Arthur Dreschler with Mike BonDurant, collector and lifting historian extraordinaire. Mr. BonDurant is a wealth of information and a regular contributor at Joe Roark's IronHistory forum.
The Best Exercise
by Earle Liederman (1951)
If I had to choose one, and only one movement as an activity, I would immediately select heavy squatting. Why? Because the action of the squat works upon the respiratory system, the lumbar region, wherein lies the seat of the central nervous system, and also the same action plays upon the hips and thighs. In other words, the heavy squat works the vital sections of the body, and by placing proper activity upon such regions it creates stimulation to so many internal organs.
Now then, in recommending heavy squats, there may be many who will immediately conclude that I mean for them to get under three or four hundred pounds. I do not. What may be a very light squat for one fellow, might be a real heavy one for you. It depends upon your own leg power and present development. If you have only 21-inch thighs and have never performed progressive squatting, you might find that utilizing 100 lbs. would be about all you could use in doing four or five reps. This would then be heavy squatting for you, yourself. On the other hand, if you have done plenty of heavy barbell training for your legs, you might find yourself 350-plus pounds, and consider such work as being par for the course in the heavy squatting classification. And it would be – for those who need such poundages in order to tire their legs hips within four or five reps. If the reps can be done a dozen times the squats become “medium work” and must not be called heavy. A heavy training program consists of doing few reps with as much weight as you can, without overstraining yourself.
As all know, squats remain the best method of developing large, well-shaped thighs and strong hips. Therefore, I shall avoid much mention of anatomical results, but rather delve into the physiological benefit of this heavy squatting.
Barbell men know (but perhaps do not fully appreciate some of the extra force – the energy – they possess) that heavy squats always make a fellow feel great a few hours after an exercising program, and especially during the next day. This buoyant feeling comes from the effort of doing heavy squats, and these same squats greatly stimulate the nervous system, the prostate gland, and the heart and lungs. However, this stimulation does not come as a sudden artificial stimulant, but rather as an accumulation of added energy, gathered around the pelvic region, until this accumulation of vigor causes a feeling of buoyancy. There seems to be a new joy in living due to such added force.
To explain with words becomes confusing. It must be realized and felt to be fully appreciated. And anyone who devotes special attention to heavy squatting will quickly learn the full value of such expended effort. In plain terms, you will possess greater pep than you have ever had before, and added vitality such as that is certainly of profound benefit to the organic system. It is a natural stimulation, and a natural reservoir of vigor of which none can secure too much. So let us forget what these squats do for the development of the muscles themselves, and let us perform them for future energy, which is so needed for every tomorrow’s training period, as well as for general activities in life.
This is not being written from theory. I have put heavy squats to a good test, therefore I advocate them. And remember, as I mentioned – you can begin them at any time, no matter what may be your present limit of strength, for, to a beginner, a light weight might prove heavy at the start. Disregarding actual muscular development, a beginner using a weight suitable to his present ability will derive just as much benefit, pro rata, of course, as would an experienced lifter who is able to use much greater poundages. Of course, it is logical to acknowledge that an advanced student who can utilize very heavy poundages will naturally secure proportionately greater energy accumulation than could a beginner with a lighter weight. The difference is relative. But the one who tries squatting for the first time will notice the difference, before and after, in his overall feelings, and as he progresses the benefits will progress along with his own strength.
Heavy squats will do your internal organs much more good than will all of the other training movements combined. This may seem like a wild statement. Yet, all will agree with me if they consider the vitality value and disregard the muscular benefits. Of course, you can do arm work, neck and chest work etc. and secure much buoyance after your workout; but you will not get the same internal vigor from upper-body training as you can secure from heavy leg work in the form of deep squats.
Now bear mind, I repeat, I am forgetting the musculature – skipping the idea of increasing the measurements, despite the fact that squats will pack curves and beef on your thighs quite rapidly. I am adhering to the organic benefits. And therefore, I would recommend that you perform these heavy squats with your heels always on the floor and with your feet spread about twelve inches apart. Then, let your legs bend as far downward as they will go, until you are practically sitting upon your heels. The back shoud be kept as straight as possible, yet you will be forced to use a slight forward bend in order to maintain balance at depth.
You should use a barbell across your shoulders that is heavy enough to prevent you from performing more than five repetitions. If you are able to do more reps than this, you are liable to get away from the heavy-squat class, and enter the medium-squat classification. So, I recommend those four or five reps only. Then rest a bit and do it all over again for two or three more sets. Until you become thoroughly experienced with extra heavy squats, I would not advise more than three or four sets. Between EACH squat, which may be done slowly, take several short gasps of breath, then perform another squat, to again pause upon arising for a few more gasps of air. All squats should be done deliberately, without speed when descending, and with thought upon the balance so that the form may be done correctly.
So, many men with waning energy, or diminishing vigor, will try all sorts of vitamins, whether through medical shots or orally, yet, if these same men would take up a systematic regime of progressive squatting they would soon discover that these movements can do more good than any synthetic method of securing added vitality. And if I have any such members in my flock who might be reading this, why not take my advice and convince yourself. As I said, I have thoroughly tested these heavy squats on my own person, and if I, at my stage of the game, can acquire the results I advocate, surely my recommendations should convince any thinking man.