By Louie Simmons Flex
It takes correct technique, periodization, and selection of special exercises to conquer weaknesses in squatting. Combine these with a balance of strength and you’re ready. Westside Barbell has produced more than 70 lifters who’ve squatted more than 800 pounds, 19 with more than 1,000 pounds on their résumés, six have squatted more than 1,100 pounds, and two have broken the 1,200-pound barrier. It’s easy when you know how.
WHAT IS PERFECT TECHNIQUE?
First, place the bar high on your back, sitting on the mid traps. Grab the bar, wrapping your thumbs around it, while positioning your feet at least shoulder-width apart. If you’re flexible, it’s preferable to keep the feet wider and pointed out slightly. Arch the back and hold air in your abdomen. To lift the bar out, arch your back and push your feet apart while clearing the rack. As you push out with your feet, force your knees apart. Keep your chest high by continuing to arch your back, and push your glutes out until you reach parallel. Next, drive your upper back into the bar. Never push through your feet first as you begin to ascend; this causes one to bend at the waist and goodmorning the bar up as a result. Continue to arch your back and push outward with your feet.
Squatting requires two training days a week, with 72 hours between the first and second days for optimal recovery.
Dynamic Effort (Speed-Strength) Day: The first squatting day is the dynamic effort method (for Westside athletes, this is Friday) in which speed squats are done at 50%-60% of 1-rep max for 10-12 sets of two reps in a three-week wave. Add 25% band tension at the top for accommodating resistance; this helps to eliminate bar deceleration. After a three-week wave, change band tension or type of accommodating resistance by adding chains to the bar. One should change bars regularly if possible, or change the width of the stance or variation of the squat.
Max-Effort Day: The second squat day (72 hours later) is the max-effort method. Westside athletes max out (work up to an all-time max single rep) on a special squat, rack pull, or pull (deadlift) standing on a two- or four-inch box. Pulls can be switched from sumo to conventional, but only pick one type of squat or pull to max out on. Good mornings can also be done in any style: arched-back, bentover, wide-stance, or close-stance. Always switch your max-effort exercise each week. The max-effort method is the best way to raise your absolute strength for training or a contest.
On both squat days, special exercises must be done for lower back, hamstrings, glutes, hips, upper back, and abs. Westside athletes like a lot of rowing such as with a bar, dumbbells, or plates by way of both upright rows and shrugs for the upper back. Reverse hypers, back raises, and light good mornings for high reps will follow the upper back. Glute-Ham raises (GHR) for high reps, leg curls with bands or ankle weights, or inverse curls would be next for hamstrings.
Westside athletes train 80% with special exercises and 20% with some variation of the box squat, bench press, or deadlift. The dynamic-effort day is high volume and moderate intensity with very quick muscle contraction, and the max-effort day can be stressful on the central nervous system (CNS); thus, general physical preparedness (GPP) must be high. Westside athletes use a lot of sled dragging and pushing of the strongman wheelbarrow to increase their GPP. They also do very high reps (up to 100) with light weights on triceps pushdowns, leg curls, shrugs, calf work, and pec work to thicken connective tissue for both increased stored kinetic energy and injury prevention.
Choose the correct exercises to strengthen weak muscle groups, the correct percentages for dynamic-effort training, and the correct max-effort movements, and the sky’s the limit!