As much as I love the deadlift, people can get away with some pretty bad form during the lift. Rounded back, stiff-legged, hitching the weight up the legs. When you’re pulling 105% of your max, a bit of technical breakdown is bound to occur… even in the most advanced lifters.
But the squat… oh, the squat… Not only do you have to be strong, but a master of technique. (Nearly ever powerlifting competition I go to, I’m told that my technique is flawless.) Sure, I’ve also seen some pretty poor squats in my life, but the chance of missing a squat is much higher. Most people can get away with just ripping the bar off the ground on a deadlift, but much of the success of a squat depends also on the eccentric (lowering) portion of the lift… something the deadlift doesn’t have.
While I’m not one to say that if “you can’t squat, you’re not strong,” I do believe that because the squat requires so much technical work, it could be considered the king of all lifts. In fact, a basic bodyweight squat is one of the best assessment tools you can use to find strengths, weaknesses and deficiencies.
While this isn’t a comprehensive list of squats, it will give you a good list of squats to rotate in and out of your program based on what exactly you need to work on at that time.
Front Squat (BB or KB)– Because the weight is placed in the front of the body, this requires the lower, mid and upper back to work really hard to stay upright. For someone lacking strength in the mid/upper (thoracic) back, this is a great starting point.
Box Squats– Love box squatting. Breaks up the eccentric/ concentric train and you always know your depth. You can use low boxes, parallel boxes, slightly higher boxes. Try using narrow stance, medium stance and wide stance box squats.
Safety Squat Bar Squats- can be used free squatting or box squatting. This bar will humble you. Definitely hits the mid/upper back.
Giant Cambered Bar– Again, another humbling piece of equipment. I freakin’ hate this bar, but it’s what I need to use the most.
Free/Back Squats– Typically the staple exercise used in most programs, but one that I personally rarely use. I use the other squat exercises to build my regular squat.
Goblet or KB squats- I like doing these during deload weeks or as an accessory exercise. Great for building the upper back and helping to keep posture tall during the squat.
Overhead Squat– Not only is this a good warm-up exercise, but it’s a great assessment tool for a person’s weaknesses. It’s also a base lift if you do a lot of Olympic lifting. Start light and master the movement.
Just remember that squats can be rotated in various ways. Some will do the same exercise for 3-4 weeks, just increasing weight and decreasing reps. (This is great for beginners so they have 4 weeks to master the movement.) Others will rotate the exercise every week, going for a 1-5 rep max each week for the various lifts. If you’re technically sound in the squat, you can rotate the exercise more often. If you’re hammering out some weaknesses and technical issues, stick with the same lift for 3-4 weeks.