3 HIDDEN BENEFITS OF HATFIELD SQUATS
Super UNDERRATED For Leg Size!
by Alec Enkiri | 6/24/22
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Today I'm going to talk about one of the most underrated leg exercises in existence. that frankly, most of you have probably never even heard of. You've definitely never seen anyone do it in person! And that exercise is...
The Hatfield Squat!
A Hatfield squat is simple. You put a safety squat bar on your back, which allows you to go hands free while easily keeping the weight balanced on the back of your shoulders (most decent gyms have acquired a safety squat bar at this point so accessibility shouldn't be too much of an issue these days). After you've got the SSB on your back you grab a hold of a bar or other sturdy object situated out in front of you at about belly button height, and then you perform a normal squat!
Sounds simple, right? Almost sounds like it doesn't even change anything, but if you write it off without trying it then I can promise you that you are missing out because this subtle change in the technique allows for BIG benefits to occur. So today I'm going to give you guys my top 3 reasons why you need to add Hatfield squats into your training routine!
Reason #1: Big ROM = Big Hypertrophy
The Hatfield squat allows you to easily achieve a very large range of motion through the hips and knees and get into a comfortable ATG squat position. The reason for this is the bar out in front of you. By grasping that handrail you are able to shift your balance back further behind you then you are able to do during a normal squat. This subtle technical adjustment allows you to make tweaks to the stance that allow you to more easily and comfortably achieve a very large range of motion.
In my case for example, since balance is not a concern I'm able to use a stance that is about hip width, quite a bit narrower than my typical squat stance, which is shoulder width or even slightly wider. With this narrow stance I am able to easily and comfortably sink every single rep until my butt is only a few inches off the floor. This is something that even when I was at my absolute most mobile in terms of squatting ability I was not able to replicate simply because my anthropometry does not really allow for it, at least not very comfortably.
With the Hatfield squat this issue is rectified and I am able to easily achieve an effortless ATG position on every single rep. If you struggle with getting the range of motion you want to on your squats then you should consider trying the Hatfield squat as well. You may just find that this subtle tweak allows you to find range of motion you didn't even know existed. And it's pretty well established at this point that the more range of motion we can take our joints through the greater the hypertrophic impact on the muscles will be. As well, by moving the hips and knees through their full available range of motion you will be promoting mobility in the joints themselves also.
Reason #2: The Hatfield Squat Gives You The Benefits of Both Machines and Free Weights IN ONE
The Hatfield squat feels like a combination of a hack squat machine and a free weight belt squat. The weight is situated in basically the same way as during a hack squat machine. The movement is not quite as free form as a regular free weight squat, but then it's not nearly as rigid as a machine movement either. Basically you get the best of both worlds. You are given the extra stability that machine work affords, but at the same time you are given the freedom of movement that free weights give you.
This allows you to push things just a little bit harder as you can on various leg machines, but it allows you to do so within the framework and context of a free weight movement, which is a unique aspect that honestly doesn't really exist elsewhere. I would say a free belt squat with hand support is probably the next closest thing to this feeling, and I absolutely LOVE belt squats, however, the Hatfield squat has some benefits that you don't get from the belt squat. For example, the stance width. With free weight belt squats you have multiple options in terms of setting things up but those options ultimately either force you into a particular stance width or force you into a more rigid pattern of movement.
While the Hatfield squat doesn't give you the benefit of zero axial loading that you get from belt squats, it does remove much of the back as a potential limiting factor in the equation and allows you to really hone in on the legs. It also doesn't force a certain stance width or rigid pattern of movement. It just feels like a super comfortable machine exercise that doesn't lock you into a rigid pattern at all. I honestly think I like it better than belt squats overall. You get the benefits of free weights and leg machines all in one and it may just be the secret weapon you need to take your leg strength and size to the next level. In fact, Dr. Fred Hatfield, aka "Dr. Squat," the man who invented the exercise, credits it with pushing his squat up to his legendary 1,014lbs world record back in the 80s.
Reason #3! It Allows You To Overload and Break Through Sticking Points
Here's where the handrail out in front of you really starts to shine. We've already covered how you can use it to subtly alter your squat pattern on the way down, now on the way up you can call on the assistance of your arms to ensure that your torso positioning remains absolutely perfect through the sticking point. As well, if you are cautious and do not allow your ego to get in the way, you can use a little bit of arm assistance to BREAK your way through said sticking point.
So now you have a tool that basically allows you to really overload the weak point of the squat pattern in terms of volume. You can take a heavy weight that would ordinarily cause your form to breakdown after maybe 5 or so reps, and now you can push out 10, 15 or maybe even 20 beautiful, clean reps with that same weight while ensuring perfect positioning the whole time. So now you are getting more work than usual at these highly challenging weights and you are doing it with zero breakdown in form. In the long run that is going to have a pretty profound impact on both your leg size as well as your leg strength, and your ability to nail clean and heavy squats.
A Quick Note About Ego
The only thing to watch out for here, as I alluded to a minute ago, is ego. You absolutely CANNOT use the handrail to pull up large amounts of weight otherwise you are simply feeding your ego for no reason, defeating the purpose of the movement, and possibly even making it dangerous as well. Any weight you use on this exercise should be a weight that you can already handle without the hand support and you should use the hand support as a judicious tool to help you maintain perfect position and push your training intensity up to the next level, rather than a tool that lets you load up irresponsible weights and feed your ego a meal it doesn't need anyway. So keep that in mind!
If you can follow these guidelines then you will be well on your way to reaping all the rewards this fantastic exercise has to offer. If you guys have any questions about the movement itself or about how to best add it into your program or anything like that be sure to let me know in the comments on YouTube! And If you found the article/video helpful or informative please hit the like button over there as well the engagement is really helpful for my channel! Also, consider signing up for my Patreon as well for more informative content just like this!
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