Dangers of the RFESS- Breaking down the Back Breaker!


The RFESS (Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat) is a potentially dangerous exercise. Not only has groin problems been documented in it’s users during in-season training with Hockey, now new research shows that squatting has risks to the spine. The question is why does RFESS have more risk than bilateral squats? The front leg is very similar to regular front and back squats, but that pesky rear leg is the tricky part. As the saying goes, if one elevates the foot you will annihilate the back. Nick T does a wonderful job sharing the common pitfalls of the exercise to the lower back because one has to adjust the height of the box or bench and tight hip flexors tend to make the problem worse.

What about Technique? If one keeps the femur parallel to the spine it will not create excessive lordosis right? Yes. One can negate the excessive lordosis by adjusting the rear leg, creating a more neutral spine. Another way to create a better position is to move the rear leg in a position in front of the pelvis and symmetrical to the opposite foot. This adjustment is called the SFESS (Symmetrical Foot Equal Safe Squat). Jokes aside the argument is false. How can the RFESS be safe when half the movement is the back squat? Both exercises done right are rather safe methods, and the RFESS is not perfect or not prone to the same risks that the squatting family has.

The RFESS is sort of a mule, part squat and part lunge. The squatting risks it has can’t be neglected because you lower the weight and put one of your feet behind you. It may be a different exercise but the similarities need to be addressed. This is something nobody talks about because people are trying to increase twitter followers and the totem pole of being the next speaker at some clinic or conference. It’s intellectual dishonesty.

The back squat is a classic exercise that scares people. Not for the dangers, but for the comparison it creates. We all know what numbers and good technique squats have, and when you can’t produce it we get socialized strength, make the strong weaker and so that everyone can be functionally strong. We can’t cherry pick research without first questioning anything or reading the full journal. This is why we need better coaches, not an elimination of exercises.
Discuss entry

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

Latest posts by Carl Valle (see all)