Squats and deadlifts are deemed as the greatest exercises of all time. However, not all athletes think so. And they are not the only exercises that can maximize your strength, speed, and power. When it comes to sports, athletes will benefit more from sports-specific movements that will enhance their performance on the field. What it all comes down to is doing what is best for them.
Steve Weatherford was considered one of the fittest players in the NFL when he was punting for the New York Giants from 2006 to 2015. Heavy squats used to be a part of his strength routine. However, in 2010 he stopped doing them because he developed disk compression and arthritis in his lower back. From this, he broke away from these must-do exercises, acknowledging they were doing more harm than good for his punting and health.
Understanding that if he continued squatting, he would have injured his back and ended his career early. So, he began lunging and doing lunge variations to keep his legs and lower body strong. Weatherford said he is an athlete, not trying to look good but be strong, and lunges hit every muscle and area of his legs. Lunges are also more movement specific for punting. Former NFL players John Madsen and John Hekker, and you can even add Tom Brady to the list, don’t squat because of the significant risk of injury and strain.
You Don’t Need to Squat
I can’t tell you the last time I did a squat with the bar on my back. It has probably been more than 15 years. My primary focus is a single-leg squat with the leg elevated. It is a more specific movement to running. After the single-leg squat, I will focus on suitcase hold dumbbell squats or kettlebell front squats where the load is safer for the back and less.
As for hip hinges like deadlifts, Nordic Hip bridges are my primary exercise because it provides more strength to my hamstrings. Nordic hip bridges are great for preventing injury for your hamstrings, even greater than deadlifting. However, as for deadlifts, I keep the weight at about 80-85 % of one-rep max and do the movement slowly. Therefore, you significantly decrease the risk of injury by not stacking up the weight, increasing time under tension.
Today, Weatherford is the owner of Weatherford Fit. He shows clients the truth and the best exercises to be strong, stay fit, and be well. He is probably showing his clients they don’t need to squat and its dangers on their bodies.
Future Of Leg Training
Due to the evolution and fruition of training methods and equipment, there are other ways to train your legs to get the same results produced by squats. For example, using resistance bands. Tom Brady only uses resistance bands to train and develop strength. And like Weatherford, he replaced lunges with squats without losing a step in his performance.
Putting the bar on your shoulders to squat, no matter who you are increases the risk of injury because putting that weight on your back. If the weight is too heavy, or your body is not prepared, it only takes one time to slip a disc or strain muscles. Then you’re out for the season or out of the gym for some months laid-up on the couch.