Saturday, July 3, 2021

Squat-Shaping and Rack Work - Joe Hood (1985)

 Courtesy of Robert Wildes.
From the September 1985 issue of IronMan.
Thank You, Sir!  
And as always, Thank the original author before you begin . . .

Charles Smith: "The expression we used about going so low in the squat was not getting splinters in your glutes but, "If you go much lower your arse will close over a daisy and you'll never get up. Just to set your teeth on edge and get you into a snit fit, Joe Hood, our 220-lb. power lifter here at the U of Texas, the other day did 4 sets of 3 with 610. If the money had been there he could have done 8.

Joe recently did a dead lift with 793 at 220 DRUG FREE. This is the firs time Goerner's record has been equaled in SIXTY SIX YEARS.

Here's a great rack-squatting article for us to enjoy, free of charge and courtesy of super-strong author Joe Hood and the debonair Robert Wildes.

In the photo above we see the author, Joe Hood, doing parallel squats to a sticking point. Note the front and back uprights in the power rack which allows adequate movement when squatting. Also note that the position of the feet is not excessively wide but approximately the normal squatting style of the author. Position of the bar, although not apparent in the photo, is about 3 inches above the pins. The author, who has never used steroids, has squatted 705 and deadlifted 782 in the 220-lb. class. He holds the deadlift and total recorded in the American Drug Free Powerlifting Association in the 220 class.  
Building a big squat by squatting progressively deeper in successive workouts with a heavy weight is not a new ideas. Let's travel back in time to when the Dixie Derrick, otherwise known as Paul Anderson, reigned supreme in the world of strength. Anderson, searching for a way to improve his pet lift, the squat, decided to adapt and idea he had heard about from his Tennessee neighbor,  Bob Peoples, then the best deadlifter in the world. 
Peoples had gotten the idea from the deadlift training of William Boone of Louisiana, Peoples' primary competitor during the period around 1950. As Boone had done years before, Anderson dug a pit, and across it he placed a heavily loaded barbell. Originally, the pit was of such depth that when he racked the bar across his shoulders, and stood erect, he performed a partial squat. Before each workout he placed a little dirt in the bottom of the pit and did his squats. As the pit became more shallow, his squats became deeper. Using this crude, but very effective, technique along with other imaginative ideas, Mighty Paul developed the ability to squat with prodigious weights. He lifted poundages which, though not official, have withstood the onslaught of the stoutest men of the Iron Game for some 25 years. And remember, he did it without steroids. 
 - - - Here's a scan of a rare and beautiful photo of J.C. Hise's version, courtesy of friend and fine man Joe Roark, who has a site you might really enjoy. Thanks for what you do, and for your patience:

This squatting technique, like other strength development methods, relies on the concept of overload. If the body is forced to lift a greater than normal load, it responds by getting stronger. However, Anderson's idea differs from most current strength training techniques in one aspect. Most techniques involve using submaximal weights for reps in a full range movement, and periodically attempting a maximum. 
Anderson's method involves handling near-maximum weights for a partial movement until a squat of legal depth is performed. 
We will call this technique "Squat-Shaping." 
This method offers some advantages over the alternative methods. First, the lifter becomes accustomed to handling heavier weights. Most of us have seen a lifter stagger out of the squat rack with a weight that he could barely control. Even though the lifter has the ability to squat with the weight, he approaches the lift with his confidence fatally impaired, because the weight "feels" heavy. 
By performing partial squats, the lifter soon becomes able to control a weight well in excess of what he can competition squat. The critical point in the squat, however, is not in its upper range. The "sticking point" of most lifters occurs a few degrees above parallel. Using the squat-shaping technique at this point produces good results. The heavier weight that can be used in this type of training stresses the body more severely. 
Two important adaptations occur in response to this stress. The first is the phenomenon of disinhibition. The body has governors in its neuromuscular system which help to prevent injury. In response to a heavy weight, these golgi tendon organs reduce the amount of force the muscles are capable of producing. If you continually train with a heavy weight, the inhibition is reduced, and as a result, you are able to lift more weight. An increase in ligament and tendon strength also results from the stress due to the heavier weight, and this strength is an important factor in preventing injury.
Numerous lifters have tried Anderson's method over the years. Most have been stymied by some problems. For one thing, very few gyms would be amused by the idea of your gracing their premises with a grave-like pit. As a result, lifters have had to test the idea on a power rack. In fact, Anderson himself used the more convenient rack technique as soon as he got one built. Terry Todd told me he went to Paul's home in 1965 and saw a huge weight loaded on top of a pair of squat stands modified so that they could be lowered step by step to a position below parallel. At that time, Paul had gradually worked down from a high partial squat to a parallel position. He would position himself under the bar in the "down" position, and then stand up with the weight. Dr. Todd counted the weights that day and found that Paul had over 1000 lbs. on the bar. 
Most racks do not work well for this type of training without some modification. In the typical power rack, the smallest increment by which the pins which support the barbell at the bottom of the movement can be lowered 2-3 inches. Going that much lower in the sticking point range of your squat with a weight that was a challenge at the previous pin height almost invariably results in failure. 
Research shows that motor skills are learned most effectively when the behavior is modified in small steps. Anderson, by adding a small amount of dirt at a time to the bottom of the pit, could adjust the depth of his squat in very small increments. So what are you to do -- dig a hole? 
Fortunately, there are some more attractive alternatives.
If you are designing your own power rack, you can space the pin holes at 1/2 inch intervals. For those of us who are not mechanically inclined, or who already have a power rack, it is possible to use A SERIES OF THIN, STACKED SHEETS OF PLYWOOD UNDERFOOT to adjust the range of the squat to the desired specification. 
Whichever of these methods you use, it is important that you find a convenient and consistent means of determining and recording the depth of your squats during each workout.
For most lifters, the most effective means of the squat-shaping technique will be to integrate it into a regular squat routine, rather to use it exclusively. Full range, multiple-rep squats are more effective than squat-shaping in stimulating muscle growth and also provide valuable work on the deep range of your squat during the early stages of your training cycle.
HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS for using the squat-shaping technique. Use squat-shaping during peaking cycles prior to a contest, not on a year-round basis. 
Do not use it more than once a week, in order to avoid overworking. 
Avoid the temptation to overemphasize shallow partial squats, because working in the sticking point range will contribute more to your competition squat. 
Pick a weight that is about what you intend to max out at the end of your cycle, then set the pin height at the level at which you do roughly a quarter-squat. After warming up and successfully completing a rep at this poundage and height, lower the pins by increments, doing a rep at each level, UNTIL YOU REACH A LEVEL FROM WHICH YOU CANNOT ARISE. This is about the level of your sticking point. Record this point. 
In your subsequent workout start about 2-1/2 inches above this point. 
Do 5 singles, dropping 1/2 inch per set. 
In each succeeding workout, start 1/2 inch lower than the previous workut. 
If you fail with the lower range singles, either use slightly less weight, or modify the increments more gradually. 
Be sure that you use the same foot spacing you use in competition and that you DO NOT BOUNCE THE WEIGHT OFF THE PINS. 
Conventional full range squat work can be done in the rack after the completion of the singles. 
The power rack, when properly constructed (small increments between pin holes and adequate distance between front and back standards), is an excellent took in improving all the powerlifts. 
Numerous other techniques in addition to squat-shaping lend themselves well to the power rack. These include isometric movements at the sticking point, negative or eccentric movements, and bench squats. 
Use of these techniques may not turn you into a Dixie Derrick or even a Crain (YEAH!), but they may enable you to hoist poundages greater than those that stop you now. 
Welcome Back . . . Enjoy Your Lifting, and let's give a strong Thank You to Joe Hood for writing this, and Robert Wildes for sharing it out of their love for the Iron Game.           

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