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Eight-year old Paul Oudenot performing a Wrestler's Bridge
while supporting 105 pounds.
Joe DePietro , Bob Hoffman, Kamal Mahgoub
1949 World Weightlifting Championships
Improve Your Squatting Ability
The deep knee bend is recognized as one of the finest exercises in the barbell routine. However, because of the great demands made upon the body and mind during its performance, it is often avoided by too great a number of weight enthusiasts.
In spite of the benefits to be derived from heavy leg work, too many of us find excuses and leave it out of our programs. A good many of us actually hate and dread squats. We rationalize against them, and we are guilty of procrastination, saying that someday we will get down to business and do them.
Since we all know why squats are unpopular, it won't be necessary to go into the reasons. Instead, let's see if there isn't some way that they can be made easier. By easier, I don't mean handling light weights. I mean this: How can we make it possible to increase our poundage in the squat without making the exercise a discouraging chore? No exercise should seem like a chore.
There is a way to do this. Basically, this is one answer:
The body must be prepared and strengthened for heavy squatting.
Many will immediately say that the full squat is the only way to strengthen the legs. True, it is the best way, but for those who are finding it discouragingly difficult, there are exercises that will pave the way for continued poundage increases. And the heavier weights will be handled with greater ease than were the former weights.
Here is a routine of 'preparation' exercises that have been tried and found successful:
1) Half Squats.
2) Dead lifts (straight-legged and regular).
3) Shoulder shrugs.
The half squat should be performed with at least 100 lbs. more than currently possible in the full squat. At first, extreme caution must be used,. For a couple of workouts it won't be possible to lower the body more than a few inches. Once you're accustomed to the weight, you will be able to gradually lower to almost the point where the upper legs are horizontal.
You'll find you have to use your own judgement on how far you can go down each session. Going below the point of no return with this heavy a weight will force you into a full squat and it will be impossible to get back up.
Increases in weight handled will be possible in 20-pound jumps. The exercise greatly strengthens the upper thighs muscles. The half squat can do much to strengthen your full squatting ability, and will gradually relieve your mind of the fear of heavy weights on your back.
In order to squat with an appreciable amount of weight, the back must be kept considerably straight. Without a strong back it is hard if not impossible to keep the weight from throwing you forward, making it difficult to rise. Concentration on dead lifting will soon give you a back that will stay strongly erect during your deep-knee bending. In addition to holding the back erect, the strengthened muscles will make it less tiresome to support the bar across your shoulders while squatting.
A valuable aid in squatting is a well-developed trapezius. One of the best exercises for these muscles is the shoulder shrug. Since the trapezius supports the barbell, it is easy to see why good development here will make a heavy weight less tiring in the shoulders. The shrug should be done with the weight hanging in front of the body as well as behind the body.
The addition of concentrated work on these exercises will do wonders for your squatting. Determine where you deep-knee bend is weakest, and perform exercises to improve that area.