If you are looking to get stronger legs and develop total body coordination, then you need to be squatting.
Many of us are just finishing up our High School seasons and starting to think about getting ready for what’s to come next. This means starting our off-season training to get us to the next level. If you are looking to get faster, jump higher, and simply just develop lower body strength, then we need to work on building a foundation. This means developing not only our big muscles like our quads, hamstrings, and calves, but also improving our ankles, hips and the rest of our leg muscles. The greater we can develop these areas the better chance we have at developing more force which will optimally lead to faster sprint times and a greater ability to jump into the air. Squats are considered one of the most functional and efficient weight bearing exercises whether an individuals goals are sport specific or are for an increased quality of life (2).
Squats are a movement that we do everyday and we often are not doing it correctly. Think about how many times you sit down in a chair. Do you crash down? Does your chest fall over your knees? If this is how you are teaching your body to move then what do you think you are going to revert back to when that movement happens in a game? Learning the proper way to squat will help you develop your lower body muscles in motions and angles that lead to more power and also help keep them protected while playing. Moving to free weight allows the athlete to learn to coordinate their movements to be successful in the exercise and helps teach awareness. Wirth et al., found that the squat increased performance in the squat jump, countermovement jump, and drop jump more effectively compared with the leg press in short-term strength training (6). Machines will dictate your movement path making it harder to recruit muscles that will need to involved and work in sync with the leg muscles.
Squatting is not overly difficult. Simply stand with your feet shoulder width apart and slighting point your toes outward. If your legs are locked out and straight up and down, simply unlock your knees and allow them to bend slightly. The next movement will be at your hips. Push your hips back slightly then sit down. Think about sitting into a chair and you do not know where it is. You are sitting your hips back trying to find it. Your feet should remain flat on the ground and drive through your heels. Go down until the tops of your thighs are parallel with the ground. Rise back up to a standing position.
With younger athletes picking the right squatting techniques is huge. Start with goblet squats to teach the movement. Once the athlete becomes efficient at that transition them into a front squat in a rack. These movements teach the athlete that the upper body needs to be active in the movement and not relax. These movements also require more activation from the abdominals to keep the chest up and weight over the bodies center of gravity. There are multiple variations of the squat that we will go into in future posts that benefit the athlete in many different ways.
Incorporating other forms of squatting is also beneficial to athletic growth. Doing single leg squats will help reinforce ankle strength and balance that will set optimal positions for the knee in athletic movements. Nunez et al., found that just 6 weeks of unilateral/bilateral training with an eccentric overload training, improved limb muscle volume, power, countermovement jump performance, change of direction at 90-degrees and decelerating change of direction at 90-degrees in sport athletes (5). Learning to control our movement in these positions is also very beneficial as we learn to reabsorb and then redistribute forces in another direction. Unilateral (single) limb training provides a better change of direction at the 90-degree transition phase than did bilateral (multiple) limbs training (5). Controlling our descent and lowering ourselves slowly for a set time will aid our ability to transition from one movement to the next and gives us that agility and change of direction that make us unstoppable on the court.
Squatting is a movement that we cannot overlook or put on the back burner. These exercises teach the athlete to control their body while also strengthening the lower extremities. Developing lower body strength is crucial if you want to run faster and jump higher. Your body must be strong enough to produce the forces that will help you fly through the air for a dunk. Incorporating squats into your workout routine will not only help you develop as a basketball player but as an athlete overall.
1. Esformes, J. I., & Bampouras, T. M. (2013). Effect of Back Squat Depth on Lower-Body Postactivation Potentiation. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(11), 2997-3000. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31828d4465
2. Gullett, J. C., Tillman, M. D., Gutierrez, G. M., & Chow, J. W. (2009). A Biomechanical Comparison of Back and Front Squats in Healthy Trained Individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,23(1), 284-292. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31818546bb
3. Williams, M. J., Gibson, N. V., Sorbie, G. G., Ugbolue, U. C., Brouner, J., & Easton, C. (2018). Activation of the Gluteus Maximus During Performance of the Back Squat, Split Squat, and Barbell Hip Thrust and the Relationship With Maximal Sprinting. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 1. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000002651
4. Askow, A. T., Merrigan, J. J., Neddo, J. M., Oliver, J. M., Stone, J. D., Jagim, A. R., & Jones, M. T. (2019). Effect of Strength on Velocity and Power During Back Squat Exercise in Resistance-Trained Men and Women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(1), 1-7. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000002968
5. Núñez, F. J., Santalla, A., Carrasquila, I., Asian, J. A., Reina, J. I., & Suarez-Arrones, L. J. (2018). The effects of unilateral and bilateral eccentric overload training on hypertrophy, muscle power and COD performance, and its determinants, in team sport players. Plos One, 13(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0193841
6. Wirth, K., Hartmann, H., Sander, A., Mickel, C., Szilvas, E., & Keiner, M. (2016). The Impact of Back Squat and Leg-Press Exercises on Maximal Strength and Speed-Strength Parameters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(5), 1205-1212. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000001228