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BFS Magazine, March 2016

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From the Editor

The Lowdown on Squats

One of the biggest challenges Dr. Greg Shepard faced when he founded BFS 40 years ago was championing the idea that squats would not only improve athletic performance but were also safe.

One of his obstacles was a study on the squat published in 1961 by college professor Karl K. Klein and medical doctor Fred L. Allman, Jr. Their findings were detailed in a book they wrote 10 years later called, The Knee in Sports (Penn State Press, 1971). What captured the attention of the athletic and medical communities was their conclusion that full squats (not parallel squats) could decrease knee stability.

Klein’s and Allman’s research was criticized because their results could not be duplicated, and later studies on weightlifters and powerlifters found that these athletes possessed tighter knee joints than control groups. But the damage was done, and it became a continual struggle for BFS to convince sports coaches and the athletic training community that squats would not increase the risk of knee injuries.

Moving ahead to today, there is still confusion as to how low an athlete needs to squat for best results. For powerlifters, the goal is to lift the most weight within the rules governing their federation. Some organizations, such as the International Powerlifting Federation, require their athletes to squat to parallel. Other federations are more lenient.

For training athletes other than powerlifters, BFS believes the guiding principle in squatting is that it’s necessary to squat so that the tops of the upper thighs are at least horizontal to the floor. This depth ensures that the quadriceps and gluteal muscles are strongly activated throughout the full range of motion. We also believe that squatting to this depth prevents muscle imbalances that will decrease knees stability, adversely affecting athletic performance and increasing the risk of knee injuries such as ACL tears.

For the past four decades, BFS has tried to convince the athletic training and medical community that the parallel back squat should be the foundation of any strength training program. It’s been a challenge, but we’re confident that we’ve won our case that the parallel squat is worthy of the title, “The King of Lifts.”

Kim Goss, MS
Editor in Chief, BFS magazine

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