BFS has certified teachers and coaches across the country in proper weight room safety and technique for 42 years. And the squat is always the centerpiece of developmental and athletic performance. Discover BFS for your school with a Professional Development Day!
For more than four decades, BFS has promoted the idea that the squat should be a core exercise in any workout to improve athletic performance.
Because the squat was such a controversial exercise at the time BFS opened its doors in 1976, almost every article that appeared in BFS magazine about the squat included a section about how it could help prevent injuries, not cause them, and improve athletic performance. BFS Founder Dr. Greg Shepard and his team of clinicians also took our message on the road, each year giving hundreds of clinics at schools and athletic training facilities promoting the value of squats.
As the popularity of the strength coaching profession grew and interest in weight training increased, research studies were conducted that examined the benefits, and alleged risks, of the squat. Let's look at what these pioneering sports scientists discovered.
One of the major concerns about the squat in the early days of the strength coaching profession was that it could increase laxity in the knee. This concern can be traced to a research study about squats published in 1961 by professor Karl K. Klein and MD Fred L. Allman, Jr. Their study suggested that full squats - not parallel squats - could increase knee laxity thereby increase the risk of knee injury.
It was found in later studies that its results could not be reproduced. Other researchers found the opposite the results of Klein and Allman - those who performed full squats did not have greater knee laxity than other populations. It was also found that weightlifters and powerlifters tended to possess tighter knee joints than control groups and were less susceptible to knee injuries. But the damage had been done, and it took a long time for the athletic and medical community to accept the truth about squats.
READ THE FULL STORY IN THE FREE JUNE ISSUE OF BFS MAGAZINE
Heavy-duty equipment designed with your wallet in mind
At the high school level building winning programs in multiple sports requires a commitment to basic, heavy-duty weight training – and that means heavy-duty benches, squat racks, and free weight equipment. As a “made in the USA” manufacturer, for the past 38 years BFS has focused on making heavy-duty equipment that fits every budget. To do this, our manufacturing process has evolved to include four complete lines of equipment in a variety of steel gauges: Varsity, Elite, Absolute and D1.
The D1 line is top-of-the-line equipment, suitable for the best college, professional, and commercial weightrooms. Organizations with big budgets are looking for, premium D1 features such as chrome plating, pegs for band-resistance exercise, bench docking systems, and swivel handle chin-up attachments. One practical advantage of this highly versatile equipment is that athletes can perform a greater variety of exercises. On the esthetic side, a weightroom full of attractive equipment at the D1 level is a selling point often used by college or even high school recruiters to attract enrollees.
Because the D-1 line doesn’t fit into the typical high school budget, the most popular choices are the BFS Varsity and Elite lines. To see the differences between the Varsity and Elite lines, let’s take the power rack as an example.
The basic power rack is a rectangular structure with four vertical posts at the corners to increase its strength (as such, this type of rack is often referred to as a cage). This design is important because these units are often used for exercises that use a considerable amount of weight, such as box squats and partial deadlifts. Adjustable bar catches are located between the posts so users can perform partial movements; they can also be used as safety catches so users can perform lifts such as bench presses without fear of the weight dropping on them, of course, BFS recommends spotters when performing squats and bench presses.
The Varsity line consists of solid, 11 gauge no-frills equipment. In contrast, the Elite line’s 7 gauge, 8-foot power rack is a foot taller than the Varsity Squat cage and has four more inches of workspace; both lines feature weight holders to reduce the need for independent weight trees. For a high school with 400 students the Varsity rack will more than meet the needs of its athletes – and we can say this with confidence, as over 1,000 schools have purchased equipment from our Varsity line.
While the basic power rack remains a great tool for athletes, as the strength and conditioning field evolved, BFS developed additional variations of the power rack in both our Varsity and Elite lines to fulfill the needs of our customers. One such variation is the half rack.
The half rack has a smaller footprint than the traditional power rack, and as such can be easily combined with an 8-foot lifting platform to enable athletes to perform exercises such as power cleans and deadlifts. Let’s look at one of our most popular units: the Elite half rack with platform. This unit contains a 6- by 8-foot weightlifting platform for performing power cleans and deadlifts, and a vertical half rack for squats and overhead presses. Further, with an adjustable bench placed within the rack, users can perform bench presses and incline bench presses. Because all these lifts can be performed at the same station, athletes don’t have to deal with weightroom bottlenecks.
Many other configurations of these units are available, such as the dual Elite half rack with two platforms (or with none). With their efficiency and versatility, half racks are among our best sellers. To get serious about training, invest in equipment that has been proven to get the job done. Whether you choose the equipment that meets your needs best from our Varsity, Elite, or D1 line, these are the tools that make a championship weight room.
A look at the new science behind partial movements
In the early days of the Iron Game, bodybuilders trained hard on strength lifts such as the squat, deadlift, and bench press. Chuck Sipes, winner of the IFBB Mr. Universe in 1960, had massive muscles that enabled him to bench press 570 pounds and lift 250 pounds in the barbell curl. Sipes was a proponent of heavy partial movements, believing that their primary benefit is to increase tendon strength. That’s only one aspect of what partial movements can do for you.
Heavy partial movements disinhibit the nervous system so you can lift heavier weights. Here’s why. The Golgi tendon organ (GTO) is located in the junction between a tendon and a muscle, and works as a receptor that gives the nervous system feedback about tension and stretching of the muscle. For example, during an arm wrestling match, you often see a point in which the weaker opponent appears to suddenly give up when their arm is slammed to the table after several seconds of all-out effort. What is happening is that the GTO senses excessive tension and shuts down the muscle to protect it from injury.
When lifters perform heavy supports, such as by attempting a weight heavier than they can squat and holding it at the start position, or simply doing heavy partial movements, this exceeds the shutdown threshold of the Golgi tendon organ and the muscles shut down.
To train the muscles to lift heavier loads, partial-range-of-motion training has become popular, particularly among powerlifters and strongman athletes. It’s possible to take advantage of this training effect by alternating sets of heavy supports with full-range exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. Another method is to simply finish off regular exercises with several sets of heavy supports or partial-range exercises. An example of a partial-range exercise you can do for the upper body is a towel bench press (a bench press performed with a rolled-up towel or a towel bench pad); for the lower body, a box squat.
The box squat is a squat variation that is usually performed as the first exercise on Monday in the BFS off-season program or as the first exercise on Thursday in the in-season workout. Although box squats put the legs through less of a range of motion than is involved in conventional squats used in the BFS program, they allow you to use considerably more weight and thus help disinhibit the nervous system.
Another benefit of being able to lift more weight doing box squats is that the exercise can be more sport specific. For example, volleyball players can benefit from partial-range squats because these movements overload the range of motion typically required of these athletes’ legs in their sport. (This finding is from Science and Practice of Strength Training by Russian sport scientist Vladimir Zatsiorsky, one of the leading researchers in the field of strength and conditioning).
In recent years box squats have been embraced by the powerlifting community and even some strength coaches at the college level. While some critics of the box squat contend that it is dangerous, Dr. Greg Motley disagrees. Motley is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in arthroscopy, sports medicine, and joint replacement at Southeastern Sports Medicine in Asheville, North Carolina. Motley’s athletic experience includes playing strong safety at the Division I level, resulting in six surgeries and two degenerated disks. To test the success of his subsequent rehab, Motley performed box squats and says that if anyone would know if the box squat caused increased pressure on the lumbar spine, it would be him.
Not only did Dr. Motley perform the exercise with no pain, he ended up endorsing the exercise. He says, “I went up pretty heavy that day, a lot heavier than I thought I could go – and I hadn’t squatted in 10 or 12 years. “I think it’s critical with the box squat – with all squats – that you have good technique and alert spotters. That being said, I think the box squat is a very, very good exercise.”
One additional benefit of the box squat is that it enables athletes to recover quickly from the exercise. Based upon the feedback from coaches, an athlete can box squat heavy the day before an athletic competition without causing fatigue that could decrease athletic fitness and thus performance. In fact, at BFS we’ve found that athletes usually perform better! However, we need to emphasize that the box squat does not replace the parallel squat.
BFS has been promoting the box squat as a core lift for nearly four decades. This lift has earned its place because it’s a great way to increase overall leg strength and to prepare for optimal performance at competition time. The old-time Iron Game athletes got this one right!