Newton’s Way of Squatting

I’ve been forced to squat in different ways due to two chronic disc herniations. To be blunt, I can no longer perform barbell back squats, but I can perform all types of other squatting movements. I’ll assume that you all know about front squats and goblet squats, so I’ll explain two other types of squats that will also take your power and leg development to the next level if all you’ve been stuck with are barbell back squats.

Think of a water bottle for a moment. Let’s say you have a symmetrical, cylindrical water bottle that is filled to the top. In this state, the water bottle’s center of mass (COM) or center of gravity is right about in the middle. As you start to drink the water, the COM will lower itself and lower itself and lower itself until the bottle is empty, at which point it will reset.

Now, how can we compare this to squatting? The full water bottle is like an Olympic barbell back squat (the center of gravity is a little higher up). For me, with the herniations, the COM is smack dab in the heart of my L4 and L5 herniations. Even squatting with 135 lbs will make my discs shoot across the room. Now, this can be a big problem because squatting is king for leg development and strength.

Back to the water bottle for a minute…as the COM comes down, more stress will be placed on the lower structure of the bottle. How can you lower the COM while squatting? The yoke bar or safety squat bar are great options. Because the weight sits lower than it normally would, you are stressing the hips and glutes more. For me, this is just enough to take the stress and torque off the L4 and L5 regions of my back (didn’t you ever wonder the draw to that bar?). The second way we can lower the COM is to perform dumbbell squats. This is an old movement but one of my favorites. It places a great deal of stress on the hips and gluteal muscles without torquing the back at all. This can be done with heavy dumbbells, and you will find that the only limit is really your grip strength and the weight of dumbbells available to you.

If you have been frustrated by recurrent back issues and can no longer perform traditional squats, try one of these methods. There are many other ways that I still squat, but I thought a little lesson on physics would be nice to help understand COM and squatting. ‘Lower the water level, lower the COM, and effect the muscles at the hip region even more.’ I can say that I’ve been able to effectively keep and add leg size and strength through the dumbbell squat and the safety bar squat.