Strong legs are a vital requirement for, not only athleticism, but also a happy and healthy life.
As most of you reading this blog will be aware, here at WG-Fit, we train largely using kettlebells. The majority of Kettlebell work involves the posterior chain, the hamstrings, glutes and back.
We swing, we clean, we snatch. We do these with a variety of loads for a variety of rep range. From very heavy double kettlebell work for low reps to lighter single bell work for literally hundreds of reps. Our backsides are pretty well trained.
it’s no secret that for most athletic pursuits, the posterior chain is the key to power generation. we know that for those who spend their days sat behind a desk, it is o the utmost importance that the posterior chain be brought up to scratch. And for these, the kettlebell lifts are an almost foolproof way to go.
But, that leaves a huge chink in the armour. Yes, the posterior chain is vital, yes developing the glutes and hamstrings will increase power output and ward off injury, but we’re missing out one vital aspect of the leg function, knee extension.
So we squat.
But, with kettlebells it can be tricky to get adequate load for the quads. The goblet squat has become something of legend, but let’s be fair, the biggest challenge when the load goes up is holding the damn thing in place. Same with the double kettlebell front squat, we may be able to get rock bottom, but it’s rarely the legs that prevent us coming out of it, it’s the core and upper back that invariably forms the weak point.
So unless we turn to the party trick that is the pistol squat, how do we load the squat and develop the strength of the legs at full flexion?
Well, we have an answer. It’s called the Hack Squat and it is one of the few ways to really max out at full range.
Do we need to max out? well, that’s a loaded question.
I’ll grant you that the Hack Squat can be a Kill or Cure manoeuvre if you have dodgy knees, so exercise common sense before going at it. but if you are involved in the fight game, if you are a BJJ player, Judo-ka, MMA fighter or a martial artists of any ilk, you will need strength in every joint angle, from full flexion to full extension. The chances are, in a bout, even in hard sparring, your body will be put into compromised positions. Positions of extreme mechanical disadvantage. It’s simply the nature of the game.
So if you aren’t looking to develop end range strength, you’re inviting trouble.
The VMO muscles that offer strength and stability to the knee joint are only really stimulated at end range positions. positions that traditional squatting patterns are unlikely to take you without huge stress on the low back, unless of course you have the mobility of a Yogi.
I for one have to be very careful with deep squats due to previous hip and lumbar injuries.
So if we are to develop real strength and stability in our knee joint we need:
- Glute Strength
- Hamstring Strength
- VMO Strength
- Adequate mobility in the hip joint.
I’ve covered 1, 2 and 4 several times, I’ll be looking a 4 again later this week, but the following video is directly aimed at no. 3.
Remember, this isn’t for everyone, if you have dodgy knees, find out why and get them sorted before attempting the Hack Squat. If your knees are good, fire away, but ALWAYS pause at the bottom of the rep, ALWAYS.