Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to squat more weight.

573 @ 190 lbs and 40. 1997 APF Masters Nationals

It seems that the basics are always getting passed over for fancier,more exotic programs.The key to getting stronger in a basic lift is putting more weight on the bar whenever you can.Sounds easy but how do you do it? Way too many programs focus on complicated schedules and assistant exercises. Lets take the squat. How does one build a 225 max squat into a 400 pound max squat?

First off your form has to be right. If the bar is not in the right place on your back, if the hips aren't engaged in the lift,If the back doesnt stay arched, if the knees continue to move forward as you descend or you dont know how to drive up into the bar as you ascend no program is going to help. The mechanics of the movement have to be solid so you can maintain them as the bar gets heavier.

One of the easiest to follow programs that also works great is the basic percentage program from Louie and WSB. This is what I first followed when I converted from bodybuilding training to powerlifting . Tradtional, classic squat programs at the time only had you work up to 1-2 top sets per week. Coming from my 'as many sets and reps as hard as possible til you die' bodybuilding program that I had been on for 8 years this wasnt near enough work! But louies system had 8 work sets! That I could live with. and I did. It brought my hi bar close stance bodybuilding half squat of 405x3 to a legit 540 power squat at 181 in the Ironman competition a year or so later.

One great benefit of this program is that you get to max out every 6 weeks or so so you have realtime, accurate one rep max number to use in your percentage calculations.Its a great mix of intensity and volume and with the very low reps per set you can practice compensatory acceleration on each and every rep. Both dynamic sub maximal work and max effort singles should be considered max effort days. Submax weights should be tried to be moved with maximum speed so that the force approaches max force. Of course this isnt for beginners and your form must be very comfortable to be able to do this safely.

You can do this raw or with gear. I started each cycle with minimal equipment and added it as weights approached the top percentages.You must have a current max weight to base this on. What you did last year at your last contest will not work.A no -pysch, just work up til it gets hard effort in the gym is fine.

Week One 70% 8 sets of 3 1 min /sets

Week two 75% 8 sets of 3 1.5 min/sets

Week three 80% 6 sets of 2 2 min/sets

Week four 85% 4 sets of 2 2 min /sets

Week five 70%x2 75%x2 80%x2 85%x2 90%x2x2

Week six 70%x2 75%x2 80%x2 85%x2 90%x1 101-103%x1 103-105%x1

or if you dont want to max just up the weight 5-10 lbs and repeat the cycle.

Pick two assistance exercises that work your weak links and work them for sets and reps to increase muscle mass.Do it once a week and deadlift for the same percentages and sets/reps on the other day.

If you repeatedly do this cycle 4-6 times a year for a few years you will have seriously increased your one rep max as well as built some serious muscle. The short rest times make up for the low reps by keeping muscle tension high. If you try to move the weight as explosively as possible their is a LOT of tension that gets generated.And as we know, tension is strength.It aint fancy but it sure do work. Of course you can switch things out but I know you can keep repeating this cycle and making gains. Especially if you choose your assistance and special exericses right. The key is perfect form and small but steady every increasing loads.

You can also do this as a box squat cycle as well ( use a real box single max).If you are ready for more tension add chains or bands. Bands increase the tenions exponentially and chains challenge your stability under the weight big time.

Remember there is a big difference between a gym max and a contest max. A contest max, with andrenaline and big psychological arousal can increase the lift 5-15% if you are a good performer under pressure.

Form is everything and you must try to use the lighter weights as serious form work.every rep should be legal depth and perfect form.


Joe Sarti said...

Solid post and that is what I like bare bones, real deal, straight to the point how to get real F*cking strong sensical training knowledge.

Fancy smancy, keep it real, keep it simple. cannot wait to test my DL

Royce said...

Sweet dude, I'm archiving this for sure.

Anonymous said...

Awsome post Rif, I am gonna give that suggestion a shot with at ZSQ cycle starting tomorrwo. I think it is time for me to break 200kgs in the ZSQ. Deadlift has been put on hold because my hand is not healing as fast as I would like and ignoring pain all the time is not the way to go... yeah you know that...

Anonymous said...

keep the great posts coming my friend!

Mark Reifkind said...

kenneth I think this will translate just as well to zerchers and yes, there is no good reason to push through pain. doesnt end up well it seems.
and thanks!

Brett Jones said...

Great stuff Rif - its simple just not easy!

Kenneth - sorry to hear about your hands not healing quickly - some contrast baths and pain free Z work for the hands and ankles.

Douglas said...

Mark, just wanted to say that I think its great the way you put yourself and your accomplishments out there for all to see. Been a little fed up lately with the "I had a class on this" gurus.
Is it ok for me to link to your blog from mine?

Mark Reifkind said...


thank you man. yes it is fine to link up. thanks for comments it is appreciated.everything I talk about I have tried on myself first.some stuff works and some stuff doesnt but I never stop trying to understand more and accomplish more

Guarden said...

great article Rif.
Just as Kenneth, I will use your protocol for my Z-squat, just love that exercise.

Mark Reifkind said...

cool jacob, let me know how it goes. like I told kenneth I've never done it with zerchers but I bet it works well.the numbers are based on prilepins table for optimal reps/sets for specific percentages.it was developed for the olympic lifts but adapted well to the powerlifts too.

Guarden said...

Hey Mark.
Yes, will let you know.
My current Max is 140 kg picked up from the floor.
Do you know anybody who are experienced with this kind of technique, and in that case, is it bad for the knees?
Can't wait to start :-)

Mark Reifkind said...


its the technique the old school weightlifters have been using for years. plus its how the strongmen pick up the atlas stones.Your knees should say hello before they say goodbye. Should be fine.

Guarden said...

LOL, thanks.
I will listen to my knees then, hahahah.
Good one :-D