Powerlifting Style Squat versus Olympic Style Squat
This question is undoubtably one of the most prevalent topics of discussion in the world of exercise selection and technique. Both lifts have their advantages and disadvantages, but here at KILO we favor the Olympic Style Squat over the Powerlifting Style Squat.
The key is in understanding WHY we use the high-bar Olympic Style Squat. Although the low-bar Powerlifting Style Squat will undeniably allow you to Squat more weight and overload the posterior chain to a greater extent, there are more benefits needed for optimal athletic development in most team sports.
First, I prefer using the Deadlift to overload the posterior chain, while keeping the Squat to overload the quads, but more importantly to create ideal overall dynamic flexibility. The Olympic Style Squat while still strengthening the lower body to great length, will facilitate an improvement in overall shoulder flexibility by positioning the elbows under the bar. It forces higher levels of bracing stability and co-contraction of the abdominal wall and spinal erectors. It creates a loaded stretch on the calves and Achilles tendons which will develop greater dorsiflexion abilities (Dorsiflexion flexibility is one of the best predictor of lower body injuries). It forces forward shin displacement hence overloading the vastus medialis to its full extent (the vastus medialis help stabilize the knee joint). Finally, getting in the bottom position of this Squat variation will increase recruitment of the hamstring under full range of motion which will help protect not only the knee, but also the hip joint under load and dynamic actions.
In closing, the reason we like this Squat variation has more to do with overall transfer to athletic performance and injury prevention than it does at simply overloading the posterior chain through a shorter range of motion to increase Squat poundage potential.
As a strength and conditioning coach, use the Squat as a tool to build a great athlete, not an athlete as a tool to build a great Squat.