YOU be the Judge Part 2: Back Position in the Squat, by Dr. Lon Kilgore

We are proud to present a second guest post by Dr. Lon Kilgore. This is Part Two; you can read Part One here.

The NSCA's Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning textbook presents this as a full squat, with proper back position.

Is this a full squat? The NSCA’s textbook presents this as a squat to “parallel” with proper back position.

Interrogative: What should professional fitness trainers teach their trainees about back position during the squat?

EvidenceThe NSCA Essentials of Strength Training & Conditioning, The NSCA Essentials of Personal Training, the NSCA Basics of Strength and Conditioning, the NSCA official Website, and the NSCA Position Paper: The Squat Exercise in Athletic Conditioning, all offer different instruction to trainers on back position allowable when having their clients squat. To wit;

Instruction 1 – Torso to floor angle constant throughout squat

Instruction 2 – Upright as possible

Instruction 3 – Too upright is a fault

Instruction 4 – Torso should be between 35o to 45o

Instruction 5 – Torso angle is approximately 60o

Instruction 6 – Forward lean is a fault

Analysis: For instruction 1, this orientation implies that since the squat motion, as described in the derivative text, begins with the torso perpendicular to the floor, that this perpendicular back position is held throughout the exercise. Instruction 2 suggests a perpendicular orientation but infers that deviations from upright can be acceptable. Instructions 3 and 4 clearly imply that a forward lean is correct, with instruction 4 going so far as to provide a range of deviation from vertical that is descriptive of a correct squat. Instruction 5 is visually derived from NSCA branded video instruction on the squat. Instruction 6 contradicts instruction 4 and 5 and suggests deviations from vertical are not correct technique.

Summary: NSCA publications referencing back position during the squat are sufficiently incomplete, contradicting, and confounding to a point suggesting that any back orientation during the squat may be acceptable.

Commentary: The self-proclaimed world authoritative materials promulgated by the NSCA are inconsistent in recommendation, incomplete in scientific support, lacking definition, inadequate in anatomical description, and impractical in application. The said publications and recommendations create an environment where education of professionals on back position in the squat is inconsistent.

The authorship, editorial, or graphical issues present may ultimately have negative effects on individual fitness results and the safety of the public, as correct technique cannot be reliably determined from the published position statements, texts, and videos.

Dr. William Kraemer, editor in chief of the NSCA's Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Dr. William Kraemer, editor in chief of the NSCA’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

About the Author
Professor Lon Kilgore graduated from Lincoln University with a bachelor of science in biology and earned a Ph.D. in anatomy and physiology from Kansas State University. He has competed in weightlifting to the national level since 1972 and coached his first athletes to national-championship event medals in 1974. He has worked in the trenches, as a coach or scientific consultant, with athletes from rank novices to professionals and the Olympic elite, and as a collegiate strength coach. He has been a certifying instructor for USA Weightlifting for more than a decade and a frequent lecturer at events at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. His illustration, authorship, and co-authorship efforts include the best-selling books “Starting Strength” (first and second editions) and “Practical Programming for Strength Training” (first and second editions), recent releases “Anatomy Without a Scalpel” and “FIT,” magazine columns, textbook chapters, and numerous research journal publications. He is presently engaged in the most difficult task of his career: recreating the educational track to becoming a professional fitness practitioner. The second stage of this effort is the creation of a one-year university qualification in fitness practice at the University of the West of Scotland.


  1. Pingback: YOU be the Judge Part 3: Squat Stance, by Dr. Lon Kilgore | THE RUSSELLS

  2. Pingback: YOU be the Judge Part 4: Knee Position and Orientation, by Dr. Lon Kilgore | THE RUSSELLS

  3. Pingback: YOU be the Judge Part 5: Head and Neck Position, by Dr. Lon Kilgore | THE RUSSELLS

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