narrow vs "powerlifting" squats?

k first a little background. im currently competing in bobsleigh at a high level. i’m naturally fast but my maximal strength is not at the level it needs to be to get to the next level.

2 years ago i’ve went from squating very narrow (and only to parallell) due to a coach who believes pushing a bob is a quad dominant activity. since leaving this coach, i’ve since been training with another coach who believes it is primarily a posterior chain dominated movement and thus has me squat powerlifting style most of the time. his methods have helped me move quite far up the ladder but it appears that i’m the only one doing this style of squat on the circuit. what do you guys think? should i continue focusing almost exclusively on posterior chain dominated squats or blend in a more quad dominant squat? thanks

Pushing a bobsleigh is an activity that obviously involves posterior chain and quads. they never work separately in real life. the reason why you made progress on the wide style of squats is probably because you had created a imbalance by only doing narrow parallel squats. squat is only specific to itself, so I would say have someone identify what your weakness is and use the right tool (right type of squat) to fix it. That can change over time. How about full squat? full front squats, high bar/ low bar wide/ narrow? heels elevated? one legged squats? why look for just one to do all the time?

Narrow stance squats done to parallel are actually quite good for the posterior chain, but if you’ve moved further up the ladder with wide stance squats then stick to the wide stance.

How about just doing both?

The wide stance is prefered by powerlifters because it allows more weight to be handled. Since it is specific to thier sport, for them there is little advantage to training with a narrow stance as it could provide negative transfer to competition.

This isn’t an issue for you so why not cycle the two styles. It will help prevent accomodation and will be nice variety. Plus as Goose said, narrow stance works the glutes and hamstings anyway because it involves hip extension. It is just a slightly different distribution of work to the different muscles.

I think you may be making the classic mistake of worrying “which exercise is best” rather than thinking about “how do I use this exercise for maximum gains”. Check the archieves for Christian Thibaudeau’s notes about this topic.

Pushing a bobsleigh, car, bus, coming out of the blocks, pulling a train, SLJ, etc, are all activities which demand tremendous leg drive/hip extension. The most efficient mechanical position to generate the highest values of starting/acclerative/and RFD (the precursors to explosive strength) (specifically in regards to overcoming resistance with locomotion in a horizontal plane) is a position which approximates the body angle of an elite sprinter having just shot out of the blocks (give or take a few degrees).

(Long sentence)

For this reason, it is important to note that the quadriceps (prime movers-drive phase) and erectors (postural stabilizers-drive phase) are much more active at such angles. Just as in sprinting, the hamstrings do not become highly active until the final stages of drive phase/top speed, or ultimately when the athlete begins to assume more of an upright posture.

So…the strength of your quadriceps and erectors are of higher value for intiating a bobsleigh push with maximum explosive strength.

This in no way diminishes the importance of hamstring strength nor should you de-emphasize training the hamstrings during training, however, it is important to understand which muscles are the prime movers in any sporting activity so that training may be more highly programmed/ organized.

Based upon this data it would be logical to postulate that quad dominant and various back/hip extension dominant lifts would prove to be most valuable for bobsleigh pushers, as the push exists entirely in the drive phase.

I never felt much in full oly squats, but I have recently been doing powerlifting style squats with a lot of sitting back and the hams I can feel (sometimes from the soreness the next day) really get hit hard.

My son does a narrow stance box squat and has seen marked improvement in his 40 times which is the same thing you’re looking for.
Show me someone who runs in a wide stance?
It’s just not a functional position except for maybe cutting…and even then side lunges would be more specific.

would it be a good idea to maybe alternate sessions , meaning one day wide squats, next session narrow??? Then depending on which one you hit say wide squats you would supplement in work after for the quads…or if you did narrow squats, you supplement in work for the hamstrings…just a though, not sure if it is a good plan though!!! :slight_smile:

Good points, I think the narrow stance squats do more for the quads, and depending on depth, as much for the hip extensors and lower back. The wide stance will do more for the adductors.

strength training is a general means, it is not specific to sprinting at all except to strengthen the muscles involved. Use what you prefer, wide, close, doesnt matter.

I disagree(somewhat)…look at exercises like the reverse leg press, glute-ham bent knee,etc and for instance Verkoshansky made the shock method exercises at least to have some semblance of the motion involved.

how are those exercises specific? they strengthen the musculature involved in sprinting correct? so squatting wide and narrow accomplish this, correct? there is nothing specific to the sport other than the sport itself…

Force direction, body position, joint angles and application is more specific with a narrow stance.

Wide squats would be wonderful for snowplow style skiing…

ah well then lets take it another step, theres only a limited range of motion in running, plus only one leg on the ground at a time, plus high velocity, so we should b doing unilateral, explosive, quarter squats, thats the most “specific”

Totally agree people beat themselves up over wide narrow sumo squat technique and so on. What matters is recruitment of MUs and stimulation of muscle fibres and the nervous system.

Not all muscles are used to the same degree. I repeat; wide stance does more for the adductors and narrow stance does more for quads. You decide if your adductors are not up to par with your quads. For christ sake, it is NOT just about mu recruitment, and c.n.s, and as for fiber stimulation, that only backs up my point about wide stance v narrow stance, as the wide stance gives the adductors more fiber stimulus than narrow stance. Other exercises give greater adductor stimulus than both and it becomes a question of number of total exercises v recovary capacity in determining which exercises should be done. Obviously some exercises challange a wide variety of muscles. As for c.n.s stimulus, there is MUCH greater c.n.s stimulas in many other exercises. An equal amount of c.n.s stimuli in some and less than others, therefore; when choosing wether or not to do squats, and in choosing which one to do, the choice should not be about c.n.s stimulas, which is allready Grosely covered with the total volume of training.

Further more, wide stance squats have so much room for deviation of technique + the fact that even when you get them down pat, it becomes a question of bio mechanics, and the assistance v antagonism of other muscles. This is why westside and other powerlifters have to do so much auxillary work to further boost there squat. WELL over half the volume of lower body emphasis on the powerlifter is about the hams playing catch-up with the quads.
Now, Ben Johnson’n squat would be called the “athletes” squat becuase it was not as wide as elite powerlifting style, but not as narrow as “narrow squats”, but even Ben had to supplement with umpteen reverse hypers, hypers, med ball, callasthenis, block starts, massage and stretching for bio mechanics that both his speed and his squats would get boosted. In a nutshell, the wider the stance, the more auxillary work you need. Now decide where your squats are at and how much time you have to train. Dam I’m good when I stop playing the fool.

The squat is a gross strength exercise aka Max strength it stimulates your nervous system by a large amount and recruits a sizeable amount of MUs. Yes biomechanics come into it but in my experience you can do which ever style suits you. I have a very close friend who can not do narrow squats because he has a bone growth on the ball of his hip limiting ROM, so he squats relativley wide. It has not stopped him cleaning 140KG X2 and run 10.5 secs.

ROM must not be too limited if he runs a 10.5…when I say “narrow”…I mean shoulder to hip width with the feet oarallel.

I think the PL guys like sumo style because they are easier and you can put up bigger numbers for the ego. JMO

The motion is not very limited at the start and acceleration phase which is one of the major areas to improve through squatting. And some people push off with both legs at the start. And most people jump with two legs on the vertical test…