Thursday, March 29, 2018

Squats, Part One - Jim Witt (1984)

Note: This article is taken from the book "The A B C's of Powerlifting" by Jim Witt (1984)
It was provided courtesy of Bob Wildes . . . THANKS AGAIN, BOB!!!

Here, a tribute to Jim Witt from Iron Game History, Volume 2 Number 6:


If I had to do only one exercise to develop the basic power and muscular bulk of my body, I would, without a moment's hesitation, choose the squat or deep knee bend. One of the reasons for picking the deep knee bend over the bench press, deadlift or other powerlifting, weightlifting or bodybuilding movements is that this movement will work the greatest amount of muscle as compared with any other exercise. Squats require more total body effort than any other exercise, but the results you get make the effort well worth it. 

If I have convinced you of the importance of squatting, here are some tips that you will find helpful. the deep knee bend or squat should have number one priority in your routine, whether in search of above average strength or a Mr. Physique, weightlifting or powerlifting title. No other exercise can come close to giving you the results you can achieve with a good squat program.

In the following course I am going into detail regarding various styles and techniques of squatting in the hopes that the reader will acquire maximum results in minimum time, without wasting time and effort.

Your Equipment

In squatting for maximum results, the type of bar used is of utmost importance. There are two definite kinds of bars on the market being used by lifters. The power bar is preferred by the men who handle the heaviest poundages. This bar has several advantages. Being stiffer than the Olympic bar, heavier poundages can be handled when squatting without the bar whipping up and down. This whip the bar causes more strain on the vertebrae and should be avoided when possible. The power bar is ideal for those who would increase their poundages to he maximum.

With the Olympic-type bar, which is more springy, you can still train and handle heavy poundage. Just approach the bar with a bit more caution. Up to 900 pounds can be safely handled on the Olympic bar. Over 900 pounds, the power bar should be used. You will find that when squatting with poundages from 300 to 700 the Olympic bar will work well. 

People who work out alone need to buy a power rack or 3-level step squat rack. 

It would be to a trainee's advantage to obtain a bar used for squatting only. This will save much time, as you can have a bar on the squat stand always ready to go. I suggest you unload the bar when not in use. Safety should be practiced at all times. A loaded barbell should never be left on a loading rack where people, especially children, are in and out. Other safety devices and apparatus will be explained later in this course. 

You should obtain a pair of outside collars and use them at all times when squatting. There is a normal tendency when squatting for the bar to tip, causing the plates on the low end of the bar to slide outward and, at times, completely off. When this happens the other, heavier end tips downward, causing the bar to whip off its resting place on your shoulders or back. This usually will result in some form of injury either to you, your training partners, or a bystander if you are training in an overcrowded gym. 

There are several kinds of outside collars on the market that are made to lock on the bar, without the use of a wrench. Wrench-less collars save time and simplify the changing of plates. If you can see your way clear to it you should purchase a set of these collars at the earliest possible time.

The basic needs for power training are a good, well-balanced Olympic barbell or Olympic power bar, a sufficient amount of weights, a good strong squat stand or power rack and, of course, collars. If you are using heavy weight when doing your squats, and the bar does not rest comfortably on your shoulders, you might purchase a piece of sponge rubber approximately one-half inch in thickness and fourteen to eighteen inches in length. This can be rolled on the bar, and comes equipped with a cover made of vinyl or imitation leather that has fasteners. These may be purchased at a bicycle shop or bicycle supply house.

You will make gains and increase your poundage very quickly when specializing on the squat, so in addition to your bar or bars you should buy at least two 100 lb plates, eight or more 45's, six 35's, four 25's, four 10's, four 5's and four 2.5 pound plates. Later, as you progress, you can gradually add to your weights, so that if you have three or four training partners you will have plenty of weight available for the use two bars, and in this manner you can save valuable training time.

When you have bars and an adequate amount of weight, the next piece of equipment to be purchased should be the correct type of squat stands. The squat stands are very important and should be of the right height, so that you or your training partners can remove and replace the bar from the rack without wasting time or effort. The squat rack should be build out of strong material and so constructed that the bar rests solidly on the supports, avoiding any chance of the bar rolling off the support, or sliding to one side once the bar has been replaced back on the rack. Your squat stand should be level and constructed in such a way that each side of the rack is the same height. The size of the bases and the strength of the supports should should also be considered when constructing or purchasing equipment. I have seen many squat stands for sale . . . were some of them offered to me free of charge, the gift would have to be declined.

A pair of spotter racks will be a very useful piece of equipment when squatting, especially when training alone. These racks make it possible to use heavy poundages when training by yourself. If you cannot arise with the weight you are using, all that is necessary is to lower your body 3 to 4 inches and allow the bar to rest on the safety spotter racks. If the rack does not adjust to the right height, whether it be too high or or low as the case may be, you can obtain a sheet of 3/4 or 1 inch plywood, some 2x4s, nails and hammer and build a small platform to rest between the safety racks. With this added piece of equipment you may work out without fear, and in comparative safety. In my case, the height of the position needed was too high by 2.5 inches. I built a small platform using 2x4s placed flat with 3/4 inch plywood placed on the bottom, as well as the top of the 2x4s correcting the rack's height for my particular needs. At this height, if a lift was missed, no problem. All I had to do was relax the legs and allow my upper torso to bend forward. This would allow the bar to come to rest on the safety racks. The use of safety racks when training alone will allow you to specialize on the squat and will increase confidence and promote faster gains.

A much needed piece of equipment which came to the attention of lifters in the 60s is the power rack. Although the power rack was not new, many athletes used some form of power rack training in the past. Harry Paschall wrote about it in the 50s. In the middle '30s Bob Peoples built and used his own power rack. This piece of equipment can be built of purchased can be of tremendous help in training for great strength. When using the power rack you can perform various partial movements from different positions inside the rack with much more weight than you can handle in regular full-range movements.

For the person who trains alone, the power rack is an absolute necessity, if you are to make the greatest gains your body type will allow. You can train for sheer power using the power rack. You can train for increased muscle size, but keep in mind when using the power rack that you should know what your goals are, so that your training routine can be geared to enable you to realize the full result of your power routine. The power rack allows one to make use of much more weight than with barbells alone. Whether you train alone or with one or two training partners, or with a team, you will make great gains in strength with judicious use of the power rack.

The majority of new trainees, and some who are not so new, do not realize that the wearing of the right type of training shoe is important when squatting. The greatest amount of weight can be lifted when squatting flat-footed. If you are working toward lifting highest possible poundage within the rules then you should wear training shoes without raised heels. These shoes should have a top notch rubber sole, as this will prevent the feet from slipping or sliding when you have a heavy weight on the shoulders. Regular running shoes can be used, but they have their disadvantages for this kind of use as they do not give proper support to the feet. The arch and ankle suffer from this lack of support. There is also too much "give" in the soles. This "give" makes the feet have a tendency to rock when squatting. It must be kept in mind that the combined weight of the person squatting and the loaded bar will often be from five to seven hundred pounds and more. One does not have to be a genius to see the amount of strain placed upon the feet.

The type of training shoe that I have used throughout my lifting career is a regulation basketball tennis shoe manufactured by Converse. this shoe has a heelless rubber sole and is supported at the arch. York Barbell sells a lifting shoe used by their fine Olympic lifters that is ideally suited for squatting and Olympic lifting as well. Adidas has a good lifting shoe. It would be to your advantage to buy a pair of these shoes when you can afford them. If treated and and cared for properly they will last a long time and make your lifting more secure.

Always be sure to wear a clean pair of good, heavy socks, as they will add extra support to the feet and ankles. Socks are more comfortable on the feet and also help to absorb sweat, which will help preserve your shoes and aid in the prevention of athletes foot. I never lace the top eyelet in my shoes, and this seems to hamper ankle flexibility. The lower leg must be able to move forward. This forward momentum allows freedom of movement when going into the low squat position. Be sure to keep an extra pair of good strong laces on hand at all times. You want to be sure to lace your shoes tightly, as this is another aid to ankle and foot support. Unfortunately, laces will wear out and break, so it is a wise lifter who prepares for such untimely incidents.

We will talk about lifting belts. If the trainee is in the habit of wearing a lifting belt when training, then there is no reason to discontinue the use of the belt. There is no great advantage given by a belt when squatting, and it is possible in some cases that it could weaken the development of the muscles of the back. If this belt is drawn too tight it could restrict the breathing process. To test this, try tightening your belt very tight and then see how much air you can take in. Remember, when you are squatting with a heavy weight, you get all the air in your gut as well as your chest, as this will help you handle a heavy weight with less discomfort. Nuff said! To my way of thinking, the abdomen should be distended at the low position of the squat, as it will then contact the upper thighs, giving the trainee extra support. Most beginners who see a top notch lifter or a good local lifter using a lifting belt immediately come to the conclusion that a belt is very necessary and must be a big help in lifting. Personally, I always have been of the opinion that the use of the belt has been oversold. Over the years, I have seen a number of Olympic lifters -- top men, world class lifters -- who do not use belts, and they seem to do as well as the men who use belts. America's Norbert Schemansky, National champion, lifted in World Competition and set many records without a lifting belt.

Olympic lifters use their belts reasonably snugly, but some or most powerlifters pull their belts as tightly as possible. The powerlifter seems to believe that such extreme tightness helps him lift more weight and also protects him from injury. I cannot for the life of me see how this can help. I have watched men black out and pass out, if for some reason or another they could not get their belt loosened at once. At an exhibition in Dallas in the early '60s I saw Paul Anderson do eight full reps in the squat with 700 lbs without a lifting belt. I offered him the use of mine but he turned it down, saying he doubted if my belt would reach around one of this thighs. This at least made me feel good, as my wife had been bugging me about my girth. When a belt is pulled so tight around the waist, as some powerlifters do, there is a tremendous displacement of the internal organs from this severe pressure of the belt. The circulation in the area is almost cut off, or there is very little during the time the belt is so tight. What happens next? The lifter goes out and takes the bar for his next lift. This is very dangerous for either lift, be it squat or deadlift. The area the belt is cutting into is a vital area and good circulation is important. If the lifter pulls on a heavy deadlift, there is a terrific increase in blood pressure throughout the body, and especially the chest and abdominal cavities. (This enormous pressure is present during a heavy lift without a belt.) With the belt cutting so tightly around the waist it becomes much greater in certain areas. There is also danger above the belt, not just to the waist muscles but to the vital organs, particularly the heart and lungs which are working, or trying to work, under almost impossible pressure during the lift. Today we have the Masters Lifters who vary in age from 40 to 75 years of age. Should an older man be lifting who has high blood pressure (or elevated blood pressure, as your family doctor might call it), the tremendous effort and added pressure of a heavy lift could trigger a stroke from a burst blood vessel in the brain. So the older lifter should use sound judgement and allow room for body and organs to expand when using the belt. Should the novice, Class I, II, III and lifters on up to the Master rating decide to use a belt and feel that the advantages are great enough, they should consider tightening the belt only a reasonable amount. If you do not have a belt and intend to buy one, purchase one with a double tongue buckle and two rows of holes in the leather.

In addition to the right kind of training shoes and belts, the clothing worn during a workout session is very important. Sweat pants do not hinder leg and body movement when squatting. A good pair of sweat pants also assures that the lower body will be kept warm when resting between sets and exercises. If you keep the regions of the knees and lower back warm there is less chance of injury when working out. An injured back, knee, hamstring or quadriceps will be very slow to heal, and any one of these injuries could set you back weeks or months in your training progress. There are many kinds of trunks and shorts on the market today that many trainees prefer to wear in the summer months. Whatever you wear, you must constantly be on guard so as not to get cold or let the muscles cool off too quickly. When this does happen you are very susceptible to strains, pulled muscles or other injuries of one kind or another. To guard against these injuries I always wear a sweat suit at all times when training, thus taking no unnecessary chances.

Correct Breathing

The breath will be held from the time the bar is removed from the squat stands until the body is properly placed between the safety racks. Just before commencing to lower the body into the low squat position exhale the air from your lungs, and then inhale just as deeply as possible. Really force a great amount of air into your lungs, and then inhale just as deeply as possible. Really force a great amount of air into your lungs. The breath is held throughout the complete squatting movement and is expelled just as the body passes through the sticking point, which is almost to the erect position at the last part of the squat. Most lifters will hold their breath until they come completely erect. You must experiment and find what is best for you.

Exhaling at any point of the low squat position will take away from maximum efficiency. When your chest is inflated to the fullest this keeps the lower body from collapsing and buckling forward. This would put you in an awkward back position, with a lot of strain on your lower back which is very hard to pull out of and stand erect. Even though you experience problems maintaining the breath during the low phase of the squat, you can correct this by constant practice. As you work out and practice with heavier loads, your technique will improve. Take heart and do not give up. You are in select company for this is a problem encountered by the advanced lifter as well as the beginner.
 Always concentrate on holding our breath to the best of your ability and as you work out, you will improve.

When doing repetitions and because of the increasing demand for oxygen it will become necessary to take more than one breath between reps. The number of breaths taken will depend on the individual. However, if too many deep breaths are taken hyperventilation can cause dizziness due to an overdose of oxygen. If and when this happens to you, you can adjust your breathing to fit your physical needs. When doing one single repetition with a maximum poundage, one breath will never do. I have yet to see a lifter able to get enough air by trying to take in a large volume of air by nose. The good lifters take the air through the mouth in one or two large gulps.

In Part Two:
Placement of Squat Stands
Good Squatting Technique
Things to Remember When Squatting With Heavy Poundages

In Part Three:
Your Training Routine     




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