There are many factors when it comes to determining how a weightlifting athlete will be able to perform at his or her maximum potential. In a sport that has many intricacies involved. Mobility and precision during the lifts are immediate examples, but there are many other important aspects when it comes to determining how weightlifting athletes are able to perform. One aspect involves the correlation between weightlifting and having a heavy back squat.

Most, if not all professional weightlifting athletes are able to lift twice their bodyweight minimum in the squat. This is by no means a coincidence, as any coach worth their salt will always implement some variation of the squat to their accessory work even in their competition phases due to the sheer importance of leg strength. Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics even said himself, “weak legs equal weak lifts.” So why is the squat considered the best and most utilized accessory lift in the sport of weightlifting? And how does leg strength play a role?

To understand the importance of the back squat in weightlifting, we need to understand the importance of strength training in general. Strength training relies on putting the body through various stressors that recruits what is called “muscle units” via the central nervous system. Stressing the body through muscular tension, strength is formed by the body’s ability to adapt to said stressors via recruitment of more muscles units. This is why weightlifters in the lower weight classes can lift upwards of two to three times their body weight in both the snatch and the clean and jerk without the need of developing a huge physique.

 

85kg weightlifter Tian Tao knows a thing or two about the importance of back squatting. Do you?
-This is a 187lb guy squatting 317% of his bodyweight for reps…

How this relates to the snatch and clean and jerk is demonstrated in certain dynamics similar to the back squat, one of which is maintaining a high chest during the concentric phases of the movement. A caved-in chest can lead to the bar straying away from the athlete, making a lower contact point during the extension. This causes a loss of center of balance. During the squat, a low or caved-in chest will not only lead to lack of power output, but also put the lifter at risk of serious injury; hence, a high and big chest is essential during either lift.

Secondly, and arguably the most key similarity between the squat and weightlifting is the importance of driving up through the feet. Not just driving through them, but also keeping the weight in the center of them during both the concentric phase of the squat as well as during the extension. Though important, a strong foot drive is reduced considerably when the weight of the foot is transferred to either the heels or the toes. The reason for this is, much like the importance of keeping a high chest, transferring the weight of the foot either too far front or too far back can lead to minimal strength output.

The benefits of the squat are undeniable, the use of it transfers well to all movements, and can offer many benefits such as joint strength, increase in blood flow, and produce a high anabolic response to help improve body composition so it’s understandable as to why the back squat has, and probably always will be the most used strength accessory lift among even the most professional of weightlifters. In weightlifting, every day is leg day, and there’s no doubt as to why.