Squatting in a weightlifting program is a staple exercise and its uses are aplenty. It's seen as an exercise indicative of leg strength and is "somewhat related" to increasing your snatch or clean and jerk numbers.
Here are 10 thoughts I feel should be made known about squatting based on my playing around with technique as well as programming and now I'm sharing with you to give you alittle more insight to how squats should be viewed in weightlifting.
1. You NEED to be able to squat consistently.
Pretty straight forward right? But many don't back squat consistently to reap the full benefit of the exercise. And in many S&C coaches' eyes, you miss out on that transfer of strength/power to your lifts. Consistency here refers to the fact that from the set up to the re-racking of the weight when done is consistent. Every rep is the same from start to finish. Always strive for that kind of consistency so that you load your legs correctly all the time.
2. You SHOULD learn how to back squat well.
What is back squatting well? Tight trunk, load up the legs and keep position at the bottom while remaining stable. Correct breathing/bracing technique. None of that sitting back on the heels, knees can't go past the toes etc stuff or getting aggressive just because you want to be fired up. Being composed allows you to do things well; so why not be composed in the squat and your other lifts?
3. You need to be back/front squatting at least ONCE a week.
You should be performing the back squat and front squat at least once a week. Back squat to build muscular strength/strength endurance in the legs; front squat to build strength in position for the clean and to reinforce the rack position. Overhead squats? For weightlifting, perhaps beginners who struggle to maintain the bottom of the snatch can do some overhead squats. I wouldn't advise to go heavy though.
4. Calculate your tonnage/poundage/weight used.
Being objective with your squat numbers can help you monitor your progress and see if you are squatting enough or too much (which is most of the time). Percentages are important in squatting and so is volume. Not taking these into consideration will just crush your squat and hinder you from progress. You can also see if you are overtraining or properly over-reaching; they are two different things.
5. Frequency is more important than intensity.
This is related to the first point about consistency. Being consistent in your movement is equally as important as being consistent with your training. Especially in squatting, loading up the legs constantly will build accumulation to fatigue and subsequently increase strength/strength endurance. If done properly, it should fall within the periodization plan of the program and allow you to peak following a good taper period.
6. Too much frequency/volume can be detrimental WITHIN your weightlifting program.
That's where the blurred line of squats positively contributing to your lifts come in. Squatting a lot may build strength/strength endurance but also takes away a lot of energy in your legs and will affect the ability to produce force for the lifts. Add the accumulated fatigue on top of that, it is like staying tip-toed off the edge of a cliff. Lean too far forward or in this case, push yourself too regularly with squats and you may end up falling off and crashing rock-bottom. You also have to consider that there are many other lifts like pulls or even your classic lifts that build the ability to produce force in your legs.
7. It is alright to spend a period of time focusing on squatting for leg strength BUT not all the time.
I find this extremely important. It's like building a house. You can't build the house and lay the foundation at the same time. You need to lay the foundation THEN build the house. It is not going to happen if you want to build leg strength while increasing your snatch and clean and jerk numbers at the same time. Focus on one job at hand and do it well.
8. You don't have to be squatting maximal or close-to-max all the time.
It can be good to work up to a heavy double or single but the more crucial element is the volume. It is more important to build up the resistance to fatigue in your legs so that you can continually produce force for the weightlifting movements. That way, you have more in the tank to produce force in your classic lifts or pulls in your weightlifting program. But testing it once every cycle is good for you to track progress and ensure that the program is on track with your goals.
9. Going low doesn't mean hitting end-range of your bottom position.
When squatting, you always try to go as low as you can. You are even told to go ass-to-grass. Yes. You should go low. You should hit below parallel but you need to be able to do a few things if you want to gain that depth. You need to be able to feel that your legs are still loaded at that transition from the descent to ascent.
If you can't feel tension at that point, you may end up putting the strain of the load onto your joints or even muscles not meant to be supporting the joint and result in injury. Notice that many lifters when receiving at the bottom pull themselves down not to rock-bottom position. This is so that the legs can be loaded up to resist the load coming down on them, allowing them not to lose stability at the bottom.
10. You squat to get stronger legs, not bigger lifts.
Many embark on a squat program in the hope of getting bigger numbers for their snatches and their clean and jerks. And their sole focus on their program is to get that leg strength (see point 7) which is not wrong! But squats help make the lifts easier. It does not make you lift better. You still need to put in the same consistency in your lifts as in your squats if you want to see your numbers go up. You squat to squat bigger numbers. You snatch to snatch bigger weights. As simple as that.
Hope this clarifies the use of squats and its appropriateness within a weightlifting program. Being strong in your legs is definitely important but if you are looking to be better in your weightlifting movements, there are other things to consider which could be more important than squatting.
Stay Strong And Keep Squatting,
The Training Geek