This article was provided by Training & Conditioning
By Chip Sigmon & Amy Holcombe
The hybrid squat is an exercise that combines a single-leg squat and a single-leg deadlift. I stumbled onto this movement when visiting a physical therapist for a lower leg injury.
The hybrid squat is highly effective because it:
- Is a unilateral movement that places stress on the ankle, knee and hip joint. All three joints have to stabilize the entire body during the movement.
- Produces force application. Due to the continual force being applied by the foot to the ground during the concentric and eccentric phase of the movement, the muscles of the hip and glutes are placed under a constant load. When sprinting, this force application is produced by the gluteus maximus, adductor magnus, hamstrings, hip flexors and quadriceps. The hybrid squat brings into play all of these muscles.
Orthopedic, neurologic perspectives
For a movement to be truly functional, it must have both efficient structural and neuromuscular functioning in a smooth, coordinated motion.
“Structural dysfunctions affect the body’s capacity to assume and perform optimal postures and motions. Neuromuscular dysfunctions cause repetitive, abnormal and stressful usage of the articular and myofascial system.”¹ Therefore, to be efficient, one must have efficient mechanical ability of their structures and muscular control/coordination to perform the activity.² The question one might ask is: How well are both the structural and muscular components working together to create the most efficient movement for the athlete?
The joint biomechanics required for an efficient hybrid squat include the spine, hips, knees and ankles. The spine should be in a neutral alignment and balanced to allow center of gravity to be above the standing foot. The required movement of the hip is flexion of the pelvic femoral joint. This movement allows the deep stabilizers of the core to engage early in the movement to provide the greatest amount of trunk stability. Knee flexion will reveal tracking over the second ray, along with dorsiflexion of the ankles with subtalur joint mobility, spreading of rays, and distribution of weight to allow a steady base of support.
Muscular control required for an efficient hybrid squat are those around the joints previously mentioned. Trunk stabilizers are the multifidi, transverse abdominis, and both oblique muscle groups. To be useful, these muscles must fire first to provide stabilization prior to the global muscles firing. Those global muscles include parasinals, superficial abdominals and quadratus lumborum. The hip stabilizers include gluteals, hamstrings, quads, adductors and abductors.
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Smooth, coordinated movements allow control of hip joint flexion and for continued balance arthrokinematics of trunk and lower extremities. For appropriate and powerful knee control, there must be co-contraction of quadriceps, hamstrings and proximal gastrocnemius. Lastly, the task requires isotonic control of ankle and foot intrinsic musculature.
This hybrid squat is a functional movement that incorporates the deep stabilizing muscles of the entire trunk and lower extremities that work in conjunction with global musculature and efficient arthrokinematics to provide appropriate weight acceptance into the lower extremity to allow for power, control and function. When putting this movement into practical applications for athletes, the hybrid squat is implemented before most squat, deadlift and clean variations. It’s also implemented before a lot of speed, agility, and movements including the prowler or sled pulls.
The force application of driving the foot through the ground during both the concentric and eccentric portions of the movement is a great “movement prep” for any lower extremity exercise, especially when it comes to sprinting. While sprinting, the force-producing capacities of the athlete are fundamental to achieving optimal stride and length with maximal speed.3,4 The hybrid squat can play a role in helping the athlete produce greater force during each stride.
Examples of workouts
Three sets of eight to 10 reps can be completed before any multijoint exercise previously mentioned, including the push press. Our athletes start out using 15- or 20-pound dumbbells and progress from there.
During speed and plyometric work, athletes perform eight to 10 reps on one leg of the hybrid squat. After the 10th rep, they sprint 15 to 20 yards. Perform the hybrid squat on the other leg, and immediately sprint the same distance with sets of five to eight (each leg performed equals one set). The same can be done with plyometric work. Follow eight to 10 reps of the hybrid squat with three reps of double- or single-leg box jumps. I suggest five sets.
Contrast training — when the athlete performs an explosive movement right after an exercise that requires strength — is another great way to help athletes increase speed and explosiveness.5
Photo 1 shows the starting and finishing position. With a dumbbell tucked into the lower chest and upper abdominal wall, the athlete’s hips are hinged to where the glutes are out and the upper and lower back (thoracic and lumbar spine) is neutral and remains in this position throughout the entire movement. While descending, the athlete drives the foot through the ground applying as much force as possible. When ascending, the athlete continues to drive the foot through the ground while maintaining good form. The athlete comes up, just short of vertical. This helps keep as much force production into the ground as possible. The athlete will know if they’re generating enough force by the muscular contraction of the glutes.
Tempo should be in the three- to four-second range in the eccentric and concentric phases of the movement.
Photo 2 shows the midpoint of the movement. While in the eccentric and concentric phase of the movement, it’s important that the knee tracks in line with the second ray (the toe beside the big toe) of the foot. The athlete continues to keep the dumbbell tucked into the lower chest and upper abdominal wall. This helps keep the spine in a neutral position.
In photo 3, notice that in the bottom position the athlete’s shoulders are only slightly higher than the hips, much like a regular deadlift. There should be a smooth transition between the eccentric and concentric phase of the movement, with the dumbbells remaining tucked into the torso as much as possible.
There are many advantages to this unilateral movement. From a proprioception single-leg balance exercise, using the hybrid squat to increase strength of the lower extremity — or to help increase force production or even used in contrast training — can be a valuable tool in your quest to help athletes improve strength, power and speed. Research suggests that improvements with unilateral training may be more immediate (e.g., six weeks) than improvements in bilateral training, yet do not continue after initial increases.6
Implementing the hybrid squat into certain phases of your program, such as the preseason, is possible. The lists of ways to implement the hybrid squat are endless, only limited by your passion and creativity.
- Rational Manual Therapies; Chapter 11, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, Greg Johnson, Vicky Saliba Johnson.
- Institute of Physical Art Link »
- From NSCA Select, Adapted, by permission, from G. Schmolinsky, 2000, Track and Field: The East German textbook of athletics (Toronto Sports Books), 122-123
- Chris Beardsley, S&C Research columnist, page six Link »
- Nick Tumminello, Contrast Training for Strength, Size and Power, 05/11/09 Link »
- Ramsey, Nijem, Single-Leg and Double-Leg Training Implications for Basketball, NSCA Coach 3.1, NSCA.com, page 11
Chip Sigmon, CSCS*D, RSCC*E, USAW, CISSN, is the owner of Sigmon Sports Performance and Sigmon Executive Personal Training in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been in the strength and conditioning field for over 40 years.
Amy Holcombe, PT, DPT, CFMT, is a manual physical therapist. She has her manual functional therapy certification and is a primary instructor for The Institute of Physical Art, teaching continuing education for physical therapists.