Updated: May 8, 2020
- Not maintaining control on the eccentric phase of the squat
For those of you who may not know, the eccentric phase in relation to exercises is the phase of the movement when the weight is shifted down. In the case of the squat the eccentric phase is when you descend with the barbell as you initiate your squat.
When I teach people how to squat, I teach them to move slowly so that they understand every aspect of their movement and practice perfect technique. However, there is one question that I always get asked…
‘How can I activate my stretch reflex?’
The thought behind the stretch reflex is that when you rapidly descend into the “hole” of the squat, there will be a reflex like contraction of the muscles that extend the knee (quads) to allow you to complete the rep without any sort of major grind.
To be clear, stretch reflex does occur when we squat and it does play a role in how you move out of the hole when you transition into the concentric phase of your movement but to dive bomb as a means to ‘active’ the stretch reflex and use it as a trampoline to get you out of the hole easier will leave the door wide open to major breakdowns in technique which will lead to injury.
The stretch reflex is complicated and majorly misunderstood by many people especially when squatting largely due to that fact that when they describe it, it’s simply put ‘the bounce that you get when you come back up’. There is a whole lot more to it and if you’re going to teach about the stretch reflex, I highly advise that you do you research and understand the nature of how it works and what is actually happening with the body when this occurs in our movement.
A barbell back squat is a complicated exercise and technique should be respected at all times. Why? Because the integrity of your knees, hips, and spine as well as many other parts of your body rely on you not being an ego driven lifter.
My advice is that you will definitely benefit from implementing a controlled eccentric to build strength and improve position instead of relying on momentum. If speed could be beneficial in training, it’s likely during the concentric phase (UP PHASE) of your squat.
When we accelerate through that phase with a greater change in speed, we will likely have a better carry over at top-end weights when compared with the fast eccentric or ‘dive bombing’.
Yours in Health,
Coach Anthony Kassis