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  1. Deejay_Spike

    Deejay_Spike Freaky Bodybuilder Topic Starter

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    SQUATS AND MYTHS (1995)

    Dr Mel C Siff
    School of Mechanical Engineering
    University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

    My comments on squatting technique have drawn a mixed bag of agreement and
    upset, which is always the case with fundamental exercises which tend to be
    surrounded by years of superstitious application.

    GENERAL COMMENTS

    Rest assured that this type of analysis is not meant to belittle. Heaven
    knows how many times we are all challenged at lectures, conferences and
    lifting platform about the appropriateness of our technique. I thank those
    who have chosen not to be politically correct and kind to me over the years,
    otherwise I would have been happily contented with the same old myths
    forever.

    Argumentation, analysis, refutation, rebuttal and counterproposal are all
    time-tested ways of research and teaching. Regrettably we often feel that if
    someone attacks ideas we believe in, then we are being personally attacked.
    Most of the time we did not even create the offending idea, yet we have used
    it so often that we become emotionally attached to it. In the case of
    religion, politics and coïtus, criticism invariably leads to such passionate
    encounters that even families become split up and nations go to war. Even
    science is not immune to this belief fervor - just try to argue about
    evolution and you will see what I mean.

    In the world of fitness, a similar scene rules and it is inordinately easy to
    tread on toes. The one merit of the Internet is that everyone can attend
    (unlike some costly conferences and some forbidding lecturers) and become
    involved and for that we thank fellow list member, Pansy. She prodded all of
    us into a series of encounters from which we will all emerge enriched, if
    personality clashes do not cloud the content. So, those of us such as myself
    who have analyzed your comments in some depth still appreciate your
    willingness to become involved.

    SOME SPECIFICS

    That having been said, it is still essential to comment on one of the worst
    beliefs that one encounters at virtually every fitness convention and in
    every popular publication, namely:

    "This exercise is for the average person or beginner and is not meant for
    athletes or experts"

    While the sentiments are well founded, they often tend to insult the
    'average' person - who on earth always wants to be just 'average'? None of my
    clients wants to stay 'average' or 'novice' - that's why they are visiting a
    professional - they want to move out of averages and progress to something
    far greater.

    Of course, we start with carefully graded sequences of exercises, beginning
    with no added loading, and then progress cyclically to greater heights to
    achieve mutually agreed-upon goals, but we must never lose sight of the fact
    that any beginner HAS to be moving progressively onto significant resistance
    (or duration, degree of difficulty, range of movement etc.) - and this is
    where the problems begin.

    Research has shown that skills developed with minimal loading do not
    necessarily transfer effectively and safely to situations with greater
    loading. Moreover, learning a skill using movements which are similar to, but
    not the same as the actual exercise being taught, causes the same sort of
    motor problem, because the controlling program being instilled into the
    central nervous system is different for every different variant or pattern of
    movement.

    Thus learning of the half squat, power clean or machine bench press does not
    properly prepare the beginner for safety and efficiency with heavier loads.
    In fact, the well-meaning, but misguided advice to do certain 'safe'
    movements can actually lead to the dangerous situation in which the client
    may be MORE vulnerable to injury if he/she by chance is called upon to
    execute the banned form of that exercise.

    ADAPTATION AND OVERDESIGN

    Just as one overdesigns roads and buildings with a greater "Safety Factor"
    than 1 to withstand greater loads in earthquake zones such as San Francisco,
    so we should overdesign the body just in case it is sometimes called upon to
    do that dread activity that all the fitness authorities cautioned us against.

    So we have to teach, modify or relearn the skill each time we are exposed to
    some noticeable change in its characteristics, such as degree of resistance,
    range, speed, duration and pattern. If one is likely to be exposed to fatigue
    with an exercise, then we have to ensure that the client knows the different
    skills of learning and coping under conditions of fatigue. It is highly
    misleading to believe that there is only one specific skill for a given
    exercise at a given time for every single person.

    It is also misleading to lump all squats together. Even though they all
    involve knee, hip and spinal actions, the powerlifting and weightlifting or
    deep-knee bend squats differ very significantly in execution and distribution
    of forces through range of movement.

    There tends to be an irrational fear associated with deeper-than-parallel
    squats, even though most of this is based on theoretical analysis and is
    usually contradicted by clinical studies which show that even more knee
    injuries occur in activities which do not flex the knee anywhere near
    parallel (such as running and jumping). Others show that partial squats can
    traumatize the knees even more than full squats!

    Do the critics not appreciate that full squats executed under appropriate
    control throughout the movement actually produce adaptation (that is what all
    training is about, anyway!), enhanced strength, better stability and greater
    resistance to unexpected loading? That is what the principle of Gradual
    Progressive Overload is about, isn't it?

    THE REAL DANGERS

    The sooner folk realize that safety of execution does not depend primarily on
    the exercise alone, but the technique with which it is executed. Thus, a full
    squat executed slowly over full range may produce smaller patellar tendon
    forces than a part-range squat done a bit more rapidly. As a matter of fact,
    the patellar tendon force is frequently much greater during step aerobics,
    running, jumping, kicking and swimming than during controlled full squats
    with a load even exceeding twice bodymass.

    The dangers of a squat (even a part-range one) lie more in inward rotation of
    the knees, unequal thrusting with one leg, loss of stability with fatigue or
    poor concentration, unskilled use of ballistic action or the use of some
    object to raise the heels and increase the stress on the patella and its
    tendon.

    Does this mean that we should then advise against all these activities? Of
    course not! If we presented a table of the stresses and strains acting on all
    the tissues of the body during apparently innocuous daily activities
    (including the pressure in smaller blood vessels subjected to the pumping
    pressure of the heart), we would never get out of bed.

    Sorry, these arguments of great forces and stresses and so forth have to be
    looked at in context - the body grows, adapts and flourishes in response to
    an optimal level of regularly imposed stress. It is also misleading to talk
    about forces and tensions being large, because we should only do so in the
    context of knowing something about how big, strong and dense the tissues are
    upon which they are acting.

    If the tendon has a large cross-sectional area and the connective tissue
    comprising it is strong and extensible, then we have far less to worry about
    than if the tendons were not like that. Remember that a knowledge of the
    STRESS (force averaged over the cross-sectional area of the tissue) and
    STRAIN (how much the tissues lengthen relative to their original length) is
    far more relevant than the force itself. Forget about forces being quoted out
    of context - we have to be far more specific than that before we can condemn
    some poor exercise to death.
     
  2. Deejay_Spike

    Deejay_Spike Freaky Bodybuilder Topic Starter

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    part 2

    SOME DISCUSSION OF DISAGREEMENTS

    GENERAL

    < Like I said above, at no time did I suggest this was appropriate for actual
    training but was trying to create an idea of overall form. When did I ever
    say "significant weight" or bouncing or doing it fast? Remember my objective
    was to help in form, in bodily placement, not in an actual weight training
    program . >

    ***EVERYTHING is part of training and appropriate or inappropriate for
    training. My comments about overall form are answered by my analysis of how
    much the skills of execution vary all the time and that beginner methods may
    not necessarily be enough to ensure that efficiency and safety continue to
    reign. In terms of the two criteria applied to problem-solving situations,
    those initial drills may be NECESSARY, but they are not SUFFICIENT for
    learning squats which gradually increase in degree of difficulty (even if the
    difficulty is because one is growing older and weaker!)

    If the next response is that the client is never going to add a load and
    remain at the same level and number of reps, I must say no more and go my way
    in peace. But if progressive increase in fitness is the aim, well, all the
    preceding commentary remains relevant.

    placement not an actual training routine. >

    ***Another little problem lurks in this comment. It is commonly believed that
    adding an external load is the only way to produce really significant loads
    on the joints and tissues. This myth has beset resistance training for
    decades and many coaches and doctors still believe that non-load bearing
    exercise has to be safer than load-bearing exercise.

    If we wander back to Newton's 2nd Law (Force F = Mass x Acceleration), we
    learn that the force may be increased either by adding load or by
    accelerating the action. In fact, since it is easier to move faster or
    accelerate more rapidly with a heavy load, many folk expose themselves to
    greater force under unloaded conditions! If one accelerates rapidly, the
    effective weight or load imposed on the body DOES become significant! This is
    always something we have to watch out for with beginners or those who believe
    in using light weights.

    < With this present myth of 90 degree angle, are you then suggesting that it
    is appropriate for a beginner to do a deep knee bend? >

    *** Do the persons suffer from any pre-existing knee problems or weakness? Do
    they ever squat in daily life to put on shoes or play with youngsters? Do
    they ever run, jump or kick without experiencing knee pain or disability? Is
    there any good medical reason which definitely indicates that slow,
    controlled full squats without major bouncing are dangerous for them? Do
    they always want to have a limited range of functional knee flexion for the
    rest of her life? Do they believe that the body was created or evolved NOT to
    be used in a controlled fashion (and sometimes for emergencies) over the full
    range of its capabilities? If the answer to all those questions is yes,
    then let them continue to treat themselves as if they are ready for the
    grave!

    Also entirely relevant to the 90 degree story is the fact that more research
    is emerging which shows that this limited range squatting can actually place
    GREATER stress on the various structures of the knee joint than full range
    movement.

    My old Bulgarian weightlifting coach used to try to convince me that I should
    even used a controlled bounce at the bottom of all of my squats in the clean
    and snatch to ensure that I did not damage my knees!! He and many of his
    colleagues did this for years with loads of as much as 240kg and after
    several decades of lifting they still had no obvious knee dysfunction.

    I have not come across any research which supports his advice, but it would
    appear that he was recommending that one must involve the elastic structures
    of the joints to augment the 'pure' muscle contraction characteristic of slow
    controlled squats. Why rely just on muscles, when you can use stored elastic
    potential energy as well and spare the poor old muscle, seemed to be his
    view? I await information from others in this regard.

    POSITION OF THE TORSO

    Other contributors stressed the importance of squatting with the trunk
    vertical, which is another one of those horrible myths about squatting. To
    analyze this advice, let us return to the training chair that started all
    this discussion.

    Sit erect with knees in front of you (or a bit to the side), shoulder width
    or so apart, hands folded across the chest, according to the advice we have
    just read. Without leaning forwards or shifting the feet further back and
    flexing the knees more, try to stand up without leaning forwards or bouncing!

    You will find that this is impossible. To stand up, you either have to spread
    your legs very wide apart, like the Sumo squat position of the powerlifter,
    or move the feet backwards and lean forward. For most 'average' folk and
    serious lifters, the latter position quite naturally teaches you your
    individual degree of forward trunk lean for squatting and deadlifting. You
    HAVE to lean forward to squat or deadlift (now don't quote some of those
    weird 19th century lifts with the load behind the ankles to prove this
    wrong!); that is determined by the biomechanics of the movement!

    And never forget to hold the breath, even without a load, for this is what
    nature decreed should happen to stabilize the trunk and protect the lower
    spine! Your blood pressure will rise in proportion to the size of the load
    and the amount of effort that you are willing to put into the action. If you
    have cardiocirculatory problems, and you insist on squatting with weights,
    then keep your mouth open and gradually breathe out to prevent intrathoracic
    and intra-abdominal pressure from increasing too much - and avoid using
    maximal loads!

    < Regarding to POSITION OF THE TORSO during squatting: I believe many people
    get confused by the advice to keep one's back "straight." Dr. Siff is right,
    in my experience -- you can't keep your torso perpendicular to the floor
    without some sort of odd foot position. But you MUST keep an arch in your
    back. The technique I've always used is to keep the arch in the lower back
    and neck buy sort of "pushing out" the chest and abdomen and looking slightly
    upwards.

    The belief that the spine must be straight during squats and deadlifts is
    another one of those confusing snippets of ill-explained training lore. >

    STRAIGHT BACK?

    The 'advisers' probably mean that the spine should not be flexed forwards or
    extended backwards, in some sort of hypothetical straight line. When
    challenged on this point, some of them state that this is their simplified
    way of stating that the spine should be kept in its neutral position,
    whatever that means in the context of a dynamic lift involving a line of
    action which changes all the time relative to the direction of the
    gravitational pull.

    PATTERNS AND RHYTHMS

    Some authors (e.g. Cailliett 'Low Back Pain & Disability') refer
    simplistically to a lumbar-pelvic rhythm that must be followed to ensure safe
    lifting (or squatting), but we have to look at the whole body as a linked
    system to appreciate that the actions of squatting and lifting involve many
    more actions than those of the pelvis and lumbar spine alone. However, these
    authors are correct in identifying that there is a characteristic rhythm or
    timed pattern of anatomical (kinesiological) action for the optimal and safe
    execution of every exercise.

    In the case of the squat, there is a definite rhythm of how the different
    joints (ankle, knee, hip, spine) become involved in producing an efficient
    and safe movement. This rhythm or timed pattern is really like an exquisitely
    orchestrated symphony conducted under automatic and voluntary control of our
    brain and nervous system. Every instructor or coach has to conduct a client's
    orchestra to produce individualized nervous programs in the brain so that the
    muscles will obey the commands to execute an exemplary squat.

    POSTURE AND NEUTRALITY

    One must maintain a definite lumbar curve during the squat, but this is where
    some authorities differ. Some consider that this constitutes lumbar
    hypertension and can damage the spine, so they talk about neutral posture,
    even though neutrality is defined to apply under static standing upright.

    As soon as you lie down or tilt the spine relative to gravity, then we can
    attempt to maintain the three natural mobile curvatures of the spine
    (cervical, thoracic and lumbar), but this necessitates increasing muscle
    tension and changes in other joint angles to approach this standard of
    'neutrality'. So, the appearance of neutrality is quite different under
    different actions. Even though the spine looks like it is structurally in the
    same relative shape, functionally the muscles, ligaments and other tissues
    are in radically different states of tension and operation. In other words,
    the concept of neutrality (like all the ideas about pelvic tilt) is not at
    all as clear-cut as out medical and physiotherapeutic colleagues would have
    us believe.
     
  3. Deejay_Spike

    Deejay_Spike Freaky Bodybuilder Topic Starter

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    part 3

    APPROPRIATE LUMBAR POSITIONING

    To resolve the issue of lumbar 'hyperextension' during squatting or lifting,
    we must analyze what stabilizes the spine under different conditions. The
    muscles act as dynamic or static active stabilizers (since they can
    contract), while the ligaments act as passive stabilizers (they cannot
    contract). In maintaining the three natural spinal curvatures, it is pleasing
    to know that both the muscles and the ligaments (and other tissues such as
    the fascia, as well as the pressurised trunk) all cooperate to stabilize the
    spine.

    However, we cannot say that the loading is distributed equally between
    muscles (e.g. erector spinae) and ligaments. This ratio is determined by
    one's way of squatting. So, if one tightens the erector muscles as much as
    possible, this may cause some of the ligaments to slacken, thereby placing a
    greater load on the muscles. If one avoids tensing the erector muscles too
    much or allows the lumbar spine to arch forwards, then the ligaments may bear
    much greater stress and the muscles tend to decrease their strength output.

    DYNAMIC STABILIZATION

    It happens that there is an optimal balance between these two undesirable
    extremes which allows the contribution by muscles and ligaments to
    dynamically adjust to different phases of the squat from the starting to the
    end position. The trainee or lifter learns this optimal dynamic balance by
    tons of experience, some of which is by the bitter way of making painful or
    damaging errors.

    There is not one precise static position of the spine or hips, though there
    is a typical ratio at each set of joint angle (knees, hips, spine, neck
    etc.). The ratios change over the range of movement and one learns to develop
    great proprioceptive skills to enable you to adjust rapidly and
    automatically.

    So, we can now appreciate how inadequate it is in the overall picture to
    learn by squatting onto a seat or in a part range movement from which we are
    told never to deviate, because one must use a specific single type of pelvic
    tilt, lumbar angle of concavity, knee angle and so forth.

    OBVIOUS ADVICE

    We can, of course, make cautionary statements about avoiding actions which
    have been seen to have caused serious injuries during squats and all
    exercises, for that matter - such as rounding the lower back and twisting
    simultaneously, bouncing vigorously in an uncontrolled fashion on totally
    relaxed, using a weight which is too heavy to maintain appropriate technique,
    bouncing the buttocks off a seat while using a significant load or
    accelerating rapidly and squatting when one is fatigued, sore or injured.
    Such advice is wise and advisable. But first and foremost are the rules that
    perfection of technique and intuitive sensitivity to any changes will go a
    long way to preventing injury and ensuring progress.

    -------------------------------

    Met dank aan Mel C Siff
     
  4. Deejay_Spike

    Deejay_Spike Freaky Bodybuilder Topic Starter

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    Op vraag van Matthieu die vindt dat er geen leuke posts meer zijn... een van de aller aller eerste posts van dit forum !!!
     
  5. Kixat

    Kixat Ripped Bodybuilder

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    Hmm, als ik thuis ben even doorlezen ;) Ben benieuwd wat voor dingen er in het artikel staan die in de afgelopen 10 jaar juist weer zijn ontkracht.
     
  6. matthieu

    matthieu Freaky Bodybuilder

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    Goed bezig Spike.. Ik ga t van de week ook eens lezen.,
     

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