Over the last few years (article published late 1982), the squatting style of the majority of powerlifters has evolved quite a bit. Just as the squat snatch slowly but surely began to replace the split style in Olympic lifting, the wide stance power squat has been replacing the narrow stance "Olympic" type squat in powerlifting.
Note: Ever read any articles on squat snatching from around the time it was beginning to really gain in popularity? The similarity to the comparison of the two squat styles is what originally made this article interesting to me.
If a lifter has the hip flexibility to obtain the required depth and the quad strength to keep his knees from pulling inward on the ascent, indications are that the wide stance power squat will put more pounds on his total come contest time.
Let's look at the power squat and see what some of the universal technical points are.
With the power squat the bar is placed very low on the back. The first time a lifter achieves proper position with the bar it will almost feel as if it is going to roll off his back, if it were not for the upward pressure of the hands and arms. Most lifters using the power squat style are finding greater success by keeping their hand placement fairly narrow and their thumbs under the bar (no false grip), and most of those using the power squat style keep their eyes and head forward, and not up, with the toes pointed outward. If despite all of your efforts and concentration your knees still pull inward on the ascent you need to go back to "high bar" or "Olympic" squats to build quad strength.
Two of the game's strongest squatters are Mike Bridges and Fred Hatfield. Each holds world records in the squat in more tbhan one weight class. Mike in the 165's with a 722 squat and in the 181's with an 837. Fred has an 826 as a 198er and an 881 as a 220.
Needless to say, both of these boys can move some iron.
Both of these great lifters follow the points that are universal to most power squatters; however, while Bridges and Hatfield do follow many of the same technical keys, they also have two fairly different approaches to the power squat.
Most of the time great lifters do not appreciate it when people point out major differences they have in their style and training as compared to other great lifters. They stress that lifters should look for similarities in their styles to follow and not differences. I mention the differences in these lifters' style and training only to present options to other lifters and not to downgrade either of these men or his particular style of training philosophy.
Let us now look at some of the finer points of squatting that the two great squatters Mike Bridges and Fred Hatfield differ on.
Fred prefers a shoe with a heel on it. Mike has used a shoe with a heel on it in the past, but now uses a flat soled shoe. Both lifters stress that each lifter can only experiment to find out what type of shoe he should use, and it is quite possible that an individual lifter's needs will change from time to time.
Hatfield believes a lifter should use a belt and wraps only a short time before a meet or until he gets into sets of 5 reps and under. Bridges wears all of the above all of the time, however, Mike's training suit is a size or two larger than his meet suit.
I believe Mike's reasoning is that supportive gear changes a lifter's form and a lifter should squat with the same form in the gym that he will use in the meet. Fred's position, as I understand it, is that supportive aids rob the body of the chance to get stronger in critical areas. Therefore, they should be saved to give the lifter a boost just before meet time.
Fred Hatfield is an advocate of high bar squats in the off season and right up until a lifter starts to cycle for a meet. In the time I trained around Mike Bridges I never saw him do any high bar squats or even talk about them.
Now let's look at the way these two squatters differ in their descent on the squat. We have all heard of Mike Bridges squatting style being dubbed the "Bridges Flare." Some lifers have maintained that the Bridges Flare is the same squatting style that's been around for years and has just recently been tagged with the new name, however, the Bridges Flare does have important differences with other squatting styles.
In the descent Mike tries to keep his knees from having any forward tilt at all. Mike more or less sits back with part of his weight shifting back to his heels. While the toes are pointed outward they are not pointed out nearly to the extent of most wide stance squatters.
Fred Hatfield's descent is much more traditional with the knees pulling slightly forward and the weight remaining over the center of the foot.
As far as training goes Fred has published material indicating he follows a system of cycling from high reps to lower reps as the meet gets closer.
Mike Bridges on the other hand has published material indicating that he works heavy singles every week of his cycle. In watching Mike's training and talking to friends of mine that have trained with him since he moved to Texas, it seems that Mike also relies a great deal on what some people call instinctive training.
Look at the similarities between these two squatting machines for a definite answer to bar position, hand placements and head positioning, and experiment with the ways in which they differ to acquire the perfect style for you.