Tag: leg workout

The Harmful Squats Myth: Dr. Karl Klein and the Back Squat

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When I began lifting in my teens, the coaches and older men in the gym floor seemed like fountains of indisputable knowledge. Don’t bring the bar all the way down to your chest on the bench press. Stability work on Bosu Balls worked your core and brought muscle gain. Drink a protein shake within 30 minutes of your workout or your anabolic window will shut. The most sacred of their dictates revolved around the back squat.

When learning how to squat we were told two simple things. Never go below parallel and under no circumstances should the knees track over the toes. These rules were so infallible that none of us dared to cross them. Even when we realised their advice on other lifts had been misguided to say the least, we adhered to their squat advice. It wasn’t until I changed gyms that I realised squatting with a full range of motion, even letting those knees slip over my toes, wasn’t going to kill my knees.

Where had this idea about the squat come from? Whenever we asked we were told about vague scientific studies that ‘everyone knew about’. It wasn’t until I dug into the history of the back squat for a recent article on Barbend that I became reacquainted with this subject.

Our goal today is simple. Who first promoted the idea that squatting below depth was harmful and how did this theory become so prevalent? Our story today revolves around Dr. Karl Klein and his followers.

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Andreas Munzer – The Ideal Way to Massive Legs (1995)

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Forced Rep, Negatives, Free Weights & Machines – People have called me mad. They say no sane man would inflict my degree of discipline on himself. Perhaps they’re right, but I feel that extremism in the quest of your best is no vice.

If I seem to be in be in the iron grip of Spartan self-denial, it’s only because I’m convinced that’s what it takes for me to compete with the greatest bodybuilders i the world. The monsters out there today strain the very definitions as to what constitutes a human being, so I simply have to lift myself that much further beyond mortal effort just to stay with them, not only in training but in diet and lifestyle. If I can discipline myself more than the next guy, I will someday beat him.

Forgotten Exercises: Cyclist Back Squats

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Just this week we spoke about Dr. Karl Klein and his 1960s research on the back squat. As a quick reminder, Klein found that squatting below parallel or pushing the knees over the toes was detrimental to the knee’s stability and long term health. Klein and those following in his wake advised against full range of motion and stressed the fact that knees were not to go over the toes when squatting.

Though discredited in later decades, Klein’s ideas are still prevalent and are perhaps the cause of contemporary fears surrounding the back squat. Disregarding everything that Klein fought against, today’s post looks at the Cyclist Back Squat, an often neglected exercise that not only requires squatting below parallel, it necessitates bringing knees over the toes (Gasp!). Today we’re going to examine what this exercise is, what its origins are and why you should include it into your own training.

Fred Hatfield, ‘I May Know Diddly, But I Know Squat!’ (2001)

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The passing of Dr. Fred Hatfield in 2017 saw the passing of one of the lifting community’s most prolific coaches. Known as ‘Dr. Squat’ thanks to his own immense strength, Hatfield also helped to popularise scientific forms of training. The above article, written sometime before 2001 is perhaps the most comprehensive guide I’ve come across dealing with different types of squatting. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as me!

The History of the Zercher Squat

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Mentioned at various points on this particular site, the Zercher Squat has been described by many as one of the most effective but painful methods of building big quads. Uncomfortable to the nth degree, this lift isn’t exactly the most popular amongst gym goers. A point which leads us into today’s post. Why invent such a painful method of lifting? When did it come about and why has it remained with us today?

John Kuc, ‘A Guide to Thigh Development’ (1984)

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When I did the original outline for this article I tried to think of an appealing title. Many trainees do no leg work at all, and those that do usually do not do enough. I thought an appealing title might entice some of them into including leg work in their training programs. I later decided that an honest evaluation of the pros and cons of leg work would be the best enticement.

I won’t try to deceive anyone; leg work done properly can really be tough. There are no easy leg exercises, and to be effective you really have to go all out. This is one factor against leg work. The fact that your legs are normally covered is the second factor. Most individuals prefer to work the muscles that are seen by everyone. Also, some leg exercises require a relatively heavy weight to be effective. Heavy poundages seem to create a mental barrier for some individuals. Combine all these factors and you can see why leg work could be ignored.

The History of 20 Rep Squats

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Though few exercise programmes maintain a venerated status for long in the Iron Game, the mystique surrounding 20 Rep Squat programmes has endured. As hinted by the name, such programmes require lifters to back squat twenty times before unloading the bar, and in my own experience, lying on the ground questioning your decision-making.

Primarily touted for individuals struggling to build mass or to bulk up their legs, such programmes originated in the 1920s and 30s. That they still exist, albeit with some modifications, is testament to their efficacy and popularity. The goal of today’s post is to highlight the original promoters of the programme, to explore the writers who kept the idea in the public mind and finally to question why the programme remains popular in the current age.

The History of the Zercher Squat

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Mentioned at various points on this particular site, the Zercher Squat has been described by many as one of the most effective but painful methods of building big quads. Uncomfortable to the nth degree, this lift isn’t exactly the most popular amongst gym goers. A point which leads us into today’s post. Why invent such a painful method of lifting? When did it come about and why has it remained with us today?

The History of the Leg Press Machine

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Though oftentimes derided on the gym floor, the leg press machine has nevertheless become a staple of weight lifting life through the globe. Yes it’s not as ‘hardcore’ as the squat and yes it’s oftentimes abused by bros quarter repping but this piece of equipment has a long and interesting history behind it.

A long and interesting history, which will take us into today’s post. We felt that having only really covered the Smith Machine in detail, it was time we began to look at the history behind some of the more popular machines known to lifters.

The History of the Zercher Squat

Zercher-Squat.jpg

Mentioned at various points on this particular site, the Zercher Squat has been described by many as one of the most effective but painful methods of building big quads. Uncomfortable to the nth degree, this lift isn’t exactly the most popular amongst gym goers. A point which leads us into today’s post. Why invent such a painful method of lifting? When did it come about and why has it remained with us today?