by Paul Anderson
by Paul Anderson
First, we must be as comfortable in all lifts and especially the deep knee bend. There are so many different sizes and shapes of people with so many different makeups that it is hard to say what is just right for everyone. Basically, we are going to have to do a deep knee bend in a manner that puts the weight squarely on the thigh muscles, which means keeping a straight back. Any time that we lean forward on the recovery of a deep knee bend more than just to keep our balance, we are distorting the lifting and in turn not doing it properly. To add to this we are cheating ourselves out of much strength that could be placed in the legs by putting it off on other muscle groups. Considering all of this let’s try to do a deep knee bend with a straight back and go down into the low position, rising again in the same way.
To accomplish having a straight back squat, some lifters must of course raise their heels so that they will not be in a strain in this position. The bar placed across the shoulders and back of the neck is never going to be the most comfortable thing going, so in practicing, a pad should be used and only the “limit tries’ should be done with a bare bar. I feel that sometime in the future the bar for a contest will have to be larger than our regular 1 1/6 inch bars, because these are going to be quite dangerous with 900 plus pounds.
Try to squat naturally. By this, I mean to try to make it a natural movement. Judge your foot spacing and heel height to what feels good to you. Don’t try to get in an unnatural position just to handle more weight. In the long run this is going to work down on your poundage instead of build it up as you may temporarily think.
The rules say that the top of the thigh must be parallel to the floor to make for a full squat. Many have cheated themselves by just shooting for this parallel position and stopping before they go all the way down. I make this statement because I think much power can be built in a real low position to help drive all the way up through the sticking point. The only reason I would tell a lifter not to go all the way to the bottom in a full squat is if it gave him tremendous back pains and soreness. I am not talking about just temporary soreness, but a chronic ailment in this area. If a temporary soreness occurs just from stretching the body into the deep knee bend position, and then goes away after a few other workouts I will stick to my original recommendation. Go all the way down.
The first routine I am going to recommend will be scoffed at by some and overlooked by others as they seek a more intricate exercise session, but I urge you to include this in your workout whether you are a beginner or veteran lifter. I think that through the years I have overcome more stale periods by doing 3 sets of 10’s than any other remedy for overwork with heavier weights and various assistance exercises. Considering this I will ask you to do a routine of 3 sets of 10 reps after a warmup. As always, judge your own resting period between sets. If you are not in condition to do 3 sets of 10, you may start off with one set and work up to three. I say this because not only is this a good routine to overcome a feeling of staleness but it is good for coming back after a layoff, as well as for the beginner. It gets you into the “groove” as well as builds size and strength.
This second routine is going to sound elementary because I am going to ask you to go from the 3 sets of 10 to 3 sets of 3’s. A greater warmup will be necessary because I want you to do 3 sets of 3 with the weight you feel is appropriate and will work you properly. The 3 sets of 3’s will take some of the size and expansion that has been put into the muscle from your 3 sets of 10’s and will add some real strength to your squatting power. You will have to be very careful on your sets of 3’s that you do not go stale, for so many times you will find this happening after gaining strength from the movements when doing them for several workouts. I am writing from experience and not theory. These squatting routines can be used at any time, but I am bringing you straight through them at least once, because I want you to approach the last one in good condition. Like all the other routines, you may later use them at your pleasure but at first; follow them in the order offered.
There comes a time in any squatting routine when progress slows down unless a quarter squatting system is brought in. I realize that many of you have done all variations of the squat, but after doing the 3 sets of 3’s, I recommend bringing the quarter squat into you routine in this manner. Warm up, do a set of 10’s in the full squat, and then a set of 5 reps in the quarter squat. These two movements will constitute a set and at this point in your workouts as I have recommended, you should be able to do at least three sets consisting of these two movements.
One of the key words in quarter squatting is safety. Handling a weight that you can only raise about four to six inches can be quite dangerous if safety precautions are not taken. This can be handled in many ways and here are a few that I have used.
The first is the use of a power rack as we have grown to know it in the past few years. This consists of two upright supports on each side with the bar traveling in between. At graduated intervals, a pin is put through the uprights on which to rest the weight. This is a safe way of performing the movement. That is, raising the weight off of the pin from the quarter squat position up into an upright stance. Another I have used, which is also foolproof as far as falling with the weight of pushing the weight off of the stands, is to actually weld legs onto a bar. Two widely spaced legs on each side secured permanently to the bar, allowing the weights to be put on either end is one of the most desired methods. Of course, it has to be made just for the height of the one person using it. Picture it as being something like a modified version of a carpenter’s sawhorse. I have found that using a quarter squat bar and racks is most ideal. It consists of two heavy squat racks with a permanent loop ever each end so that the bar cannot get out. The racks are equipped with automobile bumper jacks so that they can be raised and lowered to the desired position. I realize that others are using these, but I believe that I had them in operation several years before I saw anyone else employing the idea.
By no means try to do the quarter squat under conditions where the bar is free, for it will surely invite accidents, sometimes very serious ones.
In this routine we will keep the quarter squat and arrange it in a position that I feel is most advantageous in an advanced program. First do 10 reps in the full squat after a proper warmup. Then 3 quarter squats with a weight that is adequate for that amount of reps. Next, do three full squats with a weight that works you quite well, and then round out the set with one-legged squats.
One legged squats can be performed in many ways with many degrees of results. I personally have found the best way to accomplish these is to do them by standing with the leg to be worked on a bench or low table that will allow the athlete to go down into a full knee bend position on the one leg and rise again without the other leg touching the floor. To better explain, the leg not in use is to hang off the end of the bench or table as the exercise is being performed. Do as many of these as possible, working up to about 20 reps. If balance is a problem, there is no harm in placing a hand or finger against the wall or a near object to keep balance, just as long as it is not used to help the lift itself.
Again, three sets of this routine are preferred. A set consists of 10 squats, 3 quarter squats, 3 full squats, and as many one-legged squats as possible, working up to about 20.
At this time I would like for you to consider an exercise that I have found to be quite productive along with my squatting routines, and I have read that some of the European lifters have discovered that jumping movements have also been good for them. This is exactly what I am talking about: jumping. When our weightlifting team was traveling for the State Department in 1955, I remember I would get some real strange looks and sometimes many questions when I would go leaping around the warmup room or stadium grounds in what we would call jump-squat movements. In performing this, I would go all the way down into a full squat position and leap forward and as high as possible. By exerting as much leaping power as possible, much strain is put on the muscles, and in turn, the groups being exercised are stimulated and strengthened just as though a slower movement was being done with weights.
As years have gone by I have found that the best way to perform this type movement is to leap up on a table. Just like different poundages are handled by different lifters, a different height table is required for those with various abilities to leap flat-footed with a single leap landing flat-footed on the table. Make sure that the object that you are leaping up on is fixed so that it cannot slide when it is receiving your total weight. Do these leaping movements in sets of 10’s. Leap onto the table, descend to the floor, and leap again until ten have been accomplished. I believe that you will find this a new and strange sensation in your regular work at this point, making for a different stimulation to the muscles and continuing them on their way to personal records in the squat for you. To incorporate the jumps into a set, do 10 going down about halfway into a squatting position for your leaps, 5 in the regular deep knee bend, and 5 in the quarter squat. These three movements will constitute a set. Work up to 3 sets.
If, as time goes by, your leaping power increases, surely it is wise to make your table a little higher to compensate for your new explosive power.
This sixth routine I will give you is a real killer. I have waited until last because you must be in tremendous condition to do this particular routine. It has to do with the theory of lowering a heavy weight with as much resistance as possible. I will first describe how I like to do the exercise, and then talk about the “whys.”
A set is as follows: warm up and do one set of 10’s with a weight that works you, then with two strong spotters and the bar loaded to a heavier weight than your natural squat, or more than you can do in one rep in the natural deep knee bend, have the spotters help you lift the bar from the rack and assist you as you step back into the squatting position. Variations of this can be worked out on a power rack by removing the pins when the bar is brought up and then the spotters help to force the weight down. Or other safety devices can be used such as parallel bars at the squat position, weights large enough to hit the floor when the athlete can’t get back up, etc. The latter is the reason that I have used the large wheels for my deep knee bends in training for years. Many people have been impresses with these tremendous wheels that weight about 400 pounds apiece. But the real purpose of them has been to just touch the floor if I have added more weight than I can get up with. This helps as a safety factor such as the others I have named, and allows me to use a heavy weight, heavier than I can return to upright with, in safety.
Practice with lighter weights before going to something that will actually do the work.
To continue with our instructions on actually performing the lift: as the spotters back up with the lifter, they should help him get in position and then, when ready, the lifter should start down himself naturally in the lift. Many lifters would have ten times strength enough to hold all the poundage the spotters could place on the bar, if the knees were not voluntary broken. After the knees are slightly bent and the bar is being brought down, the spotters are in control of how much downward pressure, or weight, they are putting on the bar as they have their hands in a position where they can either lift up or push down. If this weight is adequate to work the higher position in the squat, which is not as necessary as the sticking point in low position, the spotters will have to be quite careful that they allow the bar to slow down as the sticking point and lower positions are reached. Of course, working the high side of the squat is not as important since we are doing so many quarter squats. The main thing we want to consider is the sticking point and low position as the lifter fights the weight, when the spotters are pressing it down. When the bottom is reached, the lifter should try to drive up from the low position 3 times. Coming up as high into the sticking point as he possibly can, and fighting it, and going down to the bottom and attempting it two more times. After this, the spotters can pull the weight back up to standing position, and they will probably have to handle most of this weight, because the lifter is going to be pretty well exhausted after his 3 attempts on the bottom. Pushing him down two more times with each bottom position being a foundation for the three upper tries again, these spotters should then help the lifter up for the last time and carefully place the bar back on the racks.
As I have said, power racks are very good for this movement to be performed in, since the lifter doesn’t have to take a step backward or forward from the racks before doing his lifts. In performing a set of this particular routine, which consists of 10 repetitions in the deep knee bend, and the 3 downward movements with each containing 3 attempts to rise before the spotters help the lifter up, the athlete to decide exactly how to modify the routine for his particular use. If, at the start, one force down knee bend with the lifter fighting as hard as possible against the spotters and then doing the three upward attempts at the bottom before being lifted up again exhaust him, he should call it a day without doing the other two repetitions. Anyway, how many repetitions you choose to do in the down position is up to you, but I would recommend working up to 3 even though you cannot do but one set consisting of the 10 deep knee bends and the 3 force down movements. 3 sets should be the limit.
Although I am not claiming that this routine is new with me, I feel that I have done more experimenting with it than anyone else, and in turn have written more about it than any other instructor. My personal name for it is Progressive Movement Training. This is the only time I am going to ask you to deviate from my rule of thumb of always doing the actual movement, because I feel with all the reps you have been doing in the deep knee bend you are pretty well in the groove and will not get out of the groove in the time that you spend on the Progressive Movement squatting routine.
The real trick to it is repetition variation as well as lengthening the movement. The idea of doing this in the squat is to start off with a quarter squat lift in a power rack, or a squat rack with some type of guards running up each side to keep the weight from falling out in case of a loss of balance.
By starting off in a quarter squat, you should use a weight about 100 pounds more than your best full squat. I realize this is a very light weight in comparison to what you can quarter squat with, but this is part of the plan. I recommend doing about 20 to 25 repetitions in the quarter squatting movement with the particular weight that fits your ability, performing 2 sets. The 20 to 25 repetitions will constitute a set. I want you to do this every day. After doing the two sets you are going to feel, especially in the beginning, that you are not accomplishing very much and you will not get very tired. Every three days, lower the bar or raise the body, which will come out to the same results, about three inches. When lowering the bar three inches, knock off 3 reps. Continue the 2 sets of 17 to 22 reps, according to what you started with, for three days, ten raise the body or lower the stands again some three inches, knocking off 3 repetitions per set. Continue doing this until you have worked just as far down as you possibly can into a full squatting position. Always start the lift in the bottom position. After you have worked down just as far as possible, cutting your repetitions all the way down to 2, rest about two or three days and then try your limit in the squat. I believe that you will find that you have gained quite a bit of strength during this drawn out Progressive Movement routine. You can do your upper body and back exercises as usual, if you feel you can perform all of them.
Much of your recovery ability and your strength progression is up to you as an individual. I am giving you routines that I feel are the ultimate in power building, and many of them quite unique. Much thought and experimentation have gone into these, but one thing I have learned through experimenting with other athletes and on myself is that each and every one is an individual. You must learn to judge your repetitions, and especially your sets according to your personal ability and responsiveness to the exercises themselves.
Another tip on doing this routine is to use one-inch sheets of plywood for the height graduation. If you will cut these one-inch sheets of plywood just square enough for your stance in the squat allowing safe foot room on each side, you can stack them up as you lengthen the movement. I have given some ideas on squat racks for this including the power rack’s use, but you may even go so far as I have in the movement, if finances will allow. I use the heavy quarter squat racks with bumper jacks built in and I can just raise and lower them at will. If you cannot afford to build such equipment, or if at this time you do not wish to, either power racks or squat racks with extra guards built up on each side will work out more than adequately for the exercise.
I have suggested in the squatting routine that you build on the program of using the routines in sequence, but if you happen to be a very advanced lifter and would like to choose them at random, that is also up to you.