Thursday, April 12, 2018

Squats, Part Two - Jim Witt (1984)

THANKS to Bob Wildes for Providing! 

Part One is Here

Placement of Squat Stands and Safety Racks

The correct placing of the squat stands and safety racks will help the trainee to squat safely with minimum unnecessary effort and maximum protection. They should be placed a minimum of 36 inches apart at the columns. This should not be a problem, if you have an Olympic -type bar. This placement of the squat stands will give the person extra freedom of movement when removing or replacing the bar on the stands. 

One safety factor to always bear in mind is the type of floor platform on which you stand to do your squatting. Make sure the floor is level and the base of the stands are in line and in solid contact with the floor at all points. This will prevent them from rocking or tilting one way or another. Squatting on an uneven or unlevel floor, or one covered with carpet can be extremely dangerous, as this in all likelihood will interfere with proper leverage and balance. 

I know a lot of experienced lifters who have suffered serious injury because the equipment was not used properly. If you have to use a platform to do your squats, make sure your squat stands or safety rack are at the desired height, be sure they are in solid contact with the floor at all points to eliminate rocking or any movement. If any point of the platform doesn't come in contact with the floor, get a small board of sufficient thickness to place between the platform and floor to eliminate the unstable platform.

We teach the members of our gym to always face the stands when removing the bar from the squat rack, and then step back two or three steps from the front of the squat rack. The reason for this is you are strong before doing your deep knee bends. After doing several reps with a substantial weight, you will be a little shaky. At times and under these conditions, it is much better to see  direction you are going, and there will be little difficulty encountered when replacing the bar on the squat stands.

If your squat stands are the type that stand alone, the curved flanges on top of the column is higher on one side. Be sure, when placing the squat stands, that the low side of the flange will be facing you. This will help to prevent accidents by keeping from bumping the squat rack or racks and causing them to be knocked around, becoming uneven, or even causing them to fall to the floor. Also, watching for the high side of the flange will keep you from overshooting the supports when replacing the bar on the squat stands.

Before we explain the placement of the safety racks, we will talk about some of the problems of training alone. You can buy any number of books on bodybuilding, weightlifting, and powerlifting. These books will contain information on such subjects as diet, exercise, how many sets and reps, the amount of weight to be used, protein, food supplements, etc., but this portion of this book will be addressed to the lone trainee who has a very special problem. There are three particular ones to overcome. If you whip them, you are going to accomplish a lot more than you ever thought possible. We will list them:

 - Safety
 - Interest and Enthusiasm
 - Intensity of Effort During Workouts


Two exercises, the bench press and the deep knee bend, are the culprits that are more prone to cause injury during a workout. Up to this point, we have talked primarily about the squat and its problems. Later on, we will finish the placement of safety racks, squatting technique, correct breathing, what kind of clothing to wear, etc. In the bench press portion, we will discuss safe ways of benching for the lone trainee.

Interest and Enthusiasm

In my case, interest and enthusiasm were no problem. When I first started training, I would train after work. If someone unpleasant had marred my day, I would pretend that person or persons were trying to out-lift me, whether reps or pounds. It kept me trying harder. I also kept records of weights and tried periodically to better those records. Maybe, like other lone trainees, once my arm taped over 16 inches and my chest 48 inches, my ego would not let me stop.

Intensity of Effort During Workouts

You who work out alone do not have a training partner to push you. You have only yourself. If you keep records, those records will help keep your working intensity high. You should keep striving to do more.

Squat Stands

 Safety Racks

Back to placement of safety racks. The two safety racks should be placed 45 inches apart (assuming you have a regulation Olympic-type power bar), and should be placed one foot away from the front of the supports. This measurement will be from the supports that the columns of the squat stands are welded to. Once you have decided on the location of the squat stands and the safety supports, and they have been placed in the correct position, you should mark the location, either by painting around the equipment, or marking with a heavy pencil. This will save valuable time when replacing them at the beginning of your next squat workout

Good Squatting Technique

Now that the squat stands and safety racks have been placed where you intend to perform your squat workout, you have placed the bar on the squat stands and loaded it with the desired weight and the collars are in place and securely tightened. After this is done, approach the bar and place your hands on the portion of the bar between the inside collars and the flanges on top of the supports.

Be sure to place the hands an equal distance on each side of the bar, but never too close to the flanges. There is danger of seriously mashing the fingers or part of your have when replacing the bar on the squat stands. The wide hand spacing on the bar will help in maintaining a flat back when arising from a full squat.

Closer hand spacing will cause the upper body to move forward when coming erect from the full squat, thus adding additional strain on the entire back. Thus your limit squat will not be as much.

When you have taken the correct grip on the bar, you place your head underneath the bar and position it on your shoulders. The bar should be seated well back on the shoulders. This little thing will help you in the squat. Most beginners, and some that have been training for a number of years, carry the bar too high on the back, as there seems to be a natural groove just above the seventh cervical vertebra. This is the know that sticks a little higher than the rest as you feel the spine at the base of your neck. If you carry the bar about 2-1/2 inches lower, you will be in the legal range and have much better leverage. This placement of the bar will add from 35 to 50 pounds to your max if you have been carrying the bar quite high previously. It will not feel natural at first and will be awkward and painful for two or three weeks, until the back becomes accustomed to the weight, but the improved leverage plus the added weight to your squat will make it worth while.

Assuming the correct grip, the head underneath the bar and the bar positioned on the shoulders, inhale and fill the chest to capacity. Then lift the bar from the squat stands. Do not make the mistake of lifting the bar off the stands when it is in an uneven or unbalanced position on the shoulders. If this should happen, replace the bar back on the stands and make the necessary adjustments before removing it again. Squatting with the bar uneven on your shoulders or unbalanced could cause serious injury. It could cause a wrenched or dislocated back, a twisted knee, or your balance could be lost completely and you could find yourself on the floor under the bar.

We have discussed the placement of the bar on the back, now we will deal with the foot spacing, which is just as important. Some squatters use quite a wide spacing. If your stance is narrow, you will be able to get more leg into the lift. By narrow, we are talking about 16 inches between the heels or legs.

There will be great strain in the back, unless it is kept rigid and generally upright in this stance. Evidently narrow stance squatters feel this is more than compensated for by the increased leg drive this stance offers.

Those favoring a wider stance have less leg starting power, but have a shorter distance to move the bar, and an easier time keeping the back straight.

The increased strain on the sartorius muscle of the inner thigh and the pressure on the hip joints is rather tough until you get used to it. Ultra-wide stance squatters take as much as 30 inches and more between the heels. This wide stance will cause some lifters to have difficulty in determining the depth of their squats, and they do not go low enough to get their squats passed in a meet. 

You want to go low enough to get your squats passed, but no so low as to tear your crotch out, which is indeed what it feels like when you begin fooling with 400, 500, 600 pounds plus in this ultra-wide style. My own squat improved greatly from around 450 to a 600-pound effort when I moved my foot spacing from 16 inches out to 22 inches between the heels. This gain in poundage was obtained between the age 50 and 55 years. When I had worked out the distance between the heels on the foot spacing, I carried in my workout bag a board 22 inches wide. When I arrived at a meet site, when the squat stands were placed I would take my board and, with a black marker, mark off the desired distance. 

If you are interested in widening your stance I would recommend that you move out about 2 inches per week or two, so that you gradually train your muscles and joints to change. By moving out slowly, you will not lose any poundage on your lift, which would certainly not be the case if you were to suddenly jump out 4 to 8 inches. After re-reading what I have written, it came to my attention that we have talked a great deal about the spacing of the feet for the squat, but said nothing about taking the bar off the rack. 

The correct position of the feet is of prime importance when removing the bar from the stands. Here are two methods that can be used; in fact, it could be said that they are generally used.

Method One:
Keeping the feet in line and about 16 inches apart, the legs are slightly bent as the bar is placed in the correct position on the shoulders. As soon as you have the bar where you think it will be comfortable, the legs are straightened, thus lifting the bar clear of the stands.         

Method Two: 
Extend either the left or the right foot forward an then bend the knee, as the bar is placed on the shoulders. Then to lift the bar off the stands, all you have to do is to straighten this leg and move it back in line with the other stationary foot. 

After the bar has been lifted from the stands, step backwards until you are standing in the water of a shallow lake in a Laurel & Hardy photographer bit. No! Come back here. Step back until you are standing between the safety racks. Always use extreme caution when stepping backwards and be sure to take short steps. Do not bend your legs when taking these steps, but do them in a stiff-legged manner. If one leg is bent too much with a limit poundage you are bound to hit the floor with a whallop.

One other thing to be aware of when placing the feet is the angle of the feet. I have made it a practice to turn mine outward to a position a little less than forty-five degree. This always helped in keeping the heels in solid contact with the floor at all times. Most problems that arise in keeping the feet flat on the floor when in the low squat position are caused by lack of flexibility in the large tendon situated on the back of the heels. Is there an Achilles in the house? By continuous practice and patience this condition can be overcome, except in extremely rare cases. If, after several months of training the heels continue to rise and will not remain in contact with the floor, you may want to try using a lifting shoe with a slightly raised heel, that will enable you to squat with both feet in constant contact with the floor. 

The Full Squat of Deep Knee Bend Movement 

Assuming you have all the necessary equipment, squat stands, bar weight, safety racks, everything in place, you are prepared to go ahead with the actual performance of the lift. Once you have removed the bar from the squat stands, moved three or four steps backward, placed your body in an advantageous position between the safety racks, take a deep breath, taking in a copious amount of oxygen.

After you have done this commence unlocking and bending the knees. You should be in control of the situation at all times and the body should be lowered slowly, not too quickly, but controlled in such a manner that your body will adjust to the various positions in each stage of the squat. When you drop too quickly into the low squat position the sudden drop, or bouncing at the bottom, exerts a tremendous amount of strain (and I might add, unnecessary strain) on the muscles influenced by the movement. This is especially true in the area of the knee. It would be almost impossible to damage a knee by using a moderate weight and lowering the weight in a correct manner, keeping control of the rate of descent at all times. This does not hold true if you drop suddenly into the low squat position or collapse under the weight. This sudden drop with the weighted barbell can be the cause of losing the correct body position, and thus will keep you from arising with the weight.

There is no reason for this style of squatting and certainly no advantage to the lifter in question, be he a rank beginner or a champion. You can rest assured you will not see a champion powerlifter do a sloppy squat, or one in which he does not maintain reasonable control throughout. Train with good form at all times. If you train in the manner regularly, strength will just naturally follow.

Things to Remember When Squatting with Heavy Poundages

1) Employ a style of squatting in a controlled manner.

2) Do not drop quickly to the low position and attempt to bounce upwards.

3) Keep the lungs inflated at all times.

4) As the body is lowered into the full squat, you must learn to feel your way into this position.

5) Do not round your back during any stage of the squatting movement. This rounding of the back could cause injury. If you squat with a rounded back you cannot handle the amount of weight you can with a straight flat back.

Each individual has their version of how low you must go before it is considered a "full" squat. If you squat down to a position where the upper thigh reaches a point that is parallel with the floor, you will be working the legs and back to a degree not possible with partial movements, such as half-squats, quarter-squats, or just supporting a weight three or four hundred pounds in excess of your best full squat.

I thought at one time of listing the rules for the three powerlifts in this book. This idea has been discarded; only the depth of the squat will be discussed.

In the early years of powerlifting the lifter bent the knees and lowered the body until the top levels of the thighs were below parallel with the platform. The lifter then recovered at will, without bouncing, to an upright position, knees locked, and waited for the referee's signal to replace the bar which would be given when the lifter was absolutely motionless.

The new rule for depth, if they have not been changed again, states that after the referee's signal the lifter shall bend the knees and lower the body until the surface of the legs at the hip joints are lower than the top of the knees. Since we are primarily concerned with the accepted depth, then a parallel squat will not be counted as a full squat. Break parallel!

Because you cannot see yourself when squatting it is hard to know when you reach the desired depth. If you have a mirror or work out in a gym that is equipped with mirrors, then you can shoulder a fairly heavy weight and do several full legal depth squats in front of the mirror. In this way you will get the feel of the squat in the low position. This will be of value when squatting in a meet. It will also benefit you when training by practicing in this manner when you do legal depth squats. You will know eventually, instinctively. when you hit a low enough position to commence to rise to the upright position. This will keep you from wasting energy by going too low in the squat. If you have entered a meet it will help you from being disqualified by not going low enough in the squat position.

Many trainees who use the regular stance squat, or the medium-wide stance, will find that when the parallel squat position is reached the upper portion of the front of the thighs will come in contact with the sides of the abdomen. When this is felt by the trainee it is a signal that you have reached close to a parallel squat, but you are still above what is considered a good low squat. Before you halt the downward movement and start to arise to the erect position, be certain that you have gone low enough to make a good low squat. Your training partner can be of much help in watching and telling you how low the depth of your squat is. Some people who work out with others do not want to hurt their feelings by telling them a squat is not low enough. Be sure to impress on the training partner that you want their honest opinion; you do not want your ego built up falsely. You are interested in doing a bona fide squat.

Rising from below the parallel position to a little past the halfway point of the full squat will be the most difficult part. The trainee will have to exert himself the hardest both from the physical and well as the mental part of the lift, as it is here that will decide the success of the full squat movement. You must concentrate on using all the power in the legs and back to speed the upward thrust of the squat.

The faster you are moving when the critical halfway point is reached, the more likelihood there is of making a successful attempt. This halfway point in the full squat is the most difficult to overcome if you are moving upward at a slow rate of speed. It is here you must strive to keep the back and shoulders as straight as possible, keeping the head back, looking forward and holding the breath. If you do not hold the breath at this stage of the lift and you exhale at this point it can result in a deflated chest which will cause the entire upper body to shift forward and away from the vertical position.

It is not my intent to make the reader think that the entire upper body must remain rigidly erect at all times, as this would be almost impossible. It is only natural for the upper body to move forward to a certain degree when arising from a full squat position either with or without a barbell on your back. If you do not allow the upper body to exceed the normal amount of forward lean, if you keep the body upright and don't allow it to lean too far forward, there is less chance of injury and it also increases your chance of making a successful lift.

Usually, when you have passed the halfway back to erect position you will rarely fail. However, do not get overconfident, concentrate on keeping the back and shoulders in an erect position, with head up and back, while at the same time completing the straightening of the legs.

Only when you, the trainee, are completely erect is it safe to exhale. You know to inhale deeply at the commencement of the squat, and that the breath is held throughout the complete squatting movement. To release the air before the body is almost erect would be a catastrophe. If the bar is cutting heavily into the back and you feel a slight dizziness, exhale a small amount of air and it will alleviate the feeling.

When the squat is completed, either one single rep or the final rep in a set, take short steps forward very carefully and replace the bar on the stands. When the bar has been replaced on the stands make sure it is well centered, as this will eliminate any delay the next time the bar is used.

At this time, after the squat is completed and the bar returned to the stands, you will stop holding the breath and begin to breathe normally again. Often after doing repetitions and returning the bar to the stands you will find the demand for oxygen to be much greater. It always helped me to walk across or around the gym or workout area while breathing heavily.       

I found that after one single maximum or near maximum rep that I would not be breathing nearly as heavy and the recuperation was much faster as far as breathing was concerned. If you do this, if your legs feel a little shaky after an all out effort with either a heavy single or a demanding set of consecutive reps, you will find it helpful to sit down on a bench for five minutes of so, thus aiding in the recuperation. Some lifters even lie supine on the floor or a bench. My recovery seems to be quicker if a short walk is taken, or sitting on a bench or stool for five minutes or more. This part of training is an individual thing and each trainee must gear his training to fit his own individual body. Listen to your body; it will tell you when enough is enough.

At one time we recommended that the trainee not take part in any other activities between training sessions. This was believed to be an aid in promoting faster gains both is strength and muscular bulk. Over a period of time we have come to the conclusion that the athlete, be he trainee or experienced lifter, who carries on normal activities such as walking, light jogging etc., seems to make better progress and have greater stamina.

Next, in Part Three: Your Training Routine.  


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