There are obviously a range of exercises that people consider more bang for your buck when considering enhancing physical abilities. Be it gains in muscle size, strength or functional conditioning then a number of exercises carry over as a foundation movement that should be included in a training programme.
One of the first foundational movements that I include in a programme is the squat. Commonly performed in an olympic fashion with a barbell on the shoulders there are a number of variations that can be used. These include front squats (bar resting on your clavicle at the front of your body), zercher (supporting the bar in bent arms), goblet (holding a dumbell or kettle bell in your hands in front of you, dumbell and trap bar movements (supporting the weight at the side of your body) and jump squats (explosive in nature).
The traditional back squat has been a bit derided by Mike Boyle on account of spinal forces as well as more specific transfer of forces for sport from single leg exercises. I feel that this is quite relevant for optimum development if looking to avoid excessive forces in the lower back region. While the key concept of training is to develop physical parametres it is totally unnecessary to wrap athletes and trainees in cotton wall- yes, sport is a multi million pound industry but to truly excel a bit of grit and determination has to be endured. Performing back squats for a 4 week cycle if loaded and coached appropriatly will not cause a total shift in physical ability but at the same time it will not cripple someone.
What is more relevant is appropriate exercise selection (what type of squat) and how it is coached. The take home point is that if squats are coached properly under the correct volume and intensity there will be a benefit and tranfer to performance.