Saturday, September 22, 2018

1972 Hugh Cassidy Power Squat Article

The Author at Different Stages of His Squatting Life

Great Photo!!!
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Everything You Wanted to Know About Squatting
But Were Afraid to Ask
by Hugh Cassidy (1972)

EXPERIMENT: Everybody hates squats, I suppose that's universal. Besides the general pain and discomfort, there's something a little scary about squatting with a heavy maximum weight. You feel like the poundage will squash you down till your knees burst out your back and that your spotters hands are coated with STP oil treatment. He'll pull the weight off you, but only after you've been crushed into a little ball for 30 seconds. Then you'll have to change your vocation to that of a crab-walk instructor - you'll be a natural.

I really should amend that statement.

Everybody hates squats when they're at a standstill and making no progress. Indeed, there is no more fanatic a zealot than a trainee who's gaining say 10 pounds a week on the lift. I belonged in this category for a while . . .

had the feeling that the sky was the limit, I did. I soon found, however, that the limit was 545 and I was stuck there for about 15 months. I had a meet in Barnegat New Jersey where I bent over too far (as is my usual style), and good-morninged this poundage -- much, MUCH PAIN! I later learned that I had pulled some cervical vertebra ligaments which required a few shots of cortisone in the spinal area. It was during this period that I did a great deal of experimenting.

With Paul Anderson articles for inspiration, I set out to find a pair of tractor wheels with the idea of doing 1/4 and 1/2 squats ala Paul. Down in the rural area of Hughesville, Maryland I spotted a pair of spoked iron wheels originally belonging to a turn of the century steam engine. For $5.00 and a promise to haul them away myself, I rolled them uphill from a swampy pasture to my car. They turned out to be four feet tall and weighed 190 lbs. each, and became the base plates for out partial-squat bar. The wheel hubs were so wide however, that to get 700 to 800 lbs. on he bar we were forced to use our heaviest plates. With all this weight on the ends of a seven-foot bar, we'd come out of the rack with a violent shaking condition sometimes so uncontrollable as to prevent even a single rep. The solution, of course, is a shorter bar, but then we couldn't use the big wheels which because of their diameter were perfect for partials - a touch of the wheels to a milk crate and back up equaled a quarter squat.

Needless to say we tired of all this shaking and attempted our partials in a power rack.

You really need a rack with front and back pipes wide apart as, even in a quarter squat, the bar will often scrape the sides of the rack. Guess whose rack was only three inches apart?

I had it cut and and rewelded to to eight inches apart but discovered that still wasn't enough and abandoned the idea.

My partner and I discovered we could squat with much higher poundages in the bench squat. You had to be careful of your back angle though, or you'd find yourself seated and unable to rise. Although others have had success with them, I found that the bench squat poorly simulates an actual squat and tends to cause one to poke out his rear end as it searches for the parallel position.

I next tried front squats to get more leg power involved in my squat. This really works the thighs and hips quite well. Holding the bar, even though padded, proved rather awkward and bruised up the deltoids somewhat. I'm pretty well convinced that the bar on sliding rails in a fixed position would really work. One could pad the bar better and as long as you kept the bar on the chest almost any grip could be used.

These front squats would not replace, but only aid the regular squat, and like leg presses, front squats don't provide enough of a back workout and give no exercise to the stabilizing muscles involving balance. I tried to make one of these machines but never succeeded in getting the bind out of the bar carriage that rides up and down.


I finally absorbed two little tips that started me moving in the squat and I've stuck with them since. I learned I was carrying the bar too high on the back. I think all beginning squatters tend to carry it high

Guys, can I get a form check on my squat. 
yes, carry it high as there seems to be a natural groove just above the seventh cervical vertebra. That's the knot that sticks up a little higher than the rest as you feel the spine at the base of your neck. If you carry the bar about 2.5 inches lower you will still be legal (top of the bar one inch below deltoids) and have much better leverage. That's worth at least 25 pounds once you get the knack of placing the bar on its new spot. I will feel quite unnatural at first and will even be painful for about two weeks until your back gets accustomed to the weight, but it's well worth it!

The other tip concerns foot spacing. Some squatters use quite a bit more spacing than others. If one's stance is narrow, he is able to get his legs into the lift more. By narrow, I mean 15 inches between the heels or less. The back, unless kept rigid and generally upright in this stance, is fairly well bent over and there is great strain on it here. Evidently narrow stance advocates feel this is more than compensated for by the increased leg drive the narrow stance offers. Those favoring a wider stance have less leg starting power but a shorter stroke and an easier time keeping the back straight. The increased strain on the sartorius muscles of the inner thigh and the pressure on the hip joints is rather fierce until you get used to it. Ultra-wide stance squatters like Tom Scott, 242-lb National champ, take as much as a 29-inch spacing between the heels. They sometimes experience difficulty in determining proper depth. You want to go low enough to to get passed, but no lower. Not so low your tear apart your crotch which in indeed what it feels like when you start fooling around with 700-plus in this ultra-wide spacing.

My own squat improved remarkably when I moved out from 13 inches to an eventual 20. If you're interested in widening your stance, I'd suggest you move out about 2 inches a week so that you gradually acclimatize your muscles and joints to the change. By moving out gradually you will experience no loss in poundage, which would certainly not be the case if you were to suddenly jump out 4 to 6 inches. In dozens of workouts I've marked the 20-inch spacing on the floor until I could place my feet by feel alone without any thought about it.


I've often done squats with no spotters on purpose because then I knew I had to get the lift. I'm a sinker and go right down to rock bottom so there's little chance to throw off the weight as some do. Luckily, I've never lost a squat when alone, probably because I realize the alternative is a few anxious moments and some pain. I have lost several squats when spotters are present however. I believe a lifter tends to relax a little knowing the spotter protection is there and consequently doesn't put forth his greatest effort. [Heavy high rep squats can become a joke if you do them in the rack. The effing catchers become a magnet for the bar and your own mental weakness(es). So you start wasting energy keeping your mind off of just bullshitting your way to winding up with the bar on the catchers. Now, there's a lot of talk about this idea of 'mental preparedness' and 'psyching' yourself when squatting. Remember the hackneyed - not hack-kneed, that's a guy who blew out his knees doing you know whats and now walks like he spent too much time on horseback - that hackneyed story of the granny who saved the baby by lifting a car off the kid or some such. I prefer using the opposite tack. Imagine one of the many people you wish were dead or never born - and stop lying that you don't have a mental list of 'em, you crap-thinking positivist snowflake without even a true map of your own cranial contents - one of those assholes. Imagine they're stuck under a car and you're mustering all the strength you can to hold back the rescue team vehicle until that dirt- and/or douche-bag expires painfully. It works great for me.]

On the other hand there is sometimes a decided advantage to having a couple of "holler guys" to spur you on. Just knowing that a pair or two of respected eyes are on you will help to put more zing in a workout. One lifter told me he lived in a rather isolated place with no training partners. He would ore ask the seven-year old neighbor boy to come over and watch while he trained. Although obviously of no physical help, he nevertheless gave impetus to this man's training just by being present.


I never have worn a lifting belt. On several occasions when I'd try it in training, if felt like I was being cut in half. Lifters don';t seem to realize that a 4-inch belt doesn't cover the entire abdomen when squatting. The pressure in the bottom position has to get out somewhere so it will bulge out at the top and bottom of your belt. Far better, in my opinion, to let the gut all hang out (if you're a porky like me), for use as a 'cushion' and rebounder against the thighs. With a waist just shy of 50 inches, that's a pretty good cushion and I feel that it stops me from bending over so far. One doesn't see too many wasp-waist squatters with high caliber poundages. Lately I've taken to wearing a waist band of neoprene which is 8 inches wide and has the give nonexistent in a leather belt.

As far as wraps go, I've never worn them, unless you count neoprene kneebands which have been a godsend since I tore a knee cartilage. The heat and feeling of support eliminate a lot of reinjury worry. Until everyone competes with the same standard length of bandaging, I think wraps will continue to be a joke. There simply is no way to adequately check the lifter without his feeling embarrassed and metoo hassled. [27 years ago a drunken official at a meet touched my knee wraps and I have not been the same since. Not the same at all, and you can read those five words two ways, can't ya.] It's equally embarrassing to the official who I'm sure doesn't relish the role of detective. Wrap advocates continually harp upon the fact that footballers, hockey, basketball, and wrestling contenders all wear wraps, so why not lifters? What they fail to realize is that those are contact sports where a man needs protection against being hit or falling down [not unlike the binge drinking drunkard], or mat burns, etc. Lifting certainly isn't a contact sport. At least I don't want anyone jumping on me while I'm squatting. Most of my lifting friends are wrappers, so its nothing personal, just expressing my two cents worth here.


In training I always pad the bar with a foot long piece of 3/4 or one inch rubber tubing gotten from air conditioning outfits. In meets I use the bar bar as I want to feel the bite of it. It keeps you alert and makes you fight back more. Hand spacing is always the same, 30 inches, just like my bench press. I use that spacing and it sits on my back in just the right spot as I always roll it down into its slot as I step out of the rack.

Contrary to most lifters, when the squat gets rough in the sticker near the top I abandon the straight back position and hunch my shoulders keeping the head down and I pull out every time. If one is extremely bent and tries to keep a straight back with head up his lower back will eventually fail via this method.

600 lbs. 

If I miss a weight, it's because I can't get started at the bottom, hence my attempts mentioned earlier to develop leg thrust. By hunching the shoulders and upper back giving it a curve with head down, you are in effect shortening the distance from the hips to the bar and consequently easing the lower back load. The upper back now takes increased strain, but you are now able to keep the leg and lower back drive going to completion.

My lower back is in pretty good shape which is why I'm able to pull out out my awkward back position without too much trouble. I value a complement from the fantastic lifter John Kanter who as a 242'er squatted with 760 some time ago. He saw my 745 squat at the Seniors in Dallas and told me, "Hugh, that was the greatest good morning I've ever seen."

During the squat the pressure on the ribcage and diaphragm, not to mention the arteries and veins, is terrific. Therefore one should remember to release the air gradually as you approach the finish. It may save you a dizzy spell or blackout.

Squatting is not without fatalities.

I've laid to rest countless pairs of sweatpants with the seat torn out. Being part Scotch, I generally don't get a new pair until the tear has worked itself into a drafty bare leg condition.


To me, psyching is a pretty easy matter. A few days before a meet I can get worked up just thinking about it. The drive to the meet is pretty exiting too as you constantly rework your hoped for totals and think about the competition etc. The unmistakable odor of liniment and sweat can really get your blood pressure up. The apprehension over how your first lift is going to go adds to the drama. In the back of your mind there's the nagging uncertainty of failure with your first attempt. Despite all the negative thoughts, one almost always comes through. Perhaps it is this critical self doubt that aids the psyching process. I can't explain it psychologically [thank Christ, yawn], but I've found that if I expel my breath forcibly in sharp gasps, I get goose-pimples [a.k.a. duck bumps] all over my body. In this condition I lift far more in meets than in training, averaging (I keep records) 40 lbs. above my best in training for both the squat and deadlift.

There's no question the audience presence adds to the psych condition.

Sometimes knowing that everyone is watching can result in a case of over-psych and the lifter becomes so intent upon his lift that he fails to do what is rational.

I recall a meet of a few years back where a teenage heavyweight with a huge upper body was entered in his first contest. He negotiated his first squat without too much trouble even though his rolled up towel flopped down over his head as he went under the bar. The weight was rather heavy and he buckled quite a bit causing the towel to droop even further and it was difficult to see his face. Some outsider might have guessed he was an extra lifter from the Middle East. [Oh, how I long for these days. Days when the storyteller's path wasn't covered in eggshells of correctness. Tiptoeing through life, looking over your shoulder at all times in fear of being set upon by the libtard bozo patrol. Goof troop over-protest pricks. Yes, the unending mental frenzy of shortsighted minds attempting to remove all fear from life and winding up creating a life of constant low level FEAR. Fuck 'em all.] Okay . . .

For his second attempt the nervous high-schooler took 475. The towel behaved itself this time but the weight didn't. It started rolling up his back as he pitched forward on the way up. He was hanging on and fighting it as his back assumed the good morning position. Amid audience shouts of "stay with it" etc., the by now beet red fellow tightened his grasp on the bar as it worked its way over his neck and did a Yul Brynner on his scalp. He lost a few handfuls of hair. He hung on doggedly however and to his complete bewilderment ended up in a standing position still holding onto the bar.

It was then that some wag in the crowd shouted out, "Clean it, clean it!"

I don't think this young guy will ever do that again.


Generally, I use two squat routines and alternate them. They're very simple and basic, and I use no assistance exercises. Squats alone twice a week work very well for me.

The following is the routine I used most of the time, with an emphasis on the 3 sets of 5 which I believe to be the hallmark of the routine. They force power as well as muscular growth to take place, and as your fives go up so, of course, does your max, double, or triple.

Thus I do
or following the 535 go to 

Two simple routines.

I seldom do more than eight sets of squats regardless of the routine.

As a meet draws near with about six workouts to go, I continue to go up to a max double or triple and change only the sets of fives to sets of threes, such as this last workout prior to the World Championships which was

750x0 (bar shook badly)

Two failures with 750 on the uncontrollably shaky bar made me too tired for the last set of three. The 800 at York was much easier - I wish I had taken more at the time.

Well, there you have it. It's not everything you wanted to know about squatting, but I think it has some food for thought. In any case that title up there got you to read this far, so it couldn't have been too bad.

Happy Squatting!

This Netflix series that came out yesterday had me awake until three.
Man, it's fucking OUTSTANDING!
Each episode refreshes itself, and the ideas are expressed very, very creatively.
Subtle sometimes, creepy at others, just a great long film in 10 episodes.





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