I haven’t been able to squat for the last six weeks because of this old muscle tear in my left thigh.
That’s been a mixed blessing. My powerlifting roots forged me into a Squat Purist. I don’t feel right unless my weekly routine has a barbell on my back at least once or twice.
From the ocean-hiss of online chatter that makes its way to the top of my ivory tower from time to time, I hear that spinal loading is bad and will wreck your back and your knees will explode by age 40.
I’m a few years overdue for that appointment, but I’m sure it’ll happen any day now. Sure.
In all seriousness, it’s nice to get away from the big lifts and the progressive-overload mindset now and again. I love training that way. Minute for minute, it’s the most effective ROI of any exercise you can do (with the possible exception of wind sprints).
I don’t put much faith in the narrative spun by over-cautious physiotherapists that squats are “dangerous” or “risky”, even done heavy.
If done right — with patient attention, focus, and an unwavering commitment to the detail and quality of movement — even heavy squats are no more dangerous than walking out your front door. Compare the injury rates for runners versus lifters for an eye-opener.
But there is a catch. Living systems don’t share our ideas of “good” and “best”.
What you called “best” on Day 1 could be out of the Top 10 by Day 60, according to your body’s way of thinking.
That’s why I tell anyone who will listen that words like “best” and “optimum” and “ideal” don’t have any place here. Living things are defined by constant change. There is no place for ideals.
Effectiveness and efficiency is all down to context.
Your body remembers. What you’ve already done determines how effective the next thing will be.
So it is that staying away from squats turns out as productive and useful as plowing on through them.
I’m not entering a powerlifting meet any time soon, of course. There is a lot to say, though, about the benefits of contrasting your usual behaviors with a different yet effective pattern.
Not to mention the positive mental-game effects you reap when forced to adjust your training in response to unexpected circumstances. You discover new options in resources you never thought about.
It’s tough to get your head around this when you’re frustrated by what you can’t do. It’s hard to look at the horizon and imagine anything on the other side.
But even nature cycles from summer to winter and back.