This squat may look comical but it is no joke once under so much weight.
If you watch a video of the Steinborn Squat, you would think we were joking. We always preach about good form and how taking care of ourselves physically is vital for keeping us in the gym and keeping that mindset intact. Watching someone perform the Steinborn squat with 405 lbs. is like holding your breathe under water, as you question what could possibly be going through their head. The way the body contorts, the strange, sudden movement of the bar as it falls onto the shoulder blades, and the massive load taken as you perform the squat portion all make you think this lift is crazy. But people still do it.
A bit of a circus type lift, the Steinborn squat comes from a lifter Henry Steinborn, who is by all accounts, a real pioneer in the lifting world. As someone putting up huge numbers and breaking PRs at the time, Steinborn held a respected streak of feats and was a specimen for human strength at that time. This squat may be one to scoff at first glance but is no laughing matter once under such weight.
Let’s take a look at the Steinborn Squat and see what this lift is all about. From what it is, to muscles worked, the benefits, and how to perform it, we’ll explore if this lift is something to even try. Do the benefits outweigh the cons and just how vital is this lift for us to see growth. It’s all below, so let’s get into it.
What Is The Steinborn Squat?
The Steinborn squat is a challenging and unorthodox lift which sees the athlete lift the bar to the point it is parallel to the ground, then slowly roll it on their back as they perform a free standing squat. While it may look as though it is an injury waiting to happen, when done properly, it is an example of the human potential and the resilient nature serious lifters have so technique is key (1).
One to impress anyone in the gym, it may not be the best exercise for you to perform. It’s almost like a game of chance with your low back and our guess is that your back wants no part in it. Yet still, for those who do partake in the Steinborn squat, when done properly, it can be a cool lift to try.
For the most part, this exercise is a lower body builder working your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors. Given this has a massive squat component to the lift, it makes sense this lift would challenge your lower body in a great way. Aside from your lower body, this lift can give your back some work, as well as your obliques and delts.
Benefits Of The Steinborn Squat
This exercise will still see great benefits, it is important however to consider this lift needs proper form and the utmost care for your body before you undergo such a grueling lift. Benefits for this lift include:
- Increased strength: This lift will definitely build strength and size as a seriously effective movement in your workout routine. It will work for both functional strength, as well as more sport specific, but either way, you get that great benefit (2).
- Importance of form: To often do we take form for granted and this lift won’t allow for any nonsense. By performing this lift, we learn the true value of technique and just how important it is to really give your full attention to it.
- Challenge stability: With this lift being performed outside a squat rack, it will really test your ability to stay balanced, especially under such a large load (3). Starting with the squat portion already at the bottom requires you to find stability under such weight, thus challenging your core strength as well.
- Mental test: As mentioned earlier, this lift tests the human limits and ability to get work done. If you can properly perform this lift, your confidence will surely increase ten-fold, which is exactly what you want and need.
How To Perform It
Here are the steps for performing the Steinborn squat:
- Set your bar up with the desired amount of weight. Squat down on one end of the barbell as if you were going to deadlift it.
- As you lift the bar up, it will be perpendicular to the ground. Start to set your grip on the bar while keeping your body engaged, preparing to take on such a load.
- Once your grip is set, start to get the bar into a squat position, slowly beginning to rest it on your back and rotating to the center once the bar is comfortably on your back.
- Once in that deep squat, find your balance, engage your core, and perform a squat.
- Once done, you can either reverse that movement back to get the bar on the ground, or you can simply place it in the rack.
Important Note: When performing this exercise, it is vital to elevate the bar using a block or two pads. This alters the depth of your bend so you are not doing a hard right or left bend and that the weight stays stable on your back.
Is It Worth Doing?
For those with vulnerable or more sensitive backs, this lift is not recommended. For those with poor form as well, this lift is probably not for you. The amount of load put on your body is immense and if not done properly, it can lead to some real issues down the line. If you do try this lift, it is a great test of the human capacity for mental will and resilience and who knows, you may end up really liking it.
The Steinborn squat is definitely not one of those conventional lifts but what it can do is more than you may think. While it will build strength and enhance stability, it is more so a test of the human will to lift massive weight. Starting back with Steinborn himself, this lift is one for all to envy and not one to be taken lightly. If you’re willing to try, give the Steinborn squat a go and see what it can do for you.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Comfort, Paul; Kasim, Peter (2007). “Optimizing Squat Technique”. (source)
- Gullett, Jonathan C.; Tillman, Mark D.; Gutierrez, Gregory M.; Chow, John W. (2009). “A Biomechanical Comparison of Back and Front Squats in Healthy Trained Individuals”. (source)
- Chandler, T. J.; Wilson, G. D.; Stone, M. H. (1989). “The effect of the squat exercise on knee stability”. (source)