Why Every Athlete Can Benefit From the Jefferson Squat

We use these with our youth athletes all the way up to our professionals. The benefits are unmatched and unique

One of my favorite exercises for all athletes is the Jefferson Squat.

This is an old-school movement—no really, like "from the 1800s" old—that really doesn't get the love it deserves. It looks a little awkward, but it's pure gold for lifters and athletes who want to maximize their weight room experience.

I think this is a great lift for all levels of athletes. We use these with our youth athletes all the way up to our professionals. The benefits are unmatched and unique, which is why I believe they deserve to be on your next program.

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One of my favorite exercises for all athletes is the Jefferson Squat.

This is an old-school movement—no really, like "from the 1800s" old—that really doesn't get the love it deserves. It looks a little awkward, but it's pure gold for lifters and athletes who want to maximize their weight room experience.

I think this is a great lift for all levels of athletes. We use these with our youth athletes all the way up to our professionals. The benefits are unmatched and unique, which is why I believe they deserve to be on your next program.

Here's why you should know (and love) the Jefferson Squat.

Benefits of the Jefferson Squat

One of the most obvious benefits of the Jefferson Squat is the asymmetrical strength gains they provide. While the standard Squat/Deadlift is a bilateral sagittal plane movement, the Jefferson Squat is actually multiplanar and slightly emphasizes one side more than the other. This can enhance the work the athlete does in those other planes and setups, such a Back Squats, Split Squats and Trap Bar Deadlifts.

In sports, athletes must move in and out of numerous positions, producing force, absorbing contact and controlling their movement. Getting stronger in an offset setup like this, in different planes of motion, is an overlooked way to improve athleticism, strength and performance.

Many people may write off the Jefferson Squat as having little "carryover" to sports due to the somewhat unusual setup position. However, if you study sports, this position really is quite common. Being strong outside of the typical bilateral position is vital for athletic performance, so we should train those qualities as well.

Next, the Jefferson Squat requires a lot of core integrity and stabilization—via obliques and adductors—throughout the range of motion.

The obliques and adductors are two of the primary muscle groups athletes use when changing direction and resisting rotation, which are two massively important aspects of sports.

Failure to activate the core will result in the barbell rotating away from the athlete or causing them to lose their foot position on the floor. The movement is self-correcting in that if either of those things happen, the athlete or coach can immediately adjust, make the proper changes and reset.

I am also a huge fan of any exercise that can develop lower-body strength without putting a barbell on the athlete's back. No, I am not saying Back Squats are bad. I just think there are often better options out there for non-powerlifters.

I am also a huge fan of any exercise that can develop lower-body strength with the weight close to the athlete's center of mass. No, I am not saying Conventional Deadlifts are bad. I just think there are often better options out there for non-powerlifters.

The Jefferson Squat checks both of those boxes. This is an extremely lower-back friendly exercise for those reasons.

Finally, the Jefferson Squat can pack on muscle. One of the best bodybuilders of this era, Kai Greene, called the Jefferson Squat one of his best secrets. In case you haven't seen his legs, they are bigger and stronger than all of ours.

In all seriousness, this movement is great for packing on muscle. It can be done heavy for strength or with more moderate loads and higher reps for hypertrophy. It can be an assistance or a main lift.

Adding some size to their legs will often benefit an athlete. In fact, packing some meat on those chicken legs can lead to increased jumping and sprinting ability, plus it helps you pass the eye test and makes you tougher to push around. The Jefferson Squat provides both "show" and "go."

How to Do the Jefferson Squat

  • Step over the barbell. The front foot points straight forward and the rear foot is angled between 45-90 degrees, based on your mobility.
  • Squat straight down toward the barbell with an upright torso.
  • Rotate your torso back to center and grab the barbell. You can use any grip that feels comfortable. I prefer a mixed grip.
  • Create your brace and tension through the bar.
  • Make sure you can feel both feet being firmly planted on the ground before you lift.
  • Stand up to lift the weight
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position
  • Once you complete the prescribed number of reps on one side, switch positions to complete that same number on the opposite side

How to Program the Jefferson Squat

Strength

  • Sets of 1-6 reps per side
  • 3-6 sets per side
  • Moderate to Heavy load
  • Controlled reps

Power

  • Sets of 1-6 reps per side
  • 3-6 sets per side
  • Light to Moderate load
  • Explosive reps

Hypertrophy

  • Sets of 8-20 per side
  • 3-6 sets per side
  • Light to Moderate load
  • Controlled reps

Photo Credit: LightFieldStudios/iStock

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Topics: SQUAT | LOWER BODY | DEADLIFT | BUILD MUSCLE | LEG EXERCISES