Wasted Energy: Squat Walkouts

APF winter clsssic Power lifting competition The Photography of Russell J Young

For the past year, I have intensely been teaching my clients about the dangers of wasted energy and wasted reps on their strength movements. What I will do in my new “Wasted Energy” series is outline how you can better approach your PR attempts, as well as training sets, by getting rid of all the movements that waste your energy before the lift even begins.

I will preface this by stating that my athlete hero, sponsored athlete, and coach, Alanna Casey, inspired my way of thinking for this. She was the first to point out the concept of “wasted energy”, which made everything click for me. Thanks, Alanna.

When you approach your squat rack to hit a big lift, what do you do? You probably grab the bar, flex all the appropriate muscles, tighten your back, and bring yourself under the bar to unrack it. What do you do next? Walk it out of the rack, of course. This is where things can go wrong for athletes that simply don’t know better (we have all been there).

For some newer athletes that don’t know better, they make 4, 6, maybe even 8 steps out of the rack before they are ready to descend in the squat. An easy way to think of why this is not efficient is to think of each step as a rep, because it IS a rep. If you have ever done yoke run, you absolutely know that each step under a yoke is a rep, and a back squat walkout is no different. The weight is lighter, and you are walking backwards, but you are still wasting energy on steps that don’t need to be performed, and that energy could have gone towards your squat. Check out the video below to see the differences in my walkout after working with Alanna on my squat:

As you can clearly see in the 500lb video, I took almost 3x the steps I took in my 567lb video. You can also see that the bar was on my back for 10 seconds in the first video before I descended, vs. 6 seconds in the second video. Part of this was inexperience, and part of it was nerves. If you are unracking a weight you’ve never lifted before, you naturally get a little nervous. The time for nerves is NOT when you have the bar on your back, however. Instead, do all of your thinking and psyching up BEFORE you bring yourself under the bar. Once you are under the bar, it’s go time, not time to get stoked.

When I program for every single one of my new clients, I write this next to their squat workouts:

“(One step back per foot and one step to the side, if you take more than this, rerack and go again)”

This means that they are allowed to take only one step back out of the rack, and one micro-step to adjust their toe angle. If they take any more than this, they have to rerack and do it again. Is that annoying? Yes it is. It also means that they will fix it pretty quickly. By forcing my athletes to think of the lift as starting in the rack, they will be better prepared for competitions, where the lift literally does start in the rack. You can apply this concept of “no wasted energy” to all your lifts, and I will be posting one article a week that will touch on the cues I give my clients, to help them save their energy for the actual lift.