Squatting in Canvas Article
12-29-2006 07:52 AM
Squatting in Canvas Article
I wrote this article based on my experience training in a canvas suit since most people have not been given a detailed article on how to use one. I sent it to EFS a while ago they said they liked it alot but have yet to publish it, so i figured i would give you guys a first look.
SQUATTING BIG IN CANVAS by Charles Fay
In this modern era of geared powerlifting, there is an incredible variety of brands of squat suits as well as the materials they are made of. The canvas squat suit is one of the most common types of suit and can result in big squats or big bomb outs if it is not used correctly. This article is written to help people iron out some common problems with using canvas and to teach people how I have learned to maximize my canvas suit.
The very first thing that you need to consider is should you be using canvas, or are you ready for canvas. If you like to descend fast and like a big poly pop out of the hole, then don’t bother with canvas as there are many great poly suits out there. When it comes to if someone is ready for canvas, nothing makes me cringe more than seeing a new lifter with only a meet or two under their belt and mediocre to poor numbers get into a canvas suit. I know that with all these big, geared numbers being put up these days that it is very tempting to jump into the strongest gear right away. Maybe I have an outdated mentality, but I think people who are new to the sport need to focus on technique, getting a few meets under their belt and building a strong base of strength. Start off in some weak single ply gear and slowly work your way up to a tighter doubly ply poly, and only after you have squatted some decent numbers in tight poly, get yourself a canvas. I did not even look at a canvas suit till I squatted 800lbs in a single ply hardcore with single ply briefs at 275lbs. Waiting until you are strong enough will help you make more long term progress and prevent a potential disastrous injury (no one wants a femur fracture).
With the canvas suit, the most important factor is the fit. Your canvas suit may be easy to get into, but if it takes less than two people to get you out of it, then you are wasting your time and are not getting the most out of your suit. The most important area for it to be tight is in the hips because that is the area that will give the maximal support while squatting. In my opinion the legs need to be tight also, not as tight as in the hips, but if you can get more that two fingers between the leg and the suit, then it is too loose. This tightness in the legs and hips comes into play when loading the suit which will be discussed later on. The two most common brands are the Frantz double canvas and the Ginny Phillips custom double canvas. I have worn both and thought the Frantz was good for a canvas beginner, but too easy to blow out, the Ginny is stronger and custom made and well worth the money. It may take a lot of weight to get to parallel, it may take more than your previous squat PR to get depth, but you must accept this mentally and prepare for using a whole lot more weight. When warming up, do not ever force depth or sacrifice technique in order to make depth. Depth matters only on the platform and you should reinforce only good upright torso squatting technique as opposed to bending forward in a vain attempt to get more depth. Do not use briefs right away in the canvas suit because it may just be too much gear for you to start off with. Learn the groove of the suit, get comfortable in it and then get yourself a pair of briefs. Start off with some cheap single or double ply poly briefs, do a few meets in it and then if you have put up some good squats think about the more jacked up briefs. I use Metal Viking briefs (I am not sponsored) and really enjoy using them, but because of their strength, they took a while for me to learn how to use them without being thrown out of my natural groove. I waited till I squatted 1008 before I got into the jacked up Vikings.
The set up is the next thing that must be addressed. When using a canvas suit, your mobility is decreased considerably and as a result foot placement is key, if they are an inch or two back or forward from what is optimal, you could have major problems. The very first thing I do is grip the bar evenly and then place my feet slightly in front of me to the point where I feel that if I let go of the bar at that moment, I would fall backwards. I squat wide and I find that if my feet are not nice and forward, then it is very difficult to unrack big weight and stabilize with it. I think a high bar position on my back allows me to stay more upright when I squat in canvas, but however you like the bar, make sure you are squeezing your upper back with your elbows down. Make sure your weight is over your entire foot and not just on the heel. When unracking the weight, get a belly full of air and tighten your abs and unrack it by just bringing your hips forward and your head and chest upwards, using more hip than back to unrack. This is easy if your feet are in the proper position. I find the optimal position to be in when I unrack is totally upright with my back arched as opposed to the slightly bent at the waist arched position that some people use. After unracking, let out about half of your air and then get more air in until you are ready to squat, if you find getting more air under heavy weight difficult, then you need stronger abs and a lot more training under heavy tension. Once you feel balanced and ready, break at the hips, sitting back and at the same time forcing your knees outward as hard as possible spreading the floor with your feet, do not do this too fast. This will build tension and load the suit and make a huge difference in what you get out of your canvas. I actually blew the left leg on a Ginny Phillips double canvas suit on my descent with 1014 at APF Senior Nationals because I was loading my suit that hard, Ginny knows of no one other than myself to do that. After you break and load your suit properly, sit straight down so that your torso is totally upright. If you are bending forward in the torso more than a few degrees, then you are shortchanging yourself and making your back do way too much work. When it comes to getting depth, be patient because it might take a little while before your buddy gives you the up command, just stay tight and balanced, sitting in the hole like you sit on a box in training. Some people like to let it go a little bit and get a quick dip in the hole to make depth. If you can do this, more power to you, I usually end up just descending slowly and as tight as possible and my squats often look like pauses, but that is why we squat off a box. Another thing that needs to be considered is the tightness of your straps. If you need your straps cranked down just to get and opener, then you might end up with some depth problems and you might need to get either more confident or stronger to get the most out of your suit. Crank the straps tighter when the weight gets heavier.
Finally there is training. I follow a basic Westside type template and maybe take weight in my canvas twice in the six months leading up to my meet. If you are new to canvas, then get in it a little more often. I usually wear an old single poly suit with straps down during most of my speed squat cycles. During the speed strength phase wear your canvas with straps down if you feel you need more practice with the groove. Although some great lifters will disagree with me on this point, I like wearing my canvas with straps down on my circa max phase. My reasoning is that I think it allows me to get more comfortable with the groove of the suit and at the same time handle more band tension and weight than without it and build my confidence under super heavy weights. Be careful about wearing briefs under the suit while box squatting, because some times the combination of the suit, briefs and box stopping you can be a little too unnatural and could throw you off. Usually this is more of a problem with the stronger briefs out there.
In conclusion, I hope that this article will help all those out there who squat in canvas or want to squat in canvas. If you want to squat big in canvas, then all of these factors are of incredible importance. The last bit is just confidence and that is up to you. Squat big, because it is all just a number.
About the Author: Charles Fay is a 26 year old Strength Coach and Personal Trainer who works at Hardcore Fitness in Boca Raton Fl. He has a BA in Exercise Science from Bloomsburg University where he was a 3 year starter for the football team. Charles trains at Southside barbell with best lifts of 1052 squat, 639 bench, 722 deadlift and a 2413 total.
01-04-2007 11:18 AM
01-04-2007 05:00 PM
Thanks, i hope it is of some help for those who are getting into the sport and learning about equipment. Unfortunately it seems that everyone who peddles equipment tells you very little about how to effectively use it.
01-07-2007 11:50 AM
Awsome article man. I don't know if I will ever go to canvas, but if I do, I'm gonna be referring back to this.
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