Marv Phillips squat style.
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Stark Center blog by Director Terry Todd:
by Terry Todd (1978)
The squat, or deep knee bend, is considered by most authorities to be the single greatest exercise in the world for gaining bodyweight. Because of the demands it places on the large muscles of the thighs, hips, and lower back, and because of the deep breathing which occurs when more than three or four repetitions are done, it seems to stimulate muscular growth in a way quite unlike any other movement. Also, it is a cornerstone exercise in any decent program of weight training for athletics because of the power it so quickly builds in the parts of the body which are primarily responsible for running and jumping. It works the hips, thighs and lower back AS A UNIT and, because of this, it is indispensable as a developer of athletic power.
Done no doubt by people all over the world as a daily part of their lives once they began walking upright, the squat in various forms has been done as an exercise at least since the classical period of Greece. Even now, weightless squats in sets of 500 are done by the mudpit wrestlers of India in much the same way they have done them for centuries, and the strength, size, and cardiorespiratory endurance which result have created some of the toughest and most feared grapplers in the history of sport. As a competitive lift, using a barbell for added resistance, full squats are really a product of this century. They began to come to full flower first in Germany, and they were among the contested lifts when Carl Moerke defeated Hermann Goerner in 1919 again when Goerner turned the tables on the 5-feet 2-inch Moerke, the man who was probably the first ever to exceed the 600-pound barrier.
Another German, Henry “Milo” Steinborn, brought the lift with him to the U.S. in the 1920s and popularized it here with his remarkable exhibitions of flexibility and strength. From that time until now the lift has continued to prosper as its amazing ability to produce size and strength was even more clearly recognized. When the squat – usually included as one of the “odd lifts” – began to be contested and the contests turned out to be popular, it was only a matter of time before it would become an official part of the official sport of powerlifting.
Below, through the courtesy of the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), I have provided rules governing the performance of the squat in competition.
D. Competitive Lifts.
Deep Knee Bend (Squat)
1. The lifter must assume an upright position with the top of the bar not more than one inch below the top of the deltoids, the bar across the shoulders in a horizontal position, hands gripping the bar, feet flat on the platform. Upon removing the bar from the racks, the lifter must move backward to establish his position. He shall wait in this position for the referee’s signal, which shall be given as soon as the lifter is motionless and the bar is properly positioned.
2. After the referee’s signal, the lifter shall bend the knees and lower the body until the tops of the thighs are below parallel with the platform. The lifter shall recover at will, without double-bouncing, to an upright position, knees locked, and wait for the referee’s signal to replace the bar, which shall be given when the lifter is absolutely motionless. The lifter must make a bona fide attempt to return the bar to the rack.
The tops of the thighs shall be defined as being the point at the hip joint that bends when the body is lowered. This point shall develop a parallel relationship with the top of the knee. This refers to the surface of the leg at the hip joint that bends when the body is lowered.
3. The apparatus used shall be of IPF standards. Padding may be applied to the bar only, but it must not exceed 30 cm. in width and 5 cm. in thickness. The lifter shall remove the bar from the racks preparatory to the lift.
4. The lifter must face the front of the platform.
5. The lifter may not hold the collars, sleeves, or the plates at any time during the performance of the lift. However, the side of the hand may contact the inside of the inner collars.
Causes for Disqualification of the Squat
1. During the lift, failure to wait for the referee’s signals.
2. Any change of the position of the hands on the bar.
3. More than one recovery attempt.
4. Failure to assume an upright position at the start and completion of the lift.
5. Failure to lower the body until the tops of the thighs are below parallel.
6. Any shifting of the feet during the performance of the lift.
7. Any shifting of the bar on the body during the performance of the lift.
8. Any touching of the bar by the spotters before the referee’s signal.
9. Any raising of the heels or toes.
10. Any touching of the legs with the elbows or upper arms.
25 years ago, on a farm in California, a seven-year old boy was out at the edge of a field with his parents, who were felling some big eucalyptus trees. And as boys will do, he thought he’d see how high he could climb and before anyone knew he was 60 feet above the ground. And then he fell. 20 feet before he hit the ground he struck a big limb with the underside of his right arm just below the shoulder and it tore his arm completely off. Today, instead of having been thoroughly blended through the process of dust to dust through the ecosystem of Southern California, that arm measures 20½ inches and it’s attached to the body of a man who can bench press 500 and has the best chance of anyone to become the first non-superheavyweight to squat with 900 pounds.
The man is Marvin Phillips, 1974 National Champion, policeman, ladies’ man, world-record holder in the squat, and ex-one-armed farm boy. Luckily for little Marv, his family lived less than an hour away from one of the most advanced hospitals in the world, and the doctors there were able to take 287 internal stitches and 167 external ones and literally sew his arm back onto his body where it grew and prospered. By the time Marv entered his teens, his right arm was an inch-and-a-half shorter than his left but it was in good working order, so his dad bought him a 110-pound concrete set of Sears weights and the boy was on his way. He did benches, presses, curls, and squats off and on throughout high school, but it wasn’t until he joined the service that he began to train with any seriousness.
Always one for close calls, Marv had two more in the Navy – the first occurred when the destroyer he was on was cut in half one night by an off-course cruiser, with the loss of half the crew. The second happened when he was on another destroyer, one which sank 40 miles off the California coast after blowing its experimental boiler. By this time old Marv figured that he and the Navy weren’t exactly suited for each other; so he shipped out, went back home where he played a little junior college football, and after a couple of years, joined the Pomona police force in 1967.
The funny thing was that although the Pomona P.D. had a powerlifting team, Marv never tried out because he didn’t think he had the necessary potential for strength. Finally, in 1970, a buddy on the force took him along to watch a meet in Los Angeles, and Marv had one of those life-changing encounters that happen along every so often. At the meet his buddy introduced him to another of the competitors, a 6-feet 2-inch 270-pound cop from the city, who looked Marv up and down and then said to the buddy, “You’ll never make a lifter out of THIS guy.”
As you might imagine, this ate on Marv a bit. The more he brooded the more his ego hurt until finally both he and his ego stood up on their collective hind legs, and allowed as how they thought by God they’d do a little powerlifting. And do it they did. That was July of 1970 and by November of that year Marv entered his first contest, a policemen’s meet, and totaled an excellent 1,465 at a bodyweight of 193 with lifts of 525 squat, 425 bench, and 515 deadlift. “I wore tight levis and elbow wraps,” Marv told me, “but even so I was mighty proud.”
Charged up by this early success, he kept pumping, and soon began to branch out from the policemen’s meets to open contests, where he was to meet a man who served for several years as his coach, competitor, and inspiration, Tom Overholtzer. From then on he kept gunning for Tom’s records, and in 1973 he finally reached them, passed them, and began to look around for new challenges and training techniques, both of which he found down on the beach at the workout quarters of Bud Ravenscroft, Ernie Steinkirchner, and Terry McCormick. With them, he says he “got serious” and began to study nutrition, to back off a bit from wearing all the heavy wraps, and to lift with his head as well as his body.
In 1974 he was ready to enter national competition, and his debut was all anyone could ask for; he came away from the meet as the national 220-pound champion, having totaled 1,770 via 670 in the squat, 465 in the bench, and 635 in the deadlift. Later that year, at the World Championships, he upped his total to 1,825, which included a world-record squat of 733.5, but he had the misfortune to be in the same class as the man Marv call G. L. P. – the Great Larry Pacifico.
In 1975 he was second twice more to G. L. P., both in the Nationals and in the World Championships in Birmingham, England. He did gain a little revenge in early 1976, however, when at a bodyweight of only 221 he made a world-record squat in the 242-pound class with 755, breaking the former record of 752, which had been held by the great Mr. P. He did well again at the World’s in 1976, shattering his own 242-pound record with back-to-back squats of 760 and, on a fourth attempt, 777.5.
Just a few months ago he moved the record up again with ANOTHER back-to-back series of world marks. After opening with 735, he took 785 for an easy second attempt and new world record, then asked for 810. As he was beginning the lift, the timing buzzer rang, even though it was incorrectly set for two minutes instead of three; so the judges all turned the lift down. Needless to say, Marv was really smoking over the bad call; so he just told the loaders to leave it on and he’d “do the damn thing again.” And, with LESS than two minutes rest from the previous 810, he AGAIN hoisted the weight, which proved to be 806 for his second, or third, world record of the night, depending on your point of view.
He uses the same squat routine now that he’s used for the past several years, and anyone would have to agree that Marv would be a fool to tinker with a system which seems to work so ideally for him. He squats twice each week – Tuesday and Saturday – going light one workout and heavy the next. He cycles his routine so that if he doesn’t have a contest coming up soon, he never goes over 405 for five repetitions on Tuesday and never goes over 625 for five on Saturday. You might call this his “coasting” routine. It would be pound for pound as follows:
Tuesday: Marv begins each workout day with two 220-yard runs (not jogs, not sprints, but runs), outside if the weather’s good, inside a 200-yard tunnel if it’s bad.
135 x as many as he needs to get loose.
135 x 10 – On both these first two sets he goes rock bottom, as he wants to really stretch the muscles of the hips, thighs, and lower back, and he uses a close (14 inches from heel to heel) stance.
225 x 8 – Also, with a 14-inch stance, toes pointing out.
315 x 5 – Regular stance (never more than 22 inches wide).
405 x 5 – Regular stance.
315 x 10 or 12 – Back to close stance and rock bottom so as to really pump the thighs and hips full of fresh blood.
Saturday: He begins with the two 220-yard runs.
135 x as many as he needs to get loose.
135 x 10 – Deep, as on Tuesday.
225 x 8 – Narrow stance, as on Tuesday.
325 x 5 – Regular stance from here on up.
425 x 5.
525 x 5.
625 x 5.
315 x 10 or 12 – Close stance again, as on Tuesday.
When he knows the date of a forthcoming meet, he backs up 12 weeks from the target date, abandons his “coasting” routine, IN WHICH THE POUNDAGES STAY THE SAME, and begins his pre-meet cycle. The primary difference between his coasting routine and his pre-meet cycle is that in the cycle he attempts to dramatically increase the amount of weight he handles. His sets and reps stay more or less the same, but he really loads on the iron.
For the first four weeks of his 12-week cycle, he attempts to add five pounds per week so that at the end of the four weeks he’d be handling 425 on Tuesday instead of 405 and 645 on Saturday instead of 625. At this point he begins taking injections of B-12 and upping his vitamin intake (C, E, etc.), and from that point until contest time, he plans to add 10 pounds each week for eight weeks. This would bring his last Tuesday workout up to 505 x 5 and his last Saturday workout to 725 x 5. During his final eight weeks, he begins using the 100-lb. plates in order to simulate the conditions of a meet; so his poundages would be more of less like this for the final heavy week:
Tuesday: Begins with the two 220-yard runs.
135 x as many as needed to get loose, close stance.
135 x 10 – close stance.
245 x 8 – close stance.
335 x 5 – regular stance from here up.
445 x 5.
505 x 5.
335 x 10 or 12. – close stance.
Saturday: Begins with his 220-yard runs.
135 x as many as needed to get loose, close stance.
135 x 10 – close stance.
245 x 8 – close stance.
335 x 5 – regular stance from here on up.
445 x 5.
645 x 5.
725 x 5.
335 x 10 or 12 – close stance.
Marvin feels that the light day on Tuesday is just right for him as it keeps both his mind and body sharp. He uses weights that are heavy enough to feed the muscles, but light enough to be no real strain. This heavy-light system seems to keep him from going stale; with it, he’s able to train year-round, with no layoffs at all, other than perhaps skipping his set with 425 on the Tuesday after a big meet. He also feels that the program is excellent for helping to build and maintain muscle bulk in the thighs and hips, and a look at the pictures accompanying this article should be enough to convince a Missouri mule that where muscular bulk is concerned, Marv knows what he’s talking about.
He uses a RELATIVELY narrow foot spacing for his heavy squats because he feels that with his particular construction it allows him to use his thighs more and to keep his lower back “cocked.” He feels that once his mid-back begins to bend he’s in real trouble; so he uses a more upright stance than most powerlifters. Of course in all honesty I have to say that old Marvin is really built for the squat – it’s a truly natural lift for him. He makes the heavy ones look light with that jugbutt power of his driving out those sets of five.
He admits that a good part of his success in the squat is due to his structural advantages, but he justifiably points out that the MAJORITY of his progress has resulted from his willingness to give himself UNSPARINGLY to his training. “No one, “ he told me, “works harder than I do.” And as hard work so often does, it paid off, as the people out in L.A. were quick to admit the night in March of 1977 when he gave a squatting exhibition at a local meet – the week before the 806 world record – and knocked out five reps with 755, after which he got serious and did THREE REPS WITH 800, weighing about 235. I’m told that seasoned lifters were shocked into literal speechlessness by the performance. After seeing three reps with 800 what CAN you say?
Of course all the hard work in the world wouldn’t build the strength for three reps with 800 pounds unless the muscles which were being worked were being nourished and replenished by good food and adequate rest. Like most successful athletes, Marv is careful about his diet, and he watches it year-round. He doesn’t care for sweets, but it would be fair to say that he’s big into beef-steak. He specializes in big steaks, fresh vegetables, cottage cheese, eggs, cheese, fresh fruit, milk and fruit juices. During the final eight weeks before a meet, in order to trim any fat, he cuts out all mild as well as the few beers he sometimes has on the weekends.
His job at the police department requires him to be up before dawn almost every morning; so he has to be extra careful to get enough sleep. He gets off each afternoon at three and trains until six, and by the time he gets home, showers, does his chores (he raises meat animals of various kinds), and eats, he’s ready for the sack. In order to be up at 5:30 he turns in on the weekdays no later than 10:30, a sacrifice he’s willing to make even as a single man because he knows if he DIDN’T bed down early he could kiss his world records goodbye. Of course, Marv’s not totally unaware of all the fine-looking women in Southern California; so he reserves the weekends for what he calls “playing and partying.”
One of the reasons he trains hard and plays hard is because he WORKS hard. Being a patrolman at his own request for 11 years in an area that has the highest crime per capita crime rate in the U.S. allows for the buildup of more than a little bit of pressure and Marv often ends one of his long days all burned up and frustrated over some bureaucratic hassle or other. “Thank the Lord,” he says, “for the weight room. I can go in there and begin to train and feel the poison draining away.” He told me this in response to a question I asked him about why he trained – what he got out of it. Besides the calming effect it has after a tough day on the streets, Marv Said his training provided a focus to his life, a way of setting goals for himself and then having the pleasure of achieving them. “And more than that,” he said, “I love the feeling of being strong – the feeling of superiority. No other words will do. I enjoy being powerful and looking powerful and getting compliments on my lifting and my looks.” I guess if we’d admit it, all of us do. “And,” he added, “I get off on the moments before, during, and after a big lift when you know you’ve done your homework and it’s time to collect. No feeling can match it.”
One day, Marv hopes to have some of these moments before, during, and after a 900 squat as a 242-pounder – one of his ultimate goals. He plans to reach it by picking the brains of the best powerlifters in the business. One of the things he likes most about the sport is the cooperation and sharing of information between competitors. I remember seeing him sitting with Pacifico on the plane all the way back from England in 1975 after the World’s, picking old G.L.P.’s brain. “They WILL help,” Marv insists, even the great ones, like Larry, if a person will just ask and listen.”
He urges all beginners to read all they can find about the sport, but he also thinks they should seek out the most experienced lifters in their area and listen to them as long as they’ll talk. He thinks the most important two weeks of his life were spent in Brownwood, Texas, about a month after the 1976 World Championships. He felt in real need of help with his bench press and his supplements; so he went to his pal Doug Young, the Texas Guru, who was himself glad to get a little help from someone like Marv in the squat. Marv shared his knowledge with Doug, and Doug responded by opening up his own wonderful bag of tricks; so they BOTH benefitted. “No matter how good you are,” Marv said, “you should never be too good to learn something new. I hope to keep learning and keep pushing until I’m the champion of the world in the 220-pound class. And,” he said with a smile, “I think I’ll do it. Unless, of course, I go out one day on the job and get blown away.”