Sunday, June 10, 2007

Going Back in Time: Thoughts About Squatting

It's no secret that I love to squat--and not powerlifting squats, either, which there's nothing wrong with if you're a powerlifter. I'm talking about butt-to-ankles full Olympic squats. The only problem for me right now is that I can't do them as frequently as I'd like, but I digress...

I was reading on Josh Hillis' blog ( an interview with Craig Ballantyne. Craig stated that he believed that people could make major changes in body composition by just performing variations of the squat for only 10 minutes a day. (Read the article--it's thought provoking.) I paused at that point because it took me back in time to a lesson I learned which led me to the same belief.

In 1995 or 1996 I was riding my to class while doing some post-grad work. A girl kicked open her car door. I swerved thinking I was going to miss her. The edge of the "bear-trap" pedal on my bike caught the edge of her door which launched me feet over head over handlebars. Of course I tucked my chin to miss landing on my head but landed on my left shoulder instead. It was diagnosed by one of the ATCs as a 1st degree AC joint separation, but due to the length of time it took to heal, it was really a 2nd degree.

I was more than a little bummed. I couldn't do any upper body work whatsoever, but I could still squat and good morning. I had to take a week off from all training, but for the next 3 weeks after that, I performed squats and good mornings 3 times per week. A month after my accident, I decided to test out my upper body strength by maxing out on my bench and seated military press (Makes sense, right?). I lost 5lbs off my bench and my seated MP remained the same. I was flabbergasted!

I could only conclude at the time and from the reading I had done, that although my upper body wasn't being directly worked, the squatting and the GMs were enough strain on the upper body to maintain the strength that I had.

Since that point in time, leg work has always been a priority in my clients training programs. That incident caused me to conclude that the "legs drive the machine." The stronger and better conditioned the legs, the stronger the machine.

When I think back to my quest for strong legs, I recall some of the numbers I've put up at various times in my training life: 500/1 at a bodyweight of 204lbs, 415/13 after pre-exhaust leg ext, leg curl, & leg press, 315/20, 585/8 from pins with 90/90 at the knee/ankle, 625-ish/5 from a 24"'s been crazy. The only lifts with a belt were the 415 & the 585 and never any knee wraps. Are these great numbers? Nope. But they're good--but never good enough. I guess that's why I get frustrated that I can't squat as much now as I used to. I wanted to turn them into great numbers. I love squatting. I love the feel of the lift. I love the benefits. When I squat routinely, I grow. I grow a lot. And I get lean, especially if I'm restricting my calories.

Those were all good times. Once I get fully up-and-running, I want to be able to train like that again. Those types of training sessions build character and friendships that last a long, long time. Still today, after living in NC for 7 years, I can pick up the phone and call my weightlifting coach to talk shop. I still remember that 415 workout like it was yesterday. I was weighing 228lbs and I was big...and strong...I was MPing 225/5 easily...ah, yeah, great times! Once I heal, I may have to go through that training cycle again.

After all these years, I still think if you can't Clean and Jerk, Squat--all-the-way-down. If you can't--learn. If you can't squat, Deadlift. If you can't or won't, get some kettlebells and start swinging. The legs are still being used--still feeding the machine and you'll still get results.

Off to enjoy the sunshine!


Blogger Tracy said...

I can't believe the difference in my hamstrings (bigger!) and leaness through my mid-section (smaller!) since adding squats back into my workouts regularly, (only 4 weeks!). And I hadn't even taken them seriously, I just threw them into one of my combination sets. ( I mention this on my blog, BTW).

I usually train in the morning between 6:30am - 7:30am and it's much harder to get my hips warm enough to squat deep, the afternoon is a better time, no problems with depth.

I was inspired at the April RKC after your lecture on the subject (squats). And I was amazed at how many participants could squat ass to grass! (most!)

If a few squats have been this good, more has to be better, right???

8:47 PM  
Blogger Brett Jones said...

Squats are good - my time under the bar is proving to be some of my most productive lifting ever.
With your knee and lateral tracking - check and search patelofemoral and look at the weighted MRI studies - very interesting stuff. Is there a chance you are losing hip control during your squat? (ie. glute med etc..)
Give you a call soon.

BTW - You are a lucky man!! (pics below)

5:00 AM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

Tracy--I love your thinking--"more has to be better!" Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Just continue to focus on high quality reps and not so much on "how many" and you'll continue to see improvements. That's where I made my mistakes: too many reps that were poor quality just to prove to myself that I could squat that day instead of walking away.

Brett--Thanks--I'll do the search on the weighted MRI studies. I believe in the past I did lose hip control--I'd bail out through the right hip. Currently since Z, I am not--I go straight down and straight up. But who knows how many reps I used to do that way? And yes, I am very lucky--she's great!

8:55 AM  

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