Squat to Build Bulk and Power
by Dave Draper
Do you know how an atom bomb explodes? You don’t just push a button and up it goers . . . on the contrary, when you do push that button it sets off a small explosion, which in turn explodes the atom part of the bomb.
So it is with bodybuilding power. To explode an atom bomb of overall body power you need a key, a trigger, a smaller blast to set off the larger reaction. That small blast is one key exercise, an exercise guaranteed to set off a chain reaction of bulk and power gains, and I’ve found the muscular trigger . . . it’s the Squat.
In a way this advice may sound strange coming from me, for I was a typical young bodybuilder who neglected leg work in favor of exclusively upper-body exercises. For three years I blasted away on my upper body, bombed and blitzed my best, until I thought I was pretty heavily and powerfully developed. My massive upper body, with 18-inch arms and almost 50-inch chest was balanced on a pair of 22 ½ inch legs, the result of thinking leg training was too time consuming and energy draining. In truth, I would have had better upper-body development, as well as impressive legs, if I’d spent time on my lower body.
The thighs are the largest single muscle area in the body, and working them will provide a trigger for overall development. The heavy breathing caused by Squats will further stimulate the circulation of oxygen and vital nutrients throughout the body, for faster recuperation and better growth. Give squats a chance and you’ll see what I mean.
I trained on a split routine, and at first I could only squat with 200 lbs. Yet within months I was up to 400 and had gained 3 ½ inches of muscle on my thighs. In time my thighs grew to 28 inches, my Squat went up higher and higher, and more important, my bodyweight shot up to over 250 lbs. Squats are the trigger, the single exercise that will do the most to promote overall growth.
If you have been neglecting, avoiding or taking it easy on the leg work, you need something to trigger bulk and power gains. The Squat is it. Here’s how to use it in your routine –
As squats are a heavy power exercise that demand a lot of energy, you’ll get better results if you space them out to two workouts a week. Do your regular upper-body routine on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and do your lower-body work on Tuesday and Saturday. This will give adequate rest and recuperation between Squat bouts, and better gains in the long run.
Do Squats first in your lower-body routine, as they are the single most demanding exercise for the legs. Handle as much weight in good form as you possibly can, and use a rack or spotters so you won’t be afraid of piling on the weight. Do LIGHT pullovers if you wish between sets, and rest between sets until you feel you are ready for another go at it. As this is your largest muscle area, you have to take more rest than with other exercises for smaller bodyparts.
Here is an excellent sample routine to follow, one which will build both bulk and power –
1.) Warmup – 1 set of 12 reps with 50% of your best.
2.) Main workout - 1 set, 9 reps . . . increase weight and do 1 set 5 reps . . .increase a bit to 3 sets, 5 reps.
3.) Add on more weight – 3 sets of 3 reps, half squats to box or bench.
4.) Finishing off – 1 set of 12 reps with light weight.
Total – 10 sets.
Feel free to include some shaping and tapering off exercises such as Leg Extensions, Roman Chair Squats, Front Squats or Sissy Squats in your routines. Handle moderate weight and use precise form in these. From there go on to your calf and ab work.
Here is a rough suggestion of how to taper off and get the benefit of a solid workout for the rest of the lower body –
1.) Do 3 sets of calf work, then
2.) Do 3 sets of leg curls, then
3.) Back to calf work, 3 sets
4,) Let extensions, 3 sets, then
5.) Back to calf work, 3 sets, finally
6.) Go on to ab work.
You can superset, calf work and upper leg work, doing, for instance, a calf exercise followed by Leg Curls. Rest for a minute and repeat your calf exercise and another set of Leg Curls. Rest and repeat for 3 total supersets.
Proper form in the squat may limit the weight you use just a bit, but in the long run it will give you better results and protect you from needless injury. Make sure the weights are properly balanced and the bar set just where you want it across the traps and shoulders. This may sound minor, but a small error here could throw you off balance and ruin your set, or even worse, result in injury.
Concentrate mentally on just what you’re doing, shut out everything else but getting down and back up with the bar, forging ahead with each squat. Keep your head level at all times, never look down, especially when coming up with a heavy weight. Head up, back straight as possible, you start SLOWLY . . . not too slow, don’t just collapse under the weight . . . lower your body until the thighs are at least below parallel with the floor. Keep your back straight as possible, don’t bend over with the weight – remember, this is for the thighs. Come right back up, but don’t bounce, use a smooth and powerful exercise motion. Take several deep breaths and descend again.