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Júlíus G. Magnússon
02-02-2010, 06:38 PM
What do you guys think about barbell step-ups? I've seen them pop up on CFFB and, if I remember correctly, CF Endurance.

On paper they sound like a good form of unilateral assistance work for the squat, but I don't see many people using them.

Would you be better off using Bulgarian split squats? Or simply weighted pistols?

Has anyone used them? Why/why not? If you did, how did you feel about them?

Donald Lee
02-02-2010, 11:08 PM
I don't think unilateral work helps with squatting. The only purpose for unilateral work would be to hypertrophy the legs. I only use front squats and high rep (5-8 rep) squats as assistance for back squatting.

Jamie Crichton
02-03-2010, 06:00 AM
Not too sure that the 'only' use for unilateral exercises is to hypertrophy the legs. I think unilateral work, particularly split squats, makes a lot of sense as an alternative to squatting.

Firstly there is the additional challenge of balancing, which will help strengthen the ankles and improve proprioception. The stabilising muscles at the hips also are worked hard. The rear, elevated leg's position means the often tight muscles that flex the hip such as the iliacus, psoas and rectus femoris are stretched.

The final advantage is that a significant load for one leg to squat is typically around half of that for a normal squat, meaning half the loading on the spine for just as much leg stimulation. I think for these reasons split squats and other single leg work make a lot of sense for lower limb health, function and strength and I regularly use them in place of squats to give my back a break and get a different stimulus.

Greg Davis
02-03-2010, 07:25 AM
Would there not also be some benefit in recruiting glute activation (assuming that is a weakness that might be holding back full squat)?

Donald Lee
02-03-2010, 11:48 AM
Not too sure that the 'only' use for unilateral exercises is to hypertrophy the legs. I think unilateral work, particularly split squats, makes a lot of sense as an alternative to squatting.

Firstly there is the additional challenge of balancing, which will help strengthen the ankles and improve proprioception. The stabilising muscles at the hips also are worked hard. The rear, elevated leg's position means the often tight muscles that flex the hip such as the iliacus, psoas and rectus femoris are stretched.

The final advantage is that a significant load for one leg to squat is typically around half of that for a normal squat, meaning half the loading on the spine for just as much leg stimulation. I think for these reasons split squats and other single leg work make a lot of sense for lower limb health, function and strength and I regularly use them in place of squats to give my back a break and get a different stimulus.

I was talking about unilateral work as an assistance to Back Squatting.

If we're talking about unilateral work as assistance work, the loading on the spine is a moot point. I just don't think the strength gained from unilateral work transfers to bilateral work in the case of squatting. I could be wrong, but I only see unilateral work for the legs serving to hypertrophy the legs or add stimulus to the legs because your back squatting didn't provide adequate stimulus due to premature fatigue of the back.

BTW, if we're talking about low-bar squatting, we know there are plenty of bilateral assistance exercises for that.

Jamie Crichton
02-03-2010, 01:54 PM
I suppose if you're sole aim is to get a big squat, it might not have that much carryover besides additional stimulus when the low back fatigues. Plenty of people have got really strong squats without unilateral work, so I agree with you there.

But I think it makes sense for long term ankle, knee and hip health, and as a bit of variety from normal squatting or as additional assistance work. Joe Defranco is a big fan of unilateral stuff as assistance work and he has produced some strong athletes.

Donald Lee
02-03-2010, 06:55 PM
I suppose if you're sole aim is to get a big squat, it might not have that much carryover besides additional stimulus when the low back fatigues. Plenty of people have got really strong squats without unilateral work, so I agree with you there.

But I think it makes sense for long term ankle, knee and hip health, and as a bit of variety from normal squatting or as additional assistance work. Joe Defranco is a big fan of unilateral stuff as assistance work and he has produced some strong athletes.

Yeah, no argument here.

Blair Lowe
02-03-2010, 09:46 PM
Any thoughts on to whether doing standing lunges (forward or reverse) would be harder than stepping up to a box?

Gavin Harrison
02-03-2010, 11:33 PM
Any thoughts on to whether doing standing lunges (forward or reverse) would be harder than stepping up to a box?

Harder to cheat (ie, donkey kicking off the back foot on a step up).

Patrick Haskell
02-04-2010, 06:58 AM
Would there not also be some benefit in recruiting glute activation (assuming that is a weakness that might be holding back full squat)?

Absolutely. Bulgarian split squats helped me a ton in this department and were especially useful when transitioning to high-bar squatting.

Grissim Connery
02-04-2010, 09:26 AM
i've been doing a lot of lunges recently because i find that squatting kills my BJJ training, but i can lunge and still train regularly. this is mainly because squatting seems to tax my adductors too much.

i tried step ups but i feel like if you try to raise the weight up, you automatically kick off the back leg.

stepping backward lunge seems to be more applicable to squatting because the leg with the knee bend takes more of the load.

with weighted pistols i've been using a zercher grip. seems to make everything more natural.

for fun, i've been messing around with this type stuff recently
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsQAISXjAbE

Donald Lee
02-04-2010, 11:44 AM
I don't like Forward or Reverse Lunges for strength training. I prefer Lunge/Split Squats.

http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/training/split-squat-technique.html

Derek Weaver
02-04-2010, 01:51 PM
I'm a big fan of split squats with the rear foot elevated. I get a good stretch going on the back leg during the movement as well. For strength athletes I don't think there is much if any carryover, but for other athletes I don't see how unilateral lower body work could hurt.

Steve Shafley
02-04-2010, 05:12 PM
Hate 'em. Done up to 365x3 to a 16-17" box.

Never did much of anything for me.