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Old 02-02-2010, 06:38 PM   #1
Júlíus G. Magnússon
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Default Squat Assistance

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?
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Old 02-02-2010, 11:08 PM   #2
Donald Lee
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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.
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Old 02-03-2010, 06:00 AM   #3
Jamie Crichton
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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.
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Old 02-03-2010, 07:25 AM   #4
Greg Davis
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Would there not also be some benefit in recruiting glute activation (assuming that is a weakness that might be holding back full squat)?
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:48 AM   #5
Donald Lee
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie Crichton View Post
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.
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Old 02-03-2010, 01:54 PM   #6
Jamie Crichton
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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.
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Old 02-03-2010, 06:55 PM   #7
Donald Lee
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie Crichton View Post
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.
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Old 02-03-2010, 09:46 PM   #8
Blair Lowe
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Any thoughts on to whether doing standing lunges (forward or reverse) would be harder than stepping up to a box?
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:33 PM   #9
Gavin Harrison
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blair Lowe View Post
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).
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Old 02-04-2010, 06:58 AM   #10
Patrick Haskell
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Davis View Post
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.
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