Barbell back squat vs smith machine squats
Many strength and muscle building experts will say, the barbell back squat is much more effective at building size and strength. They argue free weight squats are a more natural movement and require much more stabilization and balance, which increases its effectiveness. However, the Smith machine is much easier to learn, especially for beginners, which many argue is safer. I contend that it depends upon the person’s build. If one has long legs and a shorter torso, they will have a very difficult time performing a squat correctly in order to get optimum stimulation for strength or growth. In this case and in others, they would benefit greatly from performing smith machine squats. But what does science have to say? Which is better for gaining strength?
Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada compared the free weight squat to the Smith machine using electromyography (EMG). The purpose of their study was to determine which exercise was better at stimulating the prime movers and stabilizers of the legs (e.g., tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and biceps femoris) and trunk (e.g., lumbar erector spinae and rectus abdominus). Six healthy participants performed 1 set of 8 repetitions using a weight they could lift 8 times, i.e., 8 rep maximum.
Contrary to our hypotheses, muscles of the legs (specifically the vastus medialis and biceps femoris) displayed greater EMG activity during the free weight squat compared to the Smith machine squat, whereas there were no differences between exercises for EMG activity of trunk stabilizers.
Researchers conclude that the free weight squat may be superior to the Smith machine squat for training the major muscle groups of the legs and possibly would result in greater strength development and hypertrophy of these muscle groups with long-term training.
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(9), 2588-2591.
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KISS for improving soccer performance
These days it?s becoming common practice to start sports earlier and earlier in a child?s life. Soccer is no exception. In the United States the popularity of soccer has exploded along with strength and conditioning camps focusing on sport specific programs. Unfortunately many coaches do not train their players correctly because they do not look at the metabolic demands of the sport.
Research on soccer players has shown, to the surprise of many, anaerobic as well as aerobic power are prerequisites to success. More-over, it?s been reported that 96% of the sprints in a soccer game are shorter than 30m, and 49% are shorter than 10m. It?s becomes obvious that strength and power are important aspects of a player?s development. As soccer becomes more competitive, becoming faster and stronger to get to the ball before your opponent by jumping or sprinting is becoming more important. As a strength coach the question is, how do we develop a player to their optimum ability?
A study by Chelly et al recently reported the effects of a back squat training program on leg power, jump performance, and field performance in junior soccer players. Twenty two male soccer players were divided into two groups a resistance training group (RTG) and a control group (CG). Both groups completed tests before the start of the program and after 2 months of strength training twice per week with heavy loads (80 ? 100% 1RM). The tests included a force velocity test to evaluate power, 3 jump tests, a 40m dash, and a 1 RM back half squat. (J Strength Cond Res 2009;23(8):2241-2249)
No significant changes were noted in leg or thigh muscle volume after the 2 month training period between the 2 groups. However, the RTG showed significant improvement over the CG in leg cycling power, jumping and sprinting. This is another example of the value in sticking to the basics. Too many coaches try to reinvent the wheel while training their athletes. There is no need or value in complicated, high volume strength training programs. KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid and train according to the athletes needs
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