I remember fumbling my way through the perils of “leg day” back when I first started working out. Most of my time was spent between either the leg extension machine, or the leg press machine, but I did manage to incorporate some squatting too.
I’m sure my unguided form was something that even a visitor to the weight room would shake his/her head at, but at least it wasn’t complicated, right? The bar goes across the back of your shoulders, you squat down, you stand up, you’re done! Easy! HA.
You can surely imagine then, the shock that came with my first experience in a CrossFit gym. Not only was I squatting to a completely unfamiliar range, but they had me put the damn bar on the front of my shoulders – the agony!
It wasn’t until later, when I was drinking the CrossFit Kool-Aid, that I realized why there are so many variations of the squat. As is true in any strength program, you get stronger by putting your body under a continual stress (weight), and then over the course of time you adapt by getting stronger. So if you are only used to squatting with weight in one place, you are really only strong with the bar in that position.
This is fine in the gym, but in life we are not always in a position to carry things where they are most convenient. Training your body to be strong with a weight on it, through as many natural movement patterns as possible is what gives you the best results in your everyday life.
If you’re new to squatting, working on a back squat (or just a body weight squat) is a great place to start. But the more confident you grow, the more important it becomes to continue to expand your capabilities. It might not come easily at first (hi, overhead squats!), but the more you practice the better off you’ll be down the road.