Secondhand Smoke- Closing Remarks on the RFESS


To wrap things up I have some closing remarks that proponents of eliminating squats don’t want to hear. This is a dirty game to create fear and confusion to drive up the market demand, like the oil barons.The tough questions that demand a verdict. I am not saying that I don’t think the RFESS or Bulgarian has merit. It has it’s place, but not in place for conventional squats. To put things in perspective, any exercise or method, must be reviewed with fine toothed comb. Some coaches are sharing their opinions, but let’s be direct and honest here. The main reason people use the RFESS is because they are either afraid to lift heavy or can’t get people to squat well. I am tired of the emails of people blaming video games or poor PE as reasons they don’t do one of the most primitive of movements. The truth is that people want to avoid comparisons, and soon bilateral vertical jumps will be dangerous or not exploiting the bilateral deficit.

When someone squats 225 for 20 reps using a FSCGRFESSFDWPN (front squat clean grip rear foot elevated split squat from a deficit with packed neck) are they producing superior athletes? Nope. The argument is that they are getting less injuries and that talent is more on the field. So by this standard they are have terminated the evolution and progression of performance. Where are the 50 year old NBA players from all this career longevity? Microfracture surgeries are up and I am not seeing less injuries in the NFL and NBA.

Since they are doing higher reps do they run out of spinal credits (carbon credit analogy) because the spine flexes more for higher reps than lower reps if the depth is the same? Didn’t the pig studies show us we have only so many motions left in our spine and we must use them wisely?

Since everyone loves training like babies, shouldn’t we stop them from doing bilateral squats to start them on good habits? And if we should emulate babies who do deep squats, where are the proponents from DNS with back squats? It seems that when loading is involved the exercises become more exotic and murky because comparison is intentionally difficult. So when exercises are compared, naturally the athlete with better technique and load is likely to demonstrate better coaching. This is why many coaches attack the full olympic lifts as being dangerous or not necessary. If one can’t coach it the easiest thing is to ban it.

Since the RFESS is a half squat, but the bilateral deficit is not half the load and close to 75%, wouldn’t two sets of RFESS equate to more spinal stress in total? Absolute stress may be higher with a heavier load but what about overuse from more training reps? Also the training reps include an imbalanced loading that increases stress asymmetrically, the one variable that is scored on the FMS. It’s ok to fix asymmetry because it’s bad but adding it in with heavy load is? With the front leg being a squat, does one side of the spine get all of the dangers and the rear leg absolutely nothing? When you switch legs does it cancel out or compound the problem?

If we screen an overhead squat but can’t load it, why not screen the RFESS instead? With the exercise demanding groin and hip flexor flexibility, wouldn’t the RFESS replace the FMS screen? Since bilateral movements are not specific why not ban the overhead squats screens? I love the overhead squat test if one scores it with angles (using a scoring system 0-4 for a person’s body is like using a fat crayon and trying do a blue print for a fighter jet)

One question is who decides what load is safe? Does one coach or researcher have the power to come down from the mountain and say thou shalt not lift more than X pounds on specific movements? Who decides this and how is the RFESS researched regarding to spinal safety? If one is going just as deep on one leg and the other leg is supposedly doing nothing but balance, does that mean is less safe, the same threat, or more dangerous than a back squat movement of similar load? Does the bilateral deficit cause more harm because one legged work, asymmetrical in nature, need more load to create a training effect? Where is the McBride research on the core with the RFESS? That’s right, he just showed that golfers, who are not known for explosive leg power in sport, tend to show more relationship to performance from back squats than a certain screening system. (Note: The FMS is not a problem, it’s just the proponents tend to oversell it’s purpose.)

Where are all the Powerlifters setting world records with the RFESS? Would we see 800 pound RFESS transferring to 1200 back squats? If someone is so confident that the bilateral deficit is magical why not set a world record with just RFESS for a year and see the impressive numbers. Wouldn’t a combination of squatting and RFESS produce freaks? I am sure those coaches who take risks with their athletes and still squat should have 50 inch verts and 4.18 FAT 40s.

The specific and transfer arguments of one leg is hype. With athletes playing the sport and practicing so much, they are already getting a lot of specific loading, why overdose the muscle groups that are trying to support it? Perhaps the dozens of reps are to get more specific since most games are an hour long? Perhaps RFESS for 4 15 minute quarters with bodyweight is next? In the NFL they play with pads not weight vests, why lift at all?

With all of the advancements we are not seeing better performances in the combines or any other performance measures. This is obvious but not talked about in message boards. Nothing wrong with Bulgarian or RFESS exercises, but they are not better and have pitfalls like any other exercise. Keep doing what you believe and the RFESS is a good option at times. Those that do do it shouldn’t be attacked like some infidel, but if they are doing it and are smug with their superiority, then that’s another story.

I like the RFESS as it can be used in various ways to compliment a program. Those that use it are likely to be trying to help athletes, so the intent is great. My concern is those that are healthy and are coached by great people are not taking advantage of and exercise that has helped some great athletes over the last 50 years or more.
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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

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