Friday, November 14, 2008


I’d like to clarify something if I may.

Last week, in a post involving gym suggestions, I chided people for their use of the “tampon” when performing squats. The tampon is the cylindrical, Velcro-secured pad you place in the center of the barbell when you squat.

I don’t use the tampon, and I suggest others refrain from using it as well. Because I had the unmitigated audacity to write this, I was called an “asshole” and was told to stop trying to be a “tough guy.” This particular reader went on to explain that squatting without the tampon had bruised him, cracked his skin and made him bleed.

First of all, dear reader, if you’re going to take the time to write to someone explaining how badly you need the tampon on the bar when you squat, I’m thinking you’d probably have a very hard time backing up calling me an “asshole” in person.

There’s your “tough guy,” friend.

Here’s reality when it comes to squatting. It’s absolutely imperative to use proper form and technique when you squat. When your upper body technique is correct, you don’t need the tampon. Correct technique means you’re gripping the bar tightly, your shoulder blades are retracted, your elbows are under the bar, and the bar is sitting on your traps, forming a nice, wide base to support it. If the bar is sitting properly, it won’t hurt.

When you use the tampon, you’re creating a much more narrow base, which in most cases means the bar will be positioned incorrectly on the back of your neck. This creates a rather narrow fulcrum that does little to promote proper balance, and any small bodily adjustment to either side is amplified and projected to one side of the bar or the other. It’s very, very easy to get injured when the bar is knocked off kilter during a lift, even when you’re using light weight.

In fact, most gym injuries happen when you’re using lighter weight, simply because you don’t concentrate as hard on technique when you haven’t prepared yourself to strain. When you’re working with 80% of your maximal strength and above, you tend to focus a hell of a lot more because the primary goal – aside from getting the weight up – is survival.

Additionally, for most people, the lower the bar rides on your back – the “low bar” squat – the more weight you’ll be able to comfortably handle.

I don’t mind when people disagree with me, but can we exercise a tad more civility, please? I drew more vitriol with a stupid gym post than I did when I said I disliked both presidential candidates. I find that very strange.