are instinctual strength training geniuses. If a child tries to pick up a watermelon, they squat down, wrap their arms around it (think atlas stone) and try to stand. If they can't move it, they may try again. If they still have no luck, they simply move on. They don't keep trying over and over until they hurt themselves. If they can pick it up, however, they take it for a stroll. They walk around with their heavy object - for a little while at least. Kids simply know how to build amazing strength. And we dont.

We should really consider approaching our strength training through the eyes of a child. Let's look at the squat for example. What if we trained the squat the way a child does: from the ground up. Think back to the watermelon example I used above. What kind of squat does this resemble? The Zercher deadlift/squat. It is the way a child would train the squat. 

The Zercher squat is the perfect bulletproof squat. With the Zercher, it is hard to squat more weight than you can hold. It has a built in "safety" factor to it, thus lessening your chance of injury. Also, the Zercher reflexively engages your core. It zips you up without you having to mentally tighten your muscles. They just tighten up on their own. When you attempt a Zercher squat, your body becomes one solid muscle.  This makes you really strong and "real world" strong.

If you really want to get strong, you could employ the Zercher the way a child does, you could lift your bar from the floor, take a walk with your weight for a certain distance and then repeat again. This will make your body strong enough to stop bullets, it is that tough. 

Anyway, walk with the bar or not, in my opinion, the Zercher is the best way to squat - IF you simply want to be strong, healthy, and resilient. Those things are things that I want. If you want to be a powerlifter, then Zerchers may not be the best squat to train with. HOWEVER, they can certainly lay a solid foundation to perform back squats from. 

Speaking of powerlifting, If you are not a powerlifter, do you really need to do back squats? Just a question, if you like back squats, great. Have at them. You'll never see a child do back squats though. I know, I am taking an idea to the extreme, but think about it anyway. And, while you think about that, also imagine how you will never see a child perform an overhead squat. ;) 

Anyway, I really do think children do a lot of things very well and very right.  Kids know how to train the squat. And, kids know how to become bulletproof. If becoming bulletproof resinates with you, Zerchers can be a great tool to use in that quest. They are kid tested and mother approved.


Anonymous said...

as usual great stuff! Since reading BB and Pressing Reset, been "observing" my little cousins more, truly pros at moving properly!

Tim Anderson said...

Thanks Dave! Hope you are doing awesome!

john g said...

Great post! Zerchers and sandbag bear hug squats are the only type of squatting I have been doing lately. I love the overall feeling I get when doing them.


Tim Anderson said...

Thanks John! I use zerchers, sandbags and rocks for my clients when they squat. I think it is the best route to take for health and strength.

Tim Anderson said...

Hey, check this out! Pavel posted this on StrongFirst about 5 hours after I posted the Bulletproof Sqaut:

How cool is that?

Jim Mara said...

I have tried the zercher squats and have found them to be awkward at best. I personally find the barbell to be less functional than kettlebells regardless of whether its a back or front squat. Putting excess weight on your back causes way to much compression on the spine which can potentially lead to vertebral end plate fractures and ultimately causes disc herniations. Performing a KB goblet squat or double KB front squat you have to engage your core quite a bit during the movement. A KB is more like a rock or other objects a child would attempt to pick up and the motion is very similar. Lastly, you don't need tons of weight to gain huge benefits from the KB squats.

Tim Anderson said...

Jim, Thanks for posting!

I do not disagree with you regarding putting excess weight on the back. That is way I like to do Zerchers - where you hold the weight out in front as if you were holding a log. This also works well with sandbags, slosh balls and rocks. Zerchers can be easier on the wrist than kettlebell front squats also. Kbs can be more like rocks if you don't use the handles. Even if you choose to go heavy on KB front squats, you can only go so heavy - that, and the size of the bells starts effecting the stress you put on your wrist as the bell's diameter increases. Zerchers seem to accomodate almost anybody whether they use a bar or a sandbag.

BUT, nothing is perfect for every individual. Milage varies from person to person. Thanks so much for the discussion.


Sascha Pfeifer said...

Hi Tim,

great post about a important movement!

The deep squat is one of the best moves we can do, to change our body into a better one.

I have lost this movement for many yeahrs. Now i'm back in childhood :-)

Take care and thanks for sharing a lot of great information in your blog.


Tim Anderson said...

Thanks Sascha,

I too am back to childhood. Turns out, I love being a kid. It is awesome to regain and reclaim things that were meant to be ours.

Thank you for reading and contributing to my blog.

Hope you have a great 2013!