Sunday, December 6, 2009

Give Weightless Squats a Chance - Paul Niemi

Melvin Wells


Sergio Oliva


"Sailor" Art Thomas



Give Weightless Squats a Chance
by Paul Niemi

One of the oldest and least used exercises nowadays is the weightless deep knee bend. Yet, conscientious and regular use of this exercise can bring excellent results. There are several examples of famous athletes who have used this exercise almost exclusively for their fine leg development. The great Indian wrestler, Gama, “The toughest man in the ring,” would do up to 4,000 baithak or free hand squats a day. And he had 30 inch thighs to prove they worked for him. Dr. Frederick Tilney, former associate and business partner of Charles Atlas, wrote to me saying how Atlas would sometimes do 600 squats a day. Sailor Art Thomas, the wrestler, does 300 free hand squats a day in sets of 50 to keep his legs in shape. Another wrestler and lifter who used weightless squats was Henry Lenz, winner of the Mr. Texas title in 1950 and the Mr. Muscle Beach award in 1952. Lenz never regularly did squats with weights but would do 500 to 1,000 free hand squats a day in sets of 50. George Jowett, former weightlifting, gymnastic, and wrestling champion, never advocated heavy squats but recommended the free hand variety. The free hand squat was also a part of the famous Earle Liederman physical culture course.

In doing the free hand squat the chance of injuring yourself, which might exist if you are handling heavy weights on a regular basis, is almost nonexistent.

What are some of the other benefits of free hand squats?

First of all, to be effective you must do enough repetitions, and when you do this your heart and lungs receive a workout very similar to running. And you won’t have to run through your neighborhood in the rain to do these. After you’ve done several sets of 50, you will see how effective it is.

What kind of a schedule should you follow?

First of all, omit all thigh work from your workouts. Do the free hand squats 6 days a week. Start out slowly with about 30 reps. Even though you may now be using heavy weights in your squatting, the chances are great that your thighs do not have the endurance they need so it would be very foolish to go into this too fast. Try to add about 5 reps each day until you reach 50, then after a short rest try to do another set of about 30. Keep adding reps daily to the second set until you reach 50. Then add a third set and keep with this procedure until you’re doing 4, 5, or even 6 sets of 50 reps.

By clasping your hands behind the neck with elbows out to the side, and breathing in deeply as you squat down, you’ll build size in your rib box. Keep the feet a comfortable distance apart. They can be done flat-footed, if you prefer, or you can rise on your toes for some of the squats.

When you tire of these two there are several variations you can use. One is to keep the feet closer together in a narrow stance as you squat. Another is the wide stance squat. A slightly different variation is to place one foot about 1½ feet in front of the other. Squat down until the knee of the foot in back almost touches the ground. Make sure that you do an equal number of sets with the feet reversed.

When you are not satisfied with any of these, try the one-legged squat. Hold the free leg out in front and hold onto something for balance. Later as your balance improves you can hold the arms out to the side or folded in front. Expect to put in some effort reaching your first 20 reps with these. Another variation is to place the non-lifting leg on a bench or chair behind you. Again, these will prove to be quite difficult at first, but once you get your sets and reps up to a higher level you’ll have gained new strength and muscle as a reward.

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