Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Conditioned Legs Break Squat Records - George Frenn (1972)

George Frenn

George Frenn Spotting Phil Grippaldi

George Frenn held the official world Squat record at 853 lbs.
One secret of his success is leg conditioning, explained in this article for your benefit.

by George Frenn (1972)

When George Frenn talks about squatting you listen. You listen because George is 6', goes about 245, and has a very compelling voice. But that's not the main reason. Your mind focuses on the Frenn utterings because the speaker knows more about the 'simple' act of dropping ass to floor and bouncing back up than maybe anyone who ever hitched himself to a barbell. And your ears stay glued to his voice. Frenn is a very insistent lecturer and his favorite topic, next to how he despises the AAU anti-powerlift gang, is squats, squatting, and squatters -- of which he is the best ever.

853 pounds draped across the shoulders is an iron overcoat you could buried in. It would instantly crush the spine of an ordinary man. You couldn't challenge 95% of all weight men to do anything with this magnitude of resistance. Even the bar resents it and the best alloys curl into an irreversible U under the load. George Fren, whose muscles aren't polished vanadium steel but mere human tissue, doesn't care. He shoulders the awesome mass and the plates sag around his head like earflaps [I'm guessing Dick Tyler wrote this one. If so . . . Thanks, Dick!]. Standing clear of supports, and with four praying spotters at the ready, Frenn drops into a full squat and struggles aloft. The lift with a poundage equivalent to half a Volkswagen is completed without undue stress and scales out to a new undisputed and official world's record.

Even the legendary Paul Anderson never upped 850 under sanctioned conditions. And if his reputed squats of 1200 are to be believed we must remember he weighed 400 lbs. and his chunky 36" thighs don't allow more than a bouncing half-squat, whereas Frenn does the whole number.

The author believes George Frenn's 853 record set December 12, 1970 is the greatest squat ever performed to date. And his influence over the past several years at the Westside (L.A.) Barbell Club has been equally phenomenal. Consider the records and near records set by men of other dimensions under Frenn's tutelage. And none of them can be considered squat specialists either.

 - Joe Molloy (165) 547.5
 - Bill West (181) 655
 - Harold Connolly (220) 705
 - Dick Allen (218) 705

For the story behind the story of the great lifting at the Westside Barbell Club we spoke to half a dozen members and got the same reply: "Nothing doing. You want answers, talk to George. We don't encourage competition."

But then they wouldn't let George say a word. No sooner was he letting me in on the secrets of heavy squatting than Bill West threatened to hide his favorite 150-lb. biggies (plates). Frenn was stymied -- his personal code of sportsmanship says everybody should share all their secrets for the growth of the game -- but he winded at me and signaled with his head. "Peek through the window," he seemed to say. "Watch the exercises and listen to me instruct the guys."

Feeling like a barbell sex freak (I mean if I got to be a peeping Tom I'd rather see broads than squat racks), I bid the Westside monstermen adieu but doubled back to stand outside the lone garage window.

Original Location of Westside Barbell Club
- thanks to Mike Knight!

There, for the exclusive benefit of Muscle Builder readers, I recorded the heretofore secret five exercises which Frenn indicated makes the difference between sissy deep-kneebenders and he-man squatters. 

Earlier Frenn had rhapsodized that the legs have to be conditioned for heavy squatting in addition to being trained into the bigger weights. He feels the legs have an almost limitless capacity for heavy work but squatting per se can just develop a percentage of that capacity, hence you get blocked at a sticking point and thereafter gains are a slow grind. If the legs are conditioned -- meaning other exercises are done to prepare them for heavier and heavier squatting -- the progress comes much quicker.

A skier, for instance, does special movements to get ready for the slopes and also during his skiing season. Why shouldn't a lifter do particular squat-related exercises to prepare for actual squatting, or even in addition to squatting? 

The routine I recorded in my notebook, aside from building amazing thigh power, will produce outstanding legs for the bodybuilder as well, will boost weight gaining, and add a fourth dimension of Herculean strength and size to any physique

Used periodically in their routines, these exercises shaped up the underpinnings of physique men like Bill Pearl, Reg Park and Arnold Schwarzenegger. All the elite bodybuilders noted for rounded and fully dense thighs have used these movements, at times to the exclusion of regular squats.

But it is the proper combination of the exercises and the right set/rep treatment which turned on the magic power for Frenn and the Monstermen. And as I stood in the hazy California sun peering through a dirty porthole to learn precisely what these movements were, I felt like a Robin Hood of powerlifting. I was going to steal from the strength-rich and give to the strength-poor. Though I would be denounced, maybe demolished, by the members for revealing the secret training regimen, perhaps I would be adored by anyone who added 100 pounds to his limit squat over time. Anyhow, it makes a great story.

Here's the routine: After the club realized I knew too much, Frenn convinced them to let him open up. This way they at least get the credit deservedly theirs. The instructional text is all George's. So, here it is, THE SENSATIONAL SQUAT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM OF THE WESTSIDE BARBELL CLUB MONSTERMEN AS RELATED BY GEORGE FRENN. Quite a title.

We squat on Tuesday and Saturday only. Tuesday for this routine; Saturday solely for limit attempts. Joe DiMarco gives us the clue to assistance exercises. HE made surprising gains after adding several extra movements. But they were rudimentary and disorganized. I analyzed all the logical combinations of about 10 such exercises, quickly dropped five and organized the following routine with the remainder. I'm proud of the results, which speak for themselves. 15 members gained an accumulative total of 3325 pounds on the squat since we went operational on assistance training.

1) Bench Squat:
We nicknamed this the "high box squat" and it's done with a bench 20 inches high. This is a good height for a six-footer but should be altered accordingly for men of different dimensions. The bench must be at least 14 inches wide as this aids in determining stance and proper positioning is the single most important factor in the exercise. Get the backs of the knees tight up against the bench with the feet in front of it, not off to the sides. From this stance you can learn the true secret of increasing bench squat poundage which is a certain rocking-forward motion at the instant of starting up. First you descend with your hips well to the rear of the bench. Keeping the hips back make contact with the butt and much of the hamstrings. For an instant relax after landing, then rock forward and using this momentum drive erect. We find results are better if the feet are kept fairly straight or at least aligned with the thighbone. Suggested poundage: 100-125 lbs. over your best squat. Sets/Reps: 5 x 5.

2) Low Box Squat:
This approximates the foregoing exercise but we use a box or bench some six inches lower. The rear-to-front rocking routine is once again of great importance, but you also utilize your regular squat stance. Since balance is precarious you must have spotters aiding. Squatting to a bench only 14 or so inches high gets you to an approximately parallel position. You use less weight than when high-bench squatting but more than your full squatting because of the "rebounding" boost. By using a normal squat stance you condition the quadriceps in the way they work during competition. Suggested poundage progression: Squat limit minus 75 pounds to squat limit plus 50 pounds. Sets/Reps: 5 x 5.

3) Good Morning:
This is the latest of the Big Five exercises, added only six months ago to the previous four. Jim Klostergaard started it and he made such nice gains we all jumped in.

At the 2003 Masters Bench Press Championships

Frenn and Chuck Sharp have succeeded with over 500 pounds in this exercise. No one quite knows why Good Mornings -- essentially an offbeat back strengthener -- help squat so much, but they do and that's all that counts. They probably weld back, thigh, and hip strength at the position where that trio of muscle groups must come together to push you through a sticking point. Performance is not simple. With the bar on the shoulders and the feet turned slightly inward, raise the head as if to touch the back of it to the bar. Next, bend a little at the knees. Sticking your behind out, keep the hips back and break at the waist until the upper body is parallel to the ground. Looking at a mirror in front of you teaches style and control, and helps maintain balance. Remember, the bar belongs on the back and shoulders, not at the neck. After light warmups jump 50-75 pounds each set until you can knock out 5 reps with 2/3 of your best squat. 3 x 5 reps is good to shoot for and this will help your deadlift too.

4) Front Squat:
Though a favorite of Olympic lifters (and therefore theoretically detested by us) this is a damn good assistance exercise for PL men because it attacks quad fibers left untouched by any other type of squat; the angle of descent and ascent are so different. It also taxes the back and abs to keep the trunk erect at all times. And cheating, such as the rocking in the bench squat, is impossible. Use a thumbless grip after clearing the supports and allow the bar to sink into the anterior delts (see the second photo up top). For balance maintain a head-up position. You can use a set/rep system identical to back squatting. The main difference is that all sets and limit efforts will be 80-90% off with the same amount of struggle applied. If you drop the back squat until the front and back are equal you should be able to add 50-75 pounds to the rear (depending on your power squat style) the first workout you retry it.

5) Work on the Leg Extension Machine:
Obviously leg extensions are not a power exercise; yet they have a more important purpose -- preventative medicine. Long recommended by physical therapists for patients with weak knees, extensions with 150-200 pounds work even better wonders for powerlifters. They strengthen the ligaments, tendons, sinews and muscle around the knees, thereby cutting down squatting injuries, those terrible calamities which can wipe out a year's progress in a flash.

We also do thigh biceps curls. Thick bulgy thigh biceps help in squat rebound; they shorten the distance between the thigh and calf a tiny bit making it just that much easier to hit the full squat and bounce back up. But more importantly, strong thigh biceps add to an overall stronger, fitter and better prepared leg and that's the entire import of this routine. 

Other Tips From Frenn

The previous five exercises serve as a valuable adjunct to your basic squat workout. In general, the best way to make gains is to squat, squat, and squat. Fully squatting, utilizing heavy sets, 3-5 reps, is usually the best. However, nothing BUT squatting to improve your squat may cause problems later on. Variety can extend your lifting life and help you avoid wear and tear injuries. Power competitors should keep in mind the style aspects of squatting even if it means slightly lower poundages. If you don't squat 100% perfect in the gym you can't do it in front of the judges, and constant red lights can make a mighty unhappy lifter. 

Calf work can add 1 or 2% to your squat numbers, often the difference in winning a contest. 

Even well developed abdominals play a minor, but statistically significant role when we're talking about 600 pounds and over.

Consider the trapezius. Big hunky traps cushion the weight with less pain than little ones and make enduring the load and concentration on the lift easier.

And finally, watch those delicate knees for signs of pain and rebellion. Do plenty of light or freehand reps before hitting the big bars.

So there you have it from the master. Once Frenn was de-muzzled he roared on like Niagara Falls, boasting of his plans to squat like no other man has ever squatted before. Even as I departed, Frenn was still carrying on: "Let me tell you about my system to squat 1,000 pounds," he said with glazed eyes. "Greatest load anyone carried on his back since Atlas!"

Sure thing.
A thousand pound squat . . .  

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