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Thread: Better Strength Articles

  1. #1
    Blown_SC is offline Retired Vet
    Join Date
    Feb 2004

    Better Strength Articles

    The following is a composition of the better strength articles I have read. The majority have been written by Dave Tate of EliteFTS, as well as some other well-known figures in the sport.

  2. #2
    Blown_SC is offline Retired Vet
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Squat 900 Pounds - 10 surefire ways to help you squat BIG
    by Dave Tate

    Sure, you squat, but do you squat BIG?

    I watched the guys squatting over in the corner of the gym and knew immediately the subject of my next article for T-mag. After a few warm-up sets and some instruction from the trainer, these guys began to perform some of the most interesting "squatting" I've ever seen. The verbal commands still echo in my head: "elbows back," "head up," "hips in," "big chest air," "down, down, down." It went on and on and began to look like something from The Karate Kid.

    I walked over to the group after their session and made them an offer they couldn't refuse, at least I thought so. I invited them all to attend the seminar I was conducting the following day at that particular gym. Two agreed to come. The trainer seemed insulted. Well, as Meatloaf says, "Two out of three ain't bad."

    That's when it hit me. My Bench Press 600 Pounds article had been a hit, so why not do the same thing for the squat? You see, there's a huge difference between squatting and squatting big. Let me explain very quickly. How much can you currently squat? If you answered 500 pounds, I'd reply, "How much more do you know about squatting now compared to when you could only squat 300 pounds? How much more will you have to learn to squat 700 pounds?"

    This is what squatting big is all about. I spent many years knowing how to squat but it took the help of Westside Barbell to learn the art of squatting big. Squatting big is as much an art as it is a science. If you relied on just one aspect, either art (training) or science, you'd be able to squat, but not squat big. You have to rely on the combination of both to really increase your numbers. Squatting the big one requires figuring a lot of stuff out. Much of this stuff you've probably been exposed to but perhaps have forgotten or haven't applied yet. But there are others items you may not know about that can really send your squat over the top.

    Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference. Take for example, Matt Smith. Matt is Westside's newest member of the 900 club. (By the way, that now makes nine in the 900s for Westside, seven of whom all train together. We also have one guy that squats over a grand.) Matt realized a few months back that he sucked at the glute ham raise. So realizing that his hamstrings were a weakness for him, he pushed them up. The net result was that he beat his old squat record by 30 pounds! That's all it took, finding a weakness and bringing it up.

    If Matt hadn't found this weakness he could still be squatting in the 800s or worse yet, he could've been stuck there for several years. I know all about having my squat stuck. I once went five years without any progress. I tried many things and most didn't work. Then I stumbled upon the chains. (See my article called Accommodating Resistance for details.) This broke my rut and started me on the way to squatting big. You see, both Matt and I knew how to squat, but we had to learn to squat big.

    At Westside Barbell, we've figured out the secrets to squatting big weights and have been sharing these with other powerlifters for the past few years. I can think of eleven others outside of Westside who've also squatted over 900 by using these same secrets. How did we come up with these special secrets? It's simple. We combined the art of training with science. Very few scientists can squat big and very few who do squat big can replicate the results in someone else. You must have a good understanding of both if you want to pile plates on the bar. So if you think you're ready to load up the bar, then read on.

    Secret #1: Get your stance out wide!

    If you squat with a close stance, move your feet out. If you think you squat wide already, move your feet further out! We teach everyone at Westside to squat wide. We don't believe in a close-stance squatter. When you squat wide you create better leverages for the squat. The distance between your knee and hip is greater with a close stance, thus a longer and more difficult squat.

    By using a wide squat you cut this distance back as well as place the emphasis on the glutes, hamstrings and lower back. These are the muscles that squat big weights! While squatting wide, try to keep your toes straight ahead or slightly turned out. This will create a tremendous amount of tension in the hips and glutes and make it hard to squat down. This tension will create a great stretch reflex out of the bottom of the squat. This is vital to the development of barbell speed.

    Secret #2: Get a tight arch!

    You must learn to develop the strength to keep a tight arch in the lower back. This arch must be kept throughout the entire movement. The moment you begin to lose this arch, the bar will begin to drift forward and out of the natural barbell path. When the bar starts to drift toward the toes, you'll lose the squat and end up stapled to the floor. The bar must stay close to the hip joint and away from the toes.

    You must also keep the shoulder blades pulled together with your elbows pulled forward. This will create the much needed upper back tightness to keep the barbell in proper position. Remember, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so you must keep the barbell in the proper path.

    When your elbows turn out toward the back, the bar will drift forward again and end up stapling you to the floor as well as ripping your head off. This is one common mistake I see in all my seminars. When I ask attendees who taught them to squat with their elbows back, nine out of ten times they say, "My coach." This is another example of those who think they know how to squat not knowingsquat!

    Secret #3: Spread the floor!

    Spread the floor with your feet as you squat. Remember the wide stance? Well, you must also force your knees out hard during the entire motion and push out on the sides of your shoes while you squat. This keeps the tension in the hips where it should be. This is also why most squat shoes, tennis shoes, and cross trainers suck for squatting. The best shoes for squatting are Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. The soles are flat and the side construction is rugged enough to push out against without a blowout or rolling over the sole.

    Secret #4: Drive your head into the bar!

    This doesn't mean look up toward the sky like your old high school coach told you to. You must look straight ahead and drive your head back into the traps. Your body will always follow the head so you want to make sure your head is driving back into the bar.

    As a side note, what's the last thing to move when you squat? It would be your head. So what should be the first thing to move when coming out of the hole? You got it, your head. This only makes perfect sense. You have to think about driving your back and head into the bar first during the assent. We tell our lifters the chest and head should always be first. You're trying to raise the bar, so move it first! If the quads flex first, the hips will rise before the bar and force the barbell forward.

    Here's another coaching tool: watch the lifter's quads. If they flex first get him to sit back more and force his knees out. The glutes should flex first.

    Secret #5: The hips should move before the knees!

    If your knees are the first to move while beginning a squat, then your path is going to be straight down. As discussed before, the tension must be on the glutes, hips and hamstrings. These are the muscles that squat big weights, not the quads.

    Think about this: Why can't a lifter with a 400-pound deep Olympic squat perform a 700-pound power squat? A powerlifter who can squat 700 can do an easy 400-pound Olympic squat. This is because the Olympic squatter doesn't have the back, glutes or hamstring to support the 700 pounds! What's that tell you about the quads and squatting big weights? (Hint: They just aren't that important!)

    Secret #6: Get on the box!

    The greatest secret to our success at Westside is the use of the box squat. We don't do any full squatting at all, except for in competition. We haven't had any lifters over the past 15 years have any lower back or knee injuries, either. The only side effects we've seen with box squatting are big squats! The key is to do them properly. For more information on this, see my Squatting from Head to Toe article.

    The benefits of the box are many. First, you can sit back further than you could without it. This places more stress on the posterior chain muscles. Second, you always know how low you're going. If you want to squat two inches below parallel then set your box up at that height. This way your body will always sit as low as it's conditioned. If you want to squat one inch high, then set the box higher. We suggest one inch below parallel since this is what's needed to pass in a powerlifting competition.

    Third, squatting on a box breaks the eccentric/concentric chain. This is one of the best ways to develop explosive strength. Fourth, the box is great for teaching proper squatting technique. Most athletes and lifters have very poor squat technique because of bad coaching, muscle imbalances and flexibility. The box can work as a great aid to teaching the proper way to sit back into a squat.

    I'll be the first to tell you that the competitive power squat isn't an easy thing to master. It takes many years of work and technique is very important. The stronger you get, the more you need better technique. One inch in the wrong direction and you'll miss the lift.

    Secret #7: Learn to use your belly!

    I've caught more **** over this than any other aspect of training. But the truth is that every big squatter I know has learned how to use his abdominals while squatting. You must learn how to breathe into your belly. You want to pull as much air as you can into your belly, then flex and force your abdominals out.

    Walk over to a mirror. Take a look at your shoulders and take a deep breath. Did they rise? If they did, then you're pulling all the air into your chest, not your belly. You need to learn how to breath into your belly. This is how we teach everyone to squat. For the squat, we advise the use of a weight belt worn one notch loose. This is to teach you to pull air into your belly then push out into the belt. The belt acts as a great training aid to push against.

    As a side note, we use the same technique for all of our max-effort work, but don't use the belt in that situation. This is one aspect of our training that has been misunderstood for too long. We use the belt to teach how to use the abdominals for the squat, bench, and deadlift, and do not advocate its use for anything else unless the lifter feels it's needed. Many in the gym have worked up to 600 and 700 pound good mornings without any adverse effects and have been doing them this way for over ten years.

    This brings me to the next point. We've been told breathing and using the abdominals this way will lead to back injuries. Louie Simmons has been coaching this for the past twenty years at Westside and hasn't had any lifters with these problems. Learning to use the belly has made a profound difference in all of our squats, especially for those who've never tried it. I've seen squats increase by 25 to 50 pounds on this aspect alone. Now that's what squatting big is all about.

    Filling your belly with air will also create a larger torso and give you a bigger base of support from which to drive. Ever wonder why those with bigger waists squat so much? Think about it. We want as much tightness and support as we can get from the gross muscles of the spinal errectors, abdominals, and obliques.

    Secret #8: Train for speed!

    If you were to jump up on a table, how high would you get if you jumped slowly? How much force would you develop? Not much, huh? So why in the world would you want to train to be slow? Why not train to be faster? The faster you are, the greater the chance you'll have of blasting through your sticking point.

    This is what the dynamic training day is all about. If you're a 500 pound squatter and are training with 250, then you must apply 500 pounds of force to the bar during the lift. Think blast! For most T-mag readers, I'd suggest a four week wave using the box squat. The percentages listed below would be of your best squat. For you competitive powerlifters out there, percentages would be lower since you may be using squat suits.

    Week 1: 10 sets of 2 reps with 65%

    Week 2: 10 sets of 2 reps with 70%

    Week 3: 10 sets of 2 reps with 73%

    Week 4: 10 sets of 2 reps with 75%

    Only take 45 to 60 seconds rest between sets and use compensatory acceleration when performing all of your reps. That means you should really try to explode the weight up.

    Secret #9: Train for chaos!

    Chaos training is a system of training that will make or break your squat. A cardinal sin of squatting is falling forward during the lift or dumping the bar over your head. When this happens it means only one thing: You haven't done the necessary work to squat big.

    When a barbell falls forward it's known as a chaotic event. You have to train to avoid these situations. This is why we have a max effort day. On this day you'll perform a one rep max on some type of low box squat, deadlift or good morning. You'll want to use some type of good morning seven out of ten workouts or 70% percent of all max effort days for the lower body. The low box squat should be used 20% of the time, the deadlift 10%. This would be a once a week workout.

    The reason for so many good mornings is twofold. First we've found this type of movement to be the absolute best for the development of the squat and deadlift. Second, remember the cardinal sin of falling over? Well that's exactly what happens with a good morning. If your good morning is strong enough you'll be able to keep the arch and not fall forward. If you do begin to fall forward you'll be able to arch the bar back into position without even thinking about it. You'll have the strength and it'll be automatic. We've found a minimum good morning of 60% of your max squat to be a very important element of squatting big.

    Secret #10: Build the glutes and hamstrings!

    As I've stated before, the quads aren't an important element of a big squat. You have to have very strong hamstrings and glutes. You must prioritize your hamstring and hit them at least twice a week. The best movements we've found for training the hamstrings are glute ham raises, band leg curls, reverse hypers and pull throughs, and high-rep partial deadlifts. We've found that two heavy hamstring workouts a week to be fine for most lifters but many times we've prescribed up to six hamstring training sessions a week to bring them up to where they should be. This is all based on the situation, exercises, and lifter.


    After my seminar was over I sat there watching an aerobics class. Remember, I train in a key club with 20 to 30 other powerlifters and haven't trained in a gym like this for over 12 years. It was quite a sight. I haven't missed training at a fitness club at all, and I still don't.

    As far as the two guys I'd invited to the seminar, they showed up. Their trainer didn't. Now these two guys know how to squat big. When I go back next year, I'll bet the trainer attends, too. That's because his two former clients will soon be out-squatting him. You see, he may know how to squat and that's fine, but they know how to squat big!

    If you'd like to get more info from Dave Tate about consultations or products, you can contact him at Elite Fitness Systems at 888-854-8806 or For more info on his seminars, check out the "seminars" section of Testosterone or visit his web site at

  3. #3
    Blown_SC is offline Retired Vet
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Bench Press 600 Pounds - A 12 Step Program
    by Dave Tate

    Obviously, not everyone has the genetic raw material to bench press 600 pounds. However, if anyone can teach you to increase your bench, it's Dave Tate. Dave's been assisting and training under Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell fame for over 10 years. He's also the co-owner of Elite Fitness Systems and has consulted thousands of athletes throughout the world. When an athlete wants to get stronger and gain an edge in the world of elite, world class competition, the name Dave Tate is often on the short list of strength coaches who can get the job done. As you'll see, Dave "walks the walk" as well as "talks the talk" when it comes to getting bigger and stronger. We're proud to welcome him as a Testosterone contributor.

    I spend most of my weekends in transit these days. In fact, I'm writing this article on a plane headed to yet another seminar I'm conducting. This travel time gives me the chance to think, relax, and reflect on many issues detling with training and life. I also use the time to prepare for my upcoming seminar or consulting session. I normally sit here going over what topics I'll be presenting and how I can better relate them to my audience. But today there's a problem. No there's not a creature on the wing throwing monkey wrenches into the plane's engines, but it's almost that bad. The problem is all I can think about is my bench press!

    You see, I train at Westside Barbell, which is renowned for producing world-caliber strength athletes. I've been a part of this group since 1990. Before that, I had spent five years stuck at a 1955 pound total in powerlifting. Then I tore my right pectoralis major tendon while trying to bench 500 at a bench press competition. I figured that was the end of competition days and thought about retiring from the sport. Then I thought to myself, retire from what? I haven't done anything yet!

    I knew I had two options: I could keep training the way I always had and totally fall apart, or I could move to Columbus to train under the watchful eye of Louie Simmons. It wasn't that difficult of a decision. After the surgery I packed the car and moved to Columbus. That was over 10 years ago. Since then, my lifts have increased to a 935-pound squat, 585-pound bench and a 740-pound deadlift. This was after my surgeon told me I'd never bench over 400 again!

    Although my bench press has increased 85 pounds, it's still a far cry from where it should be. At Westside we have 34 guys benching over 500 pounds and eight benching over 600. (In fact, six of those eight guys press over 650!) My bench pretty much sucks when compared to the others in the gym. When people ask me for bench advice, I cringe because I'm still chasing 600. I've missed that mark five times in competition atthe time of this writing.

    I kept telling myself that once I push up 600 pounds I'd write a
    definitive article on benching. Well, I haven't hit that mark yet, but I
    do have the biggest bench out of everyone on my flight, so I'm feeling
    like an authority on benching at the moment. Who knows, maybe writing
    this article I'll teach myself something, or remember something I've
    forgotten? I also feel the need to write this because of the vast amount
    of misinformation out there on this subject. I feel there're 12
    components to a great bench press. If we apply these 12 steps, then
    perhaps you and I both will reach our bench press goals.

    12 Steps to a Bigger Bench

    1 - Train the Triceps

    Years ago, if you had asked Larry Pacifico how to get a big bench, he'd
    have told you to train the triceps. This same advice applies today. This
    doesn't mean doing set after set of pushdowns, kickbacks, and other
    so-called "shaping" exercises. Training your triceps for a big bench has
    to involve heavy extensions and close-grip pressing movements such as
    close-grip flat and incline bench presses, close-grip board presses, and
    JM presses.

    Various barbell and dumbbell extensions should also be staples of your
    training program. Don't let anyone try to tell you the bench press is
    about pec strength. These people don't know the correct way to bench and
    are setting you up for a short pressing career with sub-par weights. I
    just read an article in one of the major muscle magazines by one of
    these authors on how to increase your bench press. The advice given was
    to train your pecs with crossovers and flies and your bench will go up!
    This, along with many other points, made me wonder how this article ever
    got published or better yet, how much the author himself could bench.

    I believe articles should go under a peer review board before they get
    printed. I'd like many of my peers to review these authors in the gym or
    better yet on the bench to see how much they really know. Bottom line:
    Train the triceps!

    2 - Keep your shoulder blades pulled together and tight.

    This is a very important and often overlooked aspect of great bench
    pressing. While pressing you have to create the most stable environment
    possible. This can't be done if most of your shoulder blades are off the
    bench. The bench is only so wide and we can't change this, but we can
    change how we position ourselves on the bench.

    When you pull your shoulder blades together you're creating a tighter,
    more stable surface from which to press. This is because more of your
    body is in contact with the bench. The tightness of your upper back also
    contributes. These techniques also change the distance the bar will have
    to travel. The key to pressing big weight is to press the shortest
    distance possible.

    3 - Keep the pressure on your upper back and traps.

    This is another misunderstood aspect of pressing. You want the pressure
    around the supporting muscles. This is accomplished by driving your feet
    into the floor, thereby driving your body into the bench. Try this: Lie
    on the bench and line up so your eyes are four inches in front of the
    bar (toward your feet). Now using your legs, drive yourself into the
    bench to put pressure on the upper back and traps. Your eyes should now
    be even with the bar. This is the same pressure that needs to be applied
    while pushing the barbell.

    4 - Push the bar in a straight line.

    Try to push the bar toward your feet. The shortest distance between two
    points is a straight line, right? Then why in the world would some
    coaches advocate pressing in a "J" line toward the rack? If I were to
    bench the way most trainers are advocating (with my elbows out, bringing
    the bar down to the chest and pressing toward the rack) my barbell
    travel distance would be 16 inches. Now, if I pull my shoulder blades
    together, tuck my chin and elbows, and bring the bar to my upper
    abdominals or lower chest, then my pressing distance is only 6.5 inches.
    Now which would you prefer? If you want to push up a bar-bending load of
    plates, you'd choose the shorter distance.

    Here's another important aspect of pressing in this style. By keeping
    your shoulder blades together and your chin and elbows tucked, you'll
    have less shoulder rotation when compared to the J-line method of
    pressing. This is easy to see by watching how low the elbows drop in the
    bottom part of the press when the barbell is on the chest. With the
    elbows out, most everyone's elbows are far lower than the bench. This
    creates a tremendous amount of shoulder rotation and strain.

    Now try the same thing with the elbows tucked and shoulder blades
    together while bringing the barbell to your upper abdominals. For most
    people, the elbows are usually no lower than the bench. Less shoulder
    rotation equals less strain on the shoulder joint. This means pressing
    bigger weights for many more years. I've always been amazed at trainers
    that suggest only doing the top half of the bench press, i.e. stopping
    when the upper arms are parallel to the floor. This is done to avoid the
    excess shoulder rotation. All they have to do is teach their clients the
    proper way to bench in the first place!

    5 - Keep the elbows tucked and the bar directly over the wrists and

    This is probably the most important aspect of great pressing technique.
    The elbows must remain tucked to keep the bar in a straight line as
    explained above. Keeping the elbows tucked will also allow lifters to
    use their lats to drive the bar off the chest. Football players are
    taught to drive their opponents with their elbows tucked, then explode
    through. This is the same for bench pressing. Bench pressing is all
    about generating force. You can generate far more force with your elbows
    in a tucked position compared to an "elbows out" position.

    The most important aspect of this is to keep the barbell in a direct
    line with the elbow. If the barbell is behind the elbow toward the head,
    then the arm position becomes similar to an extension, not a press.

    6 - Bring the bar low on your chest or upper abdominals.

    This is the only way you can maintain the "barbell to elbow" position as
    described above. You may have heard the advice, "Bring it low" at almost
    every powerlifting competition. This is the reason why. Once again, the
    barbell must travel in a straight line.

    7 - Fill your belly with air and hold it.

    For maximum attempts and sets under three reps, you must try to hold
    your air. Everyone must learn to breathe from their bellies and not
    their chests. If you stand in front of the mirror and take a deep
    breath, your shoulders shouldn't rise. If they do you're breathing the
    air into your chest, not your belly. Greater stability can be achieved
    in all the lifts when you learn how to pull air into the belly. Try to
    expand and fill the belly with as much air as possible and hold it. If
    you breathe out during a maximum attempt, the body structure will change
    slightly, thus changing the groove in which the barbell is traveling.

    8 - Train with compensatory acceleration.

    Push the bar with maximal force. Whatever weight you're trying to push,
    be it 40% or 100% of your max, you must learn to apply 100% of the force
    to the barbell. If you can bench 500 pounds and are training with 300
    pounds, you must then apply 500 pounds of force to the 300-pound
    barbell. This is known as compensatory acceleration and it can help you
    break through sticking points.

    These sticking points are known as your "mini maxes," or the points at
    which you miss the lift or the barbell begins to slip out of the groove.
    Many times I'm asked what to do if the barbell gets stuck four to five
    inches off the chest. Everybody wants to know what exercise will help
    them strengthen this area or what body part is holding them back. Many
    times it isn't what you do to strengthen the area where it sticks, but
    what you can do to build more acceleration in the area before the mini
    max. If you can get the bar moving with more force then there won't be a
    sticking point. Instead, you'll blast right through it. Compensatory
    acceleration will help you do this.

    9 - Squeeze the barbell and try to pull the bar apart!

    Regardless of the lift, you have to keep your body as tight as Monica
    Brant's behind. You'll never lift big weights if you're in a relaxed
    physical state while under the barbell. The best way to get the body
    tight is by squeezing the bar. We've also found that if you try to pull
    the bar apart or "break the bar," the triceps seem to become more

    10 - Devote one day per week to dynamic-effort training.

    According to Vladimir Zatsiorsinsky in his text Science and Practice of
    Strength Training, there are three ways to increase muscle tension.
    These three methods include the dynamic-effort method, the
    maximal-effort method, and the repetition method. Most training programs
    being practiced in the US today only utilize one or two of these
    methods. It's important, however, to use all three.

    The bench press should be trained using the dynamic-effort method. This
    method is best defined as training with sub-maximal weights (45 to 60%)
    at maximal velocities. The key to this method is bar speed. Percentage
    training can be very deceiving. The reason for this is because lifters
    at higher levels have better motor control and recruit more muscle than
    a less experienced lifter.

    For example, the maximal amount of muscle you could possibility recruit
    is 100%. Now, the advanced lifter _ after years of teaching his nervous
    system to be efficient _ may be able to recruit 70 to 80% of muscle
    fibers, while the intermediate might be able to recruit only 50%. Thus,
    the advanced lifter would need less percent weight than the
    intermediate. This is one of the reasons why an advanced lifter
    squatting 80% of his max for 10 reps would kill himself while a beginner
    could do it all day long.

    If you base the training on bar speed, then the percentages are no
    longer an issue, only a guideline. So how do you know where to start? If
    you're an intermediate lifter, I suggest you start at 50% of maximal and
    see how fast you can make it move for three reps. If you can move 20
    more pounds with the same speed then use the heavier weight.

    Based on years of experience and Primlin's charts for optimal percent
    training, we've found the best range to be eight sets of three reps.
    Based on Primlin's research, the optimal range for 70% and less is 12 to
    24 repetitions.

    We've also found it very beneficial to train the bench using three
    different grips, all of which are performed within the rings. This may
    break down into two sets with the pinky fingers on the rings, three sets
    with three fingers from the smooth area of the bar and three sets with
    one finger from the smooth area.

    11 - Devote one day per week to maximal-effort training.

    For the second bench day of the week (72 hours after the dynamic day)
    you should concentrate on the maximal-effort method. This is best
    defined as lifting maximal weights (90% to 100%) for one to three reps.
    This is one of the best methods to develop maximal strength. The key
    here is to strain. The downfall is you can't train above 90% for longer
    than three weeks without having adverse effects.

    Try performing a max bench press every week for four or five weeks.
    You'll see you may progress for the first two, maybe three weeks, then
    your progress will halt and begin to work its way backward. We've
    combated this by switching up the maximal-effort exercises. We rotate
    maximal-effort movements such as the close-grip incline press, board
    press, floor press, and close-grip flat press. These exercises are all
    specific to bench pressing and all have a very high carryover value.

    12 - Train the lats on the same plane as the bench.

    I'm talking about the horizontal plane here. In other words, you must
    perform rows, rows, and more rows. "If you want to bench big then you
    need to train the lats." I've heard both George Hilbert and Kenny
    Patterson say this for years when asked about increasing the bench
    press. When you bench you're on a horizontal plane. So would it make
    sense from a balance perspective to train the lats with pulldowns, which
    are on a vertical plane? Nope. Stick to the barbell row if you want a
    big bench.

    Now that my trip is over and I'm back in Columbus, I no longer feel like
    an authority on bench pressing. My 585 pound bench press is considered
    sort of "puny" by Westside standards, after all. By writing this
    article, however, I've realized a few things I need to change about my
    bench pressing. I bet you have too. Hopefully, I've helped you correct a
    few problems that might've been keeping you from breaking your own
    personal record. Remember, the smallest things often bring the biggest

  4. #4
    Blown_SC is offline Retired Vet
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    The Top 10 Deadlifting Mistakes and How to Fix Them
    by Dave Tate

    Whenever I go on the road for a seminar, I have to find a place to train. Most of the time this isn't a problem because I have to secure a gym to run the second half of my seminar anyhow, and usually they have the basic training needs. I always try to fly out on a Friday afternoon, after my dynamic-squat workout, and then get back home Sunday night so I can get to the gym Monday morning for my max-effort squat and deadlift training session. This way, all I have to do while on the road is catch a dynamic-bench workout.

    This session doesn't require very much so I usually don't have any problems.

    But, there was one time I had to fly into a location on a Wednesday afternoon. This meant I'd have to find a place to squat on Friday morning. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, to me it would present a major change. When I got to my hotel I pulled out the yellow pages and turned to the health-club section.

    I was looking for something like "Iron Pit" or some other hardcore name. It didn't take long to see I wasn't going to find such a place in the phonebook, so it was on to my second choice. I started looking for a Power House, World Gym or Gold's. I found one about ten minutes away and thought I was set.

    During breakfast on Friday morning I was going over my workout in my head. I was planning on using 405 with the strong bands on the box squat. Then I'd move on to speed deadlifts, lower back, and abs. I already knew I was going to have to find some way to rig up the bands and probably find something to sit on instead of the box. After I finished my breakfast I gathered my bag and headed to the gym.

    When I pulled into the parking lot I began to feel this was going to be a long day. From the outside the place looked too nice. Those of you who train in a hardcore gym know exactly what I mean. I entered the club (after being blinded by the neon) and spoke with the front desk girl. I signed my wavier, paid my dues, and headed for the one and only power rack.

    This is when I saw something I couldn't believe. The bar was loaded with a dime on each end and some guy was doing barbell curls in the **** power rack! Not to be a dick, I waited until he finished what seemed to be ten sets and then made my way over to the rack.

    I started by setting up a few dumbbells on each side of the rack to attach my bands to and then picked out the best bar I could find. They actually had an Okie Squat Bar. This made my day because it's very difficult for a big man to use a standard Olympic bar for the squat. I found a set of aerobic steps to use as a box and started my warm-ups.

    The warm-ups felt pretty good, considering the environment I had to train in, but I did notice about a thousand eyes on me trying to figure out what the hell I was doing. A few people even came over to ask. As I began to explain, I realized they were cutting into my timed rest intervals so I pulled out the back-up plan. I put on my headphones, cranked the DMX and got to work. The squat session went very well. The speed was good, my form stayed in check, and all and all it was a good session. So I stripped the bar, took off the headphones and began to set up for my second movement.

    I'd planned on speed-deadlifting 405 for five or six singles. This is mainly to work on deadlift technique, so I really didn't need any type of psyche-up. I just had to pull fast with good form. I learned from Louie a long time ago that to get a good deadlift you don't need to train the deadlift heavy all the time. At first I thought he was full of ****, but in time I put 40 pounds on my deadlift and became a believer. Now that Westside has a ton of lifters pulling in the 700s and six lifters in the 800s, I have very little doubt it works.

    John Stafford deadlifting 800 pounds.

    My first set felt like crap. The bar was too far in front of me and I didn't keep my shoulders behind the bar. This was no problem as I'd adjust on my next set. The second set felt great. I hit the groove and the bar felt about a hundred pounds lighter. I try to keep the rest periods on these sets to 45 seconds at the most and was about to pull my third set when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and saw some 20-something kid who was wearing a polo shirt and looked to be about 165 pounds dripping wet. I motioned him off like a annoying mosquito and pulled my fourth set.

    After my set I asked the kid if I could help him. He asked a question I'll never forget. "What are you doing?" he said. I thought to myself, "What the hell does it look like I'm doing?!" Out loud, I replied very kindly that I was doing deadlifts. He then informed me that they didn't allow deadlifts in this gym. Now I was getting a little pissed. He told me that the weights hitting the floor are too loud and it bothers the other members. So I told him the sound of the treadmills and Stairmaster motors are too loud and that bothers me. Why doesn't he go over and tell the other patrons to get off the machines?

    At this point I must've pissed him off because he said under his breath that I wasn't even doing the deadlifts right. I asked him what he saw wrong in my technique. (You never know, he could've seen something I was missing.) He told me that I needed to sit lower to the ground and pick the weight up with good form and not use my back. He also told me my shins had to stay close to the bar and I should be using a wider stance.

    While not being a dick, I asked him where he'd learned this information. Then I saw it. I couldn't believe I'd missed it the first time, but there it was right in my face: a gold name badge with his name and "head trainer" right underneath it. At this point I asked him if I could finish my last set at which point I'd love to sit down and discuss his training concepts with him. He was cool with that so I pulled my last and by far best set. Maybe it was the added geek aggression that made the difference.

    As I tore the bar down I started up a friendly dialog with Mr. Head Trainer. I let him know I was in town to work with a few ball players on their strength-training programs. He told me he'd been in the personal training field for three years, has been to several conferences, had done a few internships, and this was where he learned how to lift. Out of curiosity I asked him how much he could deadlift. He told me he could pull 315 for five reps. I spent the next hour going over with him what I felt were the ten biggest mistakes in the deadlift.

    The first thing I told him was the old deadlift motto: The meet doesn't end until the bar hits the floor. To a powerlifter, the deadlift can be the end-all or the end-of-it-all when it comes to closing out a total or placing in the competition. In short, we have to know how to deadlift the most weight in the safest manner or we'll have a very short career.

    I also told him that most people never read a whole lot about the deadlift because of one reason: it's very hard and demanding to train and perform the deadlift. To be frank, most in the strength training/fitness training/bodybuilding field would rather come in the gym and train their back with various pulley machines, talk to the girls, and go home with their carb drink in hand. They like to live on the light, easy side of the game while avoiding the dark side.

    Well, get ready to enter the dark side as I share with you what I told my new personal-trainer buddy.

    The Top 10 Deadlift Mistakes

    Mistake #1: Training the deadlift heavy all the time

    Very few people can train the deadlift week after week and still make progress. I feel the only ones who can get away with this are the ones who're built to deadlift. If you're built to pull, then the stress on your system is going to be less than those who aren't built to deadlift.

    The deadlift is a very demanding movement and it takes a lot to recover from. This is compounded if you're also squatting every week. The squat and deadlift train many of the same muscles and this is another reason why you don't need to train the deadlift heavy all the time. Years ago the only deadlifts I did off the floor were in meets. The rest of the time was spent training the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. While my deadlift increased 40 pounds over the first few years, I did run into some problems with this approach.

    The major problem I had was when I'd go to a meet I didn't know where to place my feet and if I got stuck I didn't know how to adjust. Since I'm not built to deadlift, these things aren't natural to me. I had to find a way to put some pulling back in the program without taxing the system. What we came up with was a session of speed deadlifts with a moderate weight pulled for five or six singles. This way the weight was heavy enough to teach good form and not too heavy to tax the system. This worked out to 45 to 50% of max to be trained after the dynamic or speed squat workout. These don't need to be done every week but should be used as the meet or test day get closer.

    I still suggest letting the box squat train the deadlift muscles with dynamic squat training of eight sets of two reps in a wave-like sequence. (For squat training details, see the following articles: Periodization Bible Part II, Squatting from Head to Toe, and TNT Part II for cycles and percentages.)

    Let the max-effort day be for training the heavy deadlift. Try to pull off pins, off mats, or with bands one out of every four to six max effort days. Let the other day be some type of medium or close-stance good morning or low-box squat.

    Mistake #2: Pulling the shoulder blades together

    This is a mistake I made for years. Stand in a deadlift stance and pull your shoulder blades together. Take a look at where your fingertips are. Now if you let your shoulders relax and even round forward a little you'll see your fingertips are much lower. This is why we teach a rounding of the upper back. First, the bar has to travel a shorter distance. Second, there's less stress on the shoulder region. It'll also help to keep your shoulder blades behind the bar. You'll read more on this later.

    Mistake #3: Rounding the lower back

    This is another mistake I see all the time and most lifters know better. It happens most of the time because of a weak lower back or a bad start position. While keeping your shoulders rounded you must keep your lower back arched. This will keep the shin straight and the shoulders behind the bar and keep your body in the proper position to pull big while keeping the back under minimal stress.

    If you pull with a rounded back, the bar is going to drift forward away from the legs, thus putting you back into a very difficult position from which to recover. When the bar drifts forward, the weight of it will begin to work against your leverages and cause you to have a sticking point just below the knees or mid-shin level. When you pull you can either arch your back in the beginning standing position before you crouch down to pull or once you grab the bar. Either way it's important to keep the lower back arched and tight.

    There are many ways to strengthen the lower back for this. Good mornings, reverse hypers, and arched back good mornings are a few. You can also use a band around your traps and feet for simulated good mornings. With this technique you only use the bands and train for higher reps (in the 20 to 30 rep range) for local muscular endurance.

    Mistake #4: Not having enough air in your belly

    As with most exercise you must learn how to breathe. Stand in front of a mirror and take a deep breath. Do your shoulders rise? If so, then you need to learn how to breathe. Learn to pull your air into your diaphragm. In other words, use your belly! Pull as much air into your belly as possible, then when you think you have all you can get, pull more. The deadlift isn't started by driving your feet into the floor; it's started by driving your belly into your belt and hips flexors.

    One note on holding air while you pull. You do need to try and hold your air as long as possible, but this can only last for a few seconds while under strain because you'll pass out. So for a long pull, you're going to have to breathe or you'll hit the floor and people will stare. While there are several people out there who may think this is a cool thing, I disagree. It's much cooler to make the lift!

    So when you reach the point where you begin to really have to fight with the weight, let out small bursts of air. Don't let it all out at one time or you'll lose torso tightness and cause the bar to drop down. By letting out small bursts you can keep your tightness, continue to pull, and lock out the weight.

    Mistake #5: Not pulling the bar back

    The deadlift is all about leverage and positioning. Visualize a teeter totter. What happens when the weight on one end is coming down? The other end goes up. So if your body is falling backward, what happens to the bar? It goes up! If your weight is falling forward the bar will want to stay down. So if you weigh 250 pounds and you can get your bodyweight to work for you, it would be much like taking 250 pounds off the bar. For many natural deadlifters this is a very instinctive action. For others it has to be trained.

    Proper positioning is important here. If you're standing too close to the bar it'll have to come over the knee before you can pull back, thus going forward before it goes backward. If your shoulders are in front of the bar at the start of the pull, then the bar will want to go forward, not backward. If your back isn't arched the bar will also want to drift forward.

    For some lifters, not being able to pull back can be a muscular thing. If you're like myself, I tend to end up with the weight on the front of my feet instead of my heels. This is a function of my quads trying to overpower the glutes and hamstrings, or the glutes and hamstrings not being able to finish the weight and shifting to the quads to complete the lift. What will happen many times is you'll begin shaking or miss the weight. To fix this problem you need to add in more glute ham raises, pull-throughs and reverse hypers.

    Mistake #6: Keeping the shins too close to the bar

    I'm not too sure where this started but I have a pretty good idea. Many times the taller, thinner lifters are the best pullers and they do start with the bar very close to their shins. But if you look at them from the sides they still have their shoulders behind the bar when they pull. This is just not possible to achieve with a thicker lifter.

    If a thicker lifter with a large amount of body mass — be it muscle or fat — were to line the bar up with his shins, you'd see he would have an impossible time getting the shoulders behind the bar. Remember you need to pull the bar back toward you, not out and away from you. So what I believe happens is many lifters look to those who have great deadlifts to see how they pull, then try to do the same themselves. What they need to do is look to those who are built the same way they are and have great deadlifts and follow their lead.

    Mistake #7: Training with multiple reps

    Next time you see someone doing multiple reps on the deadlift, take note of the form of each rep. You'll see the later reps look nothing like the first. In competition you only have to pull once, so you need to learn how to develop what's known as starting strength for the deadlift. This is the strength needed to get the bar off the floor without an eccentric (negative) action before the start.

    In other words, you don't lower the bar first and then lift the weight as you do with the squat and bench press. When you train with multiple reps you're beginning to develop reversal strength, which isn't needed with the deadlift.

    These two reasons are enough to keep the deadlift training to singles. If you're using multiple reps with the deadlift, then stand up in between each rep and restart the lift. This way you'll be teaching the proper form and be developing the right kind of strength.

    Mistake #8: Not keeping your shoulders behind the bar

    You've already read this a few times in this article and it's perhaps the most important thing next to hip position in the execution of the deadlift. Your shoulders must start and stay behind the barbell when you pull deadlifts! This will keep the barbell traveling in the right direction and keep your weight going backward. The deadlift isn't an Olympic lift and shouldn't be started like one.

    I did a seminar with Dr. Mel Siff at one of his Supertraining camps (one of the best investments you can ever make!) and we showed the difference between the two positions. For the Olympic lifts you want the shoulders in front of the bar; for the deadlift you want them behind the bar. Period. The amount of misinformation out there about this is incredible.

    Mistake #9: Looking down

    Your body will always follow your head. If you're looking down then the bar is going to want to travel forward. At the same time you don't want to look at the ceiling. Focus on an area that keeps your head in a straight up and back position with the eyes focusing on an upper area of the wall.

    Mistake #10: Starting with the hips too low

    This is the king of all mistakes I see. Too many times lifters try to squat the weight up rather than pull the weight. Think back to the number of times you've seen a big deadlift and thought to yourself how much more the lifter could've pulled if he didn't **** near stiff-leg it. I see it all the time. Someone will say, "Did you see his deadlift?" Then the other guy will comment, "Yeah, and he stiff-legged the thing." Am I telling you to stiff leg all your deadlifts? No, not at all.

    All I want you to do is look at your hip position at the start of the lift when you pull and watch how much your hips move up before the weight begins to break the floor. This is wasted movement and does nothing except wear you out before the pull. The closer you can keep your hips to the bar when you pull, the better the leverages are going to be.

    Once again, next time you see a great deadlifter, stand off to the side and watch how close his or her hips stay to the bar throughout the pull. If you're putting your ass to the floor before you pull, your hips are about a mile from the bar. You're setting yourself up for disaster when the lever arm is this long. This is also the second reason why lifters can't get the bar off the floor. (The first reason is very simple: The bar is too heavy!)

    You need to find the perfect spot where your hips are close to the bar, your shoulders are behind the bar, your lower back is arched, your upper back rounded, your belly full of air, and you can pull toward your body. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy, but then again, what is? (Definitely not training in a commercial health club….)


    After I'd discussed my pulling concepts with my new trainer friend, he was a little set back. He'd never heard these things before and didn't really know what to believe. After this I took him back out on the gym floor and started guiding him through a few deadlifts. A few corrections here and there and in no time at all he pulled 405. This wasn't an easy lift for him but he made it and with that his confidence grew.

    Next, I let him in on the best training advice he'd ever hear. I told him the first thing he needed to do was spend more time under the bar and suggested he find a real gym and start training with those who were much stronger than him. The best training secrets come from the small garage gyms with very strong lifters, not the spandex driven, neon-machine warehouses. This, I told my friend, would be his introduction to the dark side, and with hard work and proper training, he may one day even enter the Dead Zone!

  5. #5
    Blown_SC is offline Retired Vet
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Squatting from Head to Toe
    Introducing the Box Squat
    by Dave Tate

    Dave Tate knows strength. Dave's been assisting and training under Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell fame for over 10 years and has consulted thousands of athletes throughout the world. Dave is quick to point out that he's not a bodybuilder and therefore doesn't train bodybuilders. He's a powerlifter and a specialist in developing maximal strength. (Despite this powerlifting emphasis, the average guy under his tutelage puts on 30 to 40 pounds a year.)

    In Dave's last article he taught us the secrets of a big bench. This time, Dave has written the definitive article on the infamous Westside box squat. Does he know what he's talking about? He squats 935 pounds himself, what do you think?

    The Box Squat

    Technique is the most important factor in squatting big weights. If you're training with bad technique then it doesn't matter what supplemental exercises you use or how many sets or reps you perform. Your squat will only go so far and then get stuck. This article will describe the correct technique for performing the box squat. I feel the box squat is the best way to train the squat, period. The form is the same as the regular squat but with the added bonus of being able to develop explosive strength. The box squat also places all the stress directly on all the squatting muscles.

    Every member of Westside Barbell performs box squats year around with the only regular "free squat" being done in competition. The technique I'll describe has taken my squat from 760 to 935 over the past five years, but I wasn't always a big fan of the box squat. When I squatted 760, I didn't believe in box squatting and trained all my squats the same way many of you are doing now. I used a progressive overload method using the Western method of periodization. The result of all my hard work? My squat stayed at the 730 to 760 range for five years without any progress! I had to change. Part of this change included box squatting.

    The use of the box squat made a tremendous difference in my progress and the progress of my training partners. Every one of us added 100 to 200 pounds to our max efforts after adopting the box squat. We also understood the importance of perfecting the box squat to get a big carryover in competition. We check each other's form on a constant basis and the things we look for will be detailed in this article.

    Now, you may have heard from some sissy wearing spandex that the box squat is dangerous. When someone talks about the dangers of box squatting, it's apparent they simply don't know how to perform the lift correctly. Sure, if you're trying to bounce off the box or you're using more weight than you can handle, then there are definitely dangers to the spine. When performed correctly, however, box squats are safe. And, I believe box squats are so effective that you don't need to perform regular squats in your training at all!

    Advantages of Box Squatting

    There are many advantages to box squatting:

    1) Training on a box will allow you to sit back onto the box to a point where your shins are past perpendicular to the floor. This places all the stress on the squatting muscles (hips, glutes, lower back and hamstrings.) When you can increase the stress on these muscles and lower the stress on the quads, then you'll be ready to see your squat poundages start moving.

    2) Restoration is another major advantage of box squatting. You can train more often on a box when compared to free squatting. According to Louie Simmons, the original members of Westside Barbell in Culver City, California, used to perform box squats three times a week. Currently at Westside we train the box squat every Friday for our dynamic workout and occasionally on Monday's maximal effort workouts. If you're new to box squats, I suggest you do them once per week.

    Louie Simmons, doing what he does best.

    3) When performing box squats you never have to guess how low you're squatting. It'll always be the same. Think about it: when most people start adding weight to the bar, their squats get higher and higher. You see this all the time in any gym you go to. They look good with the light weights, then begin doing quarter squats when the weight gets heavy. With box squats, you'll always go low enough.

    4) The last reason to box squat is to reinforce good squat technique. Many times for the intermediate or beginning squatter, the hamstrings aren't yet developed and "sitting back" into a squat is impossible without falling over backward. To teach these athletes how to free squat properly would take months. The squat wouldn't look right until the hamstrings and glute strength increases. Why wait two or three months? Put them on the box and you'll have them squatting properly within five minutes. Within one month the hamstrings will begin to kick in because of the added stress of sitting back on the box.

    The Details

    Now, are you ready to box squat? Good.

    Phase I: The first thing to check for is proper body position at the beginning of the lift. Keep in mind you'll have to keep the entire body tight. If any body part is held loose it will become your weak link and you'll break down.

    Before setting up under the bar you'll need to grasp the barbell and duck under it with your feet about shoulder width apart or slightly wider. While under the bar you'll have to start to really tighten up. Grasp the bar with your hands and start to squeeze it as if you were trying to bend the bar across your back. Next, pull your shoulder blades together as tight as possible while pulling your elbows forward. This is to keep the upper back locked in this position during the lift. If your elbows are flaring out, it'll cause the barbell to travel forward at some point during the lift. The key to squatting big weights is to keep the barbell path traveling in the shortest line as possible. Any deviation from this line will cause a missed lift.

    Now that your upper back is tight you'll need to tighten your midsection. First, expand your abdomen as much as possible. When you pull air into your body it should be into the diaphragm, not the chest. Expand you belly and push it out against your belt. This will stabilize and support the lower back and not elongate the spine. If you're having a hard time trying to figure this out, then wear your weight belt one notch loose and push into it with your belly so it becomes tight.

    Pushing your belly out goes against what many believe because they feel training this way will cause injuries to the lower back. After 30 years of box squatting Westside has had 23 lifters squat over 800 pounds, six over 900 pounds and one over a grand. Not one of these lifters or any of the others has had lower back problems.

    Another aspect of this to keep in mind is the circumference of the waist line. If I suck my belly in my waist line measures 42 inches. If I pull air into my belly and push it out it measures 48 inches. The wider base the stronger the lifter. This is why lifters with a bigger waist squat more. The pyramids in Egypt are also built with a wide base and they have been standing for centuries. As the car commercials used to say, wider is better.

    I learned this lesson firsthand at the 1990 Toledo Hall of Fame powerlifting competition. I'd just tried a 760 squat and got smashed with it. This was my second attempt of the day and I decided to give it another try on the third. I had some doubts because the second attempt wasn't even close. Saying I got smashed is an understatement. The weight stapled me to the floor! I didn't even get out of the bottom of the lift. This weight was a 20 pound personal record for which I had spent the last four months training.

    I didn't understand what the problem was or how to fix it. On the third attempt, while I was getting wrapped, Louie Simmons walked up to me and told me to get my abdominals tight. I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, but would within the next few minutes. As I got under the weight I realized Louie was the spotter behind me. (No pressure there, huh?) As I got set under the bar he told me to expand and push my belly into the belt. Now I understood what he was talking about. I was always told to flex my abs, but never to expand and push out.

    As I set the bar up, I noticed that I had never felt so tight and stable. Once set, I locked in my back and began the squat. I kept my belly pushed into the belt and blasted the weight up! I had just smoked a weight that stapled me to the floor moments earlier all because I learned how to use my abdominals! In my opinion, this concept is one of the most misunderstood in the sport of powerlifting today. Many lifters don't know how to use their core to set up a squat. Some do nothing at all while others are trying to suck their stomachs in. This is probably fine for those who strive to squat 400 pounds, but if you're looking to squat maximal weights in the 700 to 900 range, you'd better learn how to use your core.

    All the power of the lower body is transferred through your core to the barbell. If this core isn't tight the power will "get lost" so to speak and never travel to the bar. While I don't agree with the use of a belt for the majority of training, I do believe in the use of belts to teach a person how to use the abdominals while squatting. The belt is a training aid in competition, so you must learn how to use it to its fullest advantage.

    Phase II: Now that you have your upper back and belly tight, you need to arch the bar out of the rack. When you take a barbell out of the rack, it should never hit the front supports. This shifts the weight to the toes and will cause you to lose your tightness (as well as set the bar in a position to use your quads instead of your hips and hamstrings.)

    Arch the bar out, then push with your legs to get the bar off the racks. Keep the arch. Step back with one leg, then the other. You want to maintain your tightness and set your stance as wide as possible. I believe in using a wide stance when squatting because it'll shorten the distance the bar will have to travel and will place the stress more on the glutes, hips, hamstrings and back. I've figured out over time that the quads aren't that important for squatting maximal weights. Instead, it's the hips, back and hamstrings. If your quads were really doing all the work, then why wouldn't you be able to squat as much as you could leg press? So, set up in a wide stance.

    From this position, pull all the air back into your belly and try to make your back and abs tighter than before. You should also be forcing your knees out to the sides. You'll know you're doing this right if your hips feel tight. This will place the stress on the hips as well as increase the leverage in the bottom of the squat. The closer you can keep your knee, ankle, shoulder and hip joints in a straight line, the greater the mechanical advantage. This is why you can quarter squat much more than you can full squat.

    You also want to be pushing out on the sides of your shoes. Never push downward. Act as if you're tying to spread the floor apart. This is to further activate the hips. By the way, the best shoes to wear while squatting are the old school Converse Chuck Taylors. They're built with a flat bottom and strong canvas sides. Most other tennis shoes will cause your foot to move around too much or you'll push out over the side of the shoes.

    Your butt should also be sticking out with your back arched as hard as possible. Head position is vital to keeping the barbell in the proper path for squatting. You must drive your head into the bar. This doesn't mean look up; you should actually be looking forward. You want to be looking forward for a couple of reasons. First, if you're in a competition, you'll need to see the head judge give you the squat signal. Second, you'll want to see everyone's reaction after you smoke your lift! I don't know about you, but I want to see the look of awe in their eyes after I get the lift.

    Besides, if you're looking down you'll more than likely start to fall forward about half way up and miss the lift. The act of pushing your head back into the neck should be the same action as if you were to lay on the floor and push your head against the ground. As for toe position, lighter guys should usually point their toes straight ahead. Heavier guys, often because of a lack of flexibility, may want to point their toes out slightly. Now you're ready to begin the squat.

    Phase III: To start the squat, I want your hips to begin the motion, not the knees. When your knees bend first, the load is shifted downward; you need the load going backward. Remember, you want the bar to travel in a straight line. Keep pushing the hips back as you squat down. The key is to "sit back." Most people sit down on a toilet with better form than they squat because they have to sit back. As you sit back you want to feel tension in the hamstrings. Act like they're springs you're trying to compact before they rebound back. This will cause a great stretch reflex out of the bottom of the squat. An explosive start is another key to squatting maximal weights.

    Keep sitting back until you sit on the box. The box should be one inch lower than parallel for most people, although I sometimes recommend that less experienced lifters find a box that puts them at one inch above parallel. (Note: I can't recommend a pre-manufactured box at this time because I simply haven't found any good ones. All of our boxes at Westside are homemade. When selecting a box, most people need one between 12 and 14 inches high. Also, pick one that's big enough to fit your butt. Note that some people use a flat bench for box squats. I've found that these are seldom set at the proper height, however, and may be too narrow for some.)

    As far as the definition of "parallel," it's defined as when the crease of the hip is in line with the top of the knee. Remember, most people have very poor hamstring and hip strength to squat properly in the first place. If they tried to squat without the box they'd fall over backward. The box is the best way to teach proper squat form while bringing up their weak points. The box squat also breaks the eccentric/concentric chain. This is one of the best ways to build explosive strength. The box squat also causes you to squat from a static contraction to a dynamic concentric contraction, another very effective way to build explosive strength.

    When you reach the box you want to sit down and relax the hips flexors while keeping every muscle other muscle tight. You also don't want to fall down on the box and try to bounce off of it. You sit back with the same speed you squat. Pause on the box for a split second and explode off of it. No bouncing! Your knees must still be pushed out and your abs, upper back and arms should remain tight while your back stays arched. When you're on the box it's important to have the shins perpendicular to the floor or better yet, past perpendicular. This places all the tension on the squatting muscles.

    Phase IV: After you pause on the box you need to explode off by first driving the head and upper back into the bar, then by driving with the hips. When you begin the squat (during the eccentric phase) the hips move first then the head. The opposite of that (the concentric phase) should involve the head moving first then the glutes. It only makes sence to try to lift the bar first. If you don't drive with the upper back first then the bar will begin to move forward. If the bar is moving forward before you drive with the hips, you'll miss the weight and fall forward.

    As you're coming up you still need to maintain all tightness by driving your back into the bar, driving you head into the bar, pushing out on your knees and feet, pulling the elbows forward, keeping the shoulder blades together, and holding your air. After that there's nothing else to do but lock out and wait for the crowd to cheer.

    That's all there is to it. And they say squatting isn't a technical lift! Now it's up to you. Do you want to be standing there watching others lift the big weights, or on the platform doing it yourself? You decide.

  6. #6
    Blown_SC is offline Retired Vet
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    As told to Powerlifting USA
    by Louie Simmons

    Many lifters train with a bad back. They often ask me what to do to decrease their chances of getting hurt while squatting or deadlifting.
    I fractured my fifth lumbar vertebra twice. In 1973, I pulled a 670 deadlift at 181. Shortly thereafter, I broke the vertebra while doing bent over good mornings. In 1983, I broke it again falling off my ice-covered porch. This time the doctor said he wanted to remove two disks, fuse my back, and take off a bone spur. I declined.

    Having successfully came back from both injuries, I have discovered many ways to work around a bad back or prevent our lifters from getting one.
    Back in 1973, my knowledge was limited. During 1974 I was on crutches on and off for 10 months. One of my most important discoveries was chi*ropractors. Because of my inactivity, my spinal alignment was terrible. I had misgivings about going to a chiropractor, but my doctor wanted me to go in for traction for a couple weeks. I hate hospitals, so finally I broke down and went to a chiroprac*tor. To my surprise, my back was much better after a few adjustments, and I was able to start training again, but my problem came back, and my back still hurt all the time. In 1975, my back was still fragile. That’s when I started doing reverse hyper-extensions.

    Through the motion of rotating the sacrum in a safe way and the blood-pumping action, my back was quickly rehabilitated to the point that I pulled 710 in 1977 at 198. We picked up a lot of exercises as the years passed, and after breaking my fifth lumbar vertebra again in 1983, my rehabilitation was much faster. This time I used acupressure and acupuncture to speed up the
    healing. I also received oxygen injections directly into the muscle, which helped greatly.

    Aside from progressive medical help, we have found an array of back and ab exercises that have all but eliminated our low back ailments.

    Good mornings done while seated on the floor are effective. Sit on the floor with an empty bar across the shoulders. Now bend forward as far as possible. Breathe normally. In other words, relax! Don’t arch the back to return to the starting position, but rather push with the heels. Your flexibility will increase rapidly. Training the deadlift in the sumo style will eliminate a great deal of back trauma. Mariah Liggett would train sumo and pull conventional at meets. She pulled 484 at 132.

    Reverse hypers are the best exercise for lower back problems I have ever seen. People with bulging or herniated disks can do them without pain. They rotate the sacrum in a very safe way with virtually no compression on the lower spine. At the same time, they build the glutes and hamstrings.
    Dragging weights has a positive effect on the lower back. One of the most effective lower back therapies is walking. It is the most natural way to rehabilitate a bad back.

    Whenever you have a tight lower back, you will also have tight hamstrings. A weak back is almost always accompanied by weak hamstrings.
    A calf/ham/glute machine will bring up your hamstrings considerably. Laura Dodd was tested at the Ohio State University Kineisiology Laboratory and was found to have a hamstring to quad ratio of 60:40 This could explain her 567 squat at 165.

    A highly advanced exercise is the glute/ham raise. While kneeling on a padded bench, with your feet hanging off the end of the bench, have a partner sit on your ankles to hold you down. Lower yourself slowly without bending at the waist until your chest touches the bench. Now leg curl yourself back up. Let me recommend two ways to work up to a full rep. The first is to lower yourself slowly and hold for 3-6 seconds at various of this move*ment. This is very taxing on the hamstrings and glutes. It builds the top and mid portion of the exercise. You can lower all the way down until your chest comes in contact with the bench, then use your hands to assist in the raise until your hamstrings and glutes can curl you up the rest of the way.

    The second method is to now lower yourself down to elastic bands located midway between the top and bottom positions. This will help reduce your be bodyweight while you are lowering yourself, and it will help spring you back up to a kneeling position. As you get stronger, use fewer or weaker bands until you can complete a rep unassisted.

    Doing the following special dead lift will build tremendous hamstrings. Use a shoulder width stance with a wider than shoulder width grip. With your back arched, push your glutes to the rear and squat down. Never bow the back. Lower the bar just below the knees and pull it up with the legs only. Do 2 sets of 20 reps 4 times a week for a couple of weeks. Use weights that are 30-40% of your max deadlift.

    A great exercise for hamstrings is the pull-through. Face away from a low-pulley machine. Grab a single handle between the legs. Walk out a few feet and squat down, letting the handle be pulled through the legs as far as possible Use the repetition method. That is, go to failure on each set 3 or 4 sets is plenty. This exercise will build the hamstrings where they tie into the glutes.

    Ab Strength is extremely important in preventing back injury. Leg raises done while hanging from a chin-up bar are effective. Raise the feet until you touch the bar you are hanging from. These are great for strength and flexibility.
    Do sit-ups while holding a ball or cushion between the thighs. This will realign the lower back. It also helps decrease the pressure on the back by increasing abdominal pressure.

    Learn to use your abs correctly while wearing a lifting belt. You must push out against the belt. It is very important to push out to the sides, or exert outwardly with the obliques. This will start the action of straightening out the legs.

    We do a great deal of ab work standing up, and why not? When you fight, wrestle, play ball. And of course lift weights, you are stand*ing up, not sitting.

    Try this standing ab exercise: Stand facing away from a lat machine. Grab a triceps rope and hold it behind your head. Hold the ends of the rope against your chest. Now bend forward until your chest is close to your abs. Use light weights for high reps or for a certain length of time. We will start our workout by doing 3-5 minutes of this exercise to warm up our abs and lower back. By adding weight, you will quickly see how weak your abs are. Just compare the weight on the machine to your bodyweight and it will open your eyes.
    Attach a strong strap from your power rack to the front of your belt and lean back until there is no slack in the strap. Now slide your feet forward until you are leaning backward. This will place your abs in a pre-stretched position. Crunch your abs while holding a medicine ball or cable device behind your head. This will work the abs very effectively. Hook the strap on the belt to do oblique work As a bonus, hook the strap to the rear of the belt, and with your body inclined forward, perform deadlifts with a barbell or dumbbells; this is great for lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.

    This is just a partial list of exercises that will help fix a bad back or, more importantly, prevent one.

    Doing special exercises like the ones listed above has kept our lifters healthy at Westside and greatly contributed to my totaling USPF Elite for a span of over 24 years even after breaking my fifth lumbar vertebra in 1973 and 1983 and suffer*ing a complete rupture of the patella tendon in 1991. Like me, there may still be hope for anyone who tries.

    Westside Barbell

  7. #7
    Blown_SC is offline Retired Vet
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Bustin' Ass 101 - Don't Think You're a Beginner? You Could Be Wrong!
    Square One
    by Dave Tate

    Being a father is one of the biggest challenges I've ever had in my life. Don’t get me wrong, this is still the best thing that's ever happened to me. It's just that there are so many things I've been trying to figure out.

    I'm trying to be the best father I can, but I'm stuck. I've tried everything and can’t seem to break through to my 16-month-old son, no matter what I do. The problem, you see, is his ability to learn. I've been trying to teach him trigonometry for the past few months and I'm getting nowhere. I've also been trying to get him to read Moby Dick, but all he does is chew the pages.

    I ask myself over and over, what could I be doing wrong here? Why do I suck so bad at being a father? Maybe fatherhood just isn't for me! Can I get a refund on this kid?

    Yep, you may be thinking, it's finally happened. All that max effort work has finally exploded something in Dave’s head. He's absolutely lost it! Why doesn't he just teach the kid his ABC’s and how to count to ten first and build from there? He can't start his son out on trig and Moby Dick!

    Well, now you know how I feel during just about every seminar we do here at Elite Fitness Systems! Here's an example. A guy at a recent seminar came up to me and said, "Dave, how do I go about cycling my squat using the circa-maximal phase with multiple bands?" Then, later, we took this guy through a squat training session. His form and strength are so bad that he'd be lucky to squat 275 on a good day. This wouldn’t be so bad if the guy didn't weigh 240!

    Then the guy has the nerve to ask, "What are my weaknesses?" Circa-maximal phases, multiple bands, and specific weakness? You have to be joking, right? While I applaud the effort to learn and think, we all should keep trying to absorb as much as we can, there's a major side effect of this: sometimes your learning can get too far ahead of your preparation! The solution: you have to get back to the ass-busting basics!

    The following list will seem very simple to most of you, but I see these same problems all the time, even with those who consider themselves "advanced." So what follows may be the best advice you'll never use! Trust me, if you think you're way beyond this basic advice, think again!

    Work on Technique!

    This is the first item on the list because it's the most important. When I speak to lifters on the phone I always ask if they're sure their technique is on. Yeah, Dave, they always say, my technique is a thing of beauty!

    Yeah, sure.

    You know what? I've seen the best squatters in the world and have yet to see great technique. There's one variable that'll always throw if off. The variable is called weight! So you have great technique with 50% of your one rep max? Okay, what happens when it's 100%?

    We should all be working on technique with every set and every rep. It can always get better and will always need reinforcement. Have you gained weight? Well, guess what? Your technique will change! Lose weight? Get stronger? Get weaker? Injured? Tired? Time of day? Day of week? There are hundreds of things that can and will affect technique!

    If you're a beginner, then this is the most important time to start working on perfecting technique. This requires concentration and focus, so get your head out of your ass when you train and start thinking about your technique. Just about every sticking point I've seen can be attributed to a breakdown in technique! So why aren't you spending time working on this?

    Stick to the Basics and Bust Ass!

    You've just read about the dynamic and max effort methods and are excited to get rolling. Problem is you just began training six months ago and look like a beanpole. Still, you feel this is the best way to train for strength and have heard many other people say the same. Well, you've done the research and have read all the articles, but you've still missed the boat.

    Yes, you can use these methods, but only when they're implemented into a program based around your weaknesses. Now follow me here for a minute. What really is your weakness? Is it your hamstrings? Triceps? Or could it be that your entire body needs to be built up?

    A beginner doesn't need to start with advanced training principles. He needs to first build a solid foundation with basic movements.

    Need to Gain Weight? Eat!

    I know I'll catch hell for this, but you need to have walked in my shoes to know where I'm going with this one. You have to have seen what I've seen over the past few years.

    How many times have I looked at someone and said, "You have to get bigger because you can’t flex bone." If you can feel bone in your upper arms, shoulders, upper legs and lats, then yes, you need to gain some fast mass!

    I'm not a nutritional guru by any stretch, but I do know when someone needs to freakin' eat! I don’t care what it is, just eat it and keep eating until you begin to grow. There are tons of articles here at T-mag. Read them and get to eating.

    But Dave, you may say, if I gain weight I won’t be as strong in the next weight class! Listen man, you're 6'2" and 145 pounds. Just how many lifters are 6'2" in any weight class under 275? What came first, the muscle or the strength? I'll agree a huge amount of muscle mass my not be needed to lift huge weights, but come on, 6'2", 145 pounds? Eat something!

    Fat and Out of Shape? Fix It!

    Okay, now pay attention. Don't take the advice given above and use it as an excuse to get fat and out of shape!

    Look, I'm all for GFH (get ****ing huge) and have lifted in weight classes higher than my body would really let me. There has to be a balance between bodyweight, muscle mass, and conditioning. Hey, I really don't care what you have to do to lose weight. Up your protein, lower your carbohydrates, up your fat, lower your fat, up the carbs, or call Dr. Phil… just do what you gotta' do.

    A good place to begin is with some of the diet articles here T-mag. Shugart's New Diet Manifesto would be a good place to start. I can tell you that drinking more water, taking in one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, and controlling carbs helped me to go from 310 to 275 and break my all time bench record. But, this is what worked for me and was only part of the process. The second part is you have to get in shape and get your metabolism up!

    Things Not Coming Easy for You? Get Over It!

    Are you worried you're not progressing fast enough? Well, you know, I've never been approached by a person who was worried he was gaining too fast. Look, there are those who can gain strength just by looking at weights. I've seen the type and nothing pisses me off more. These guys show up to train once a week and grow like weeds. You know what? It’s not me and I'll bet 1000 to 1 that it's not you either!

    Take what you get and keep working. It's the one who trains the smartest who'll last the longest, and in time your day will come. The road is never easy and it may take a few years to put ten pounds on your bench if you've been training for awhile. (I've walked this road.)

    If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. This isn't an easy game for anyone, even the guys who progress quickly. This is because it all slows down in time. It just happens to be different times for all of us. If you can’t handle it, then try the Stairmaster and stay the hell out of the weightroom! The rest of us have work to do and don’t need your negative ass in the way.

    Hang Around Strong People!

    Your results and expectations are directly related to those people with whom you spend your time. Bottom line: if you're trying to get strong, then get around strong people.

    This can be in the form of training partners, phone calls, and internet forums (we have a great Q and A set up at and you can find other great forums here at T-mag.) Get around those people who see you as you'll be, not as you are. This is one of the best ways to get off to a great start.

    The Beginner's "Bust Ass" Guidelines

    Whether you're a newbie or just someone who screwed up and skipped the basics, here's some guidelines to get you on the right path.

    1) Start with a light weight and master the technique. Use a light weight and work the movement for reps in the range of 15 to 20. This can be performed with a broomstick or just the bar.

    Place your focus on what muscles should be working and where your body position should be. Even the most advanced lifters can be found working technique with very light weights. This is most important with the following list of movements. These are used to build the basics for all the training articles and programs I've written for T-mag.


    Box Squats

    Good Mornings


    Bench Presses

    Triceps Extensions

    All abdominal work

    2) Use basic supplemental movements intended to build muscle mass. These include, but aren't limited to, the following:



    Hack Squats

    Romanian Deadlifts

    Glute Ham Raises


    Stiff Leg Deadlifts

    Front Squats


    Barbell and Dumbbell Rows


    Upright Rows




    Incline and Decline Barbell Presses

    Incline and Decline Dumbbell Presses

    Flat Barbell and Dumbbell Bench Presses



    Barbell Extensions

    Reverse Barbell Bench Presses

    Dumbbell Extensions

    Close Grip Bench Presses

    Biceps and Forearms:

    Reverse Curls

    Hammer Curls

    Barbell Curls

    Low Back and Abs:


    Reverse Hyperextensions

    Good Mornings

    Stiff Leg Deadlifts

    Incline Sit-Ups

    Pulldown Abs

    Dumbbell Side Bends


    Seated Dumbbell Presses

    Standing Overhead Presses

    Side, Front and Rear Dumbbell Raises

    When doing these movements, keep in mind that technique is still the most important aspect. These movements have been a part of every lifter's arsenal from day one.

    3) Train your ass off. Rome wasn't built in a day, but they didn't waste time by sitting around doing nothing either!

    4) Choose rep ranges geared toward your current needs. If you need more technique work, then keep the weight lighter with higher reps (10 to 12) until you master the form, then move up as needed. If you think you have the technique mastered, drop the reps down to 6 to 8 and start pounding the weights. In other words, begin working closer to your failure range.


    Luckily I learned to start with the basics when teaching my son. We'll start with the ABC's and counting to ten and move up from there. If I can still learn then so can you. If you don't know the ABC's and 1,2,3's of strength training, you'd better start with the basics too and work your way up!

  8. #8
    Blown_SC is offline Retired Vet
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Max Effort Training for Dynamic Results
    By Jim Wendler
    For EliteFTS

    Looking over the EliteFTS Q/A, answering questions on the phone and performing seminars, it is easy to see what part of training has received the most focus; dynamic effort training. This has been the cause of a lot of talk (“When do I use the circa-max phase?”, “What percentages should I use?” etc.), a lot of frustration and a lot or excitement amongst coaches and lifters. Unfortunately, most people are missing the boat.

    When developing a training program for a lifter, the dynamic effort method is one of the last pieces of the puzzle but it seems to have become the starting point for most people. With the emphasis on speed in sports, people have seemed to have forgotten the simplest way to become faster: become stronger (the max effort method). One of the many reasons why this has escaped the minds and programs of many coaches is because it’s not the “in” thing to do. Of course many sport coaches will say that taking a 700lbs squatter to 900lbs will not necessarily make him faster. He is correct. But if the coach takes a 225lbs squatter and brings him up to 500, both athlete and coach will be pleasantly surprised.

    One of the positive effects of max effort training is intermuscular and intramuscular coordination. To make things simpler – Intermuscular coordination is the combined effort of different muscles to perform a movement. For example, when performing a squat there are several different actions that your muscles must perform in order for the weight to be lifted. If coordinated correctly, the squat looks and feels flawless. It is a combined effort and executed to perfection. Intramuscular coordination is (again to make things simpler) the ability for your muscles to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible to execute a task. No one will ever be able to recruit 100%, but (and this is depending on who and what you read) a very well trained lifter may be able to recruit as much as 85% while a novice may be able to recruit only 60%.

    So with that explanation and knowing that max effort work (again lifting weights 90%+) can help increase inter- and intra-muscular coordination, you can see how important it is to perform maximal effort work in your training. You will learn how to recruit more muscle fibers and learn how to coordinate your body to perform a task (a bench, squat and deadlift, for example) with precision.

    Ask any novice lifter to perform an explosive or dynamic set of bench presses or squats and you will find Nemo. Meaning, they look as out of sync as a fish out of water; arms flying, head moving side to side, legs wobbling, fingers moving, grip faltering. All of this is done in a great effort to move a barbell as quickly and explosively as possible. But they are not doing it efficiently. These lifters have yet to learn how to coordinate their movements into a single explosive and concentrated effort.

    Obviously a beginner can’t start his training with max effort work. But to prepare for the max effort method, one must prepare using the repeated effort method as well as increasing physical fitness. It should be noted that the repeated effort method does not have to be to failure as this can lead to poor form and often injury. In fact, in preparing their young lifters for the rigors of training, the Soviet Union would have them perform the classical lifts and their variations with sets of 3-4 reps with a weight that can be confidently lifted 5-6 times. This would allow good form, attention to detail as well as not eliciting an incredible amount of muscle soreness, which can impede future workouts and motivation. Preparation of the muscles through sub-maximal lifting as well as learning a variety of different movements and teaching proper form is essential. Special attention should be paid to the abdominals and lower back to ensure that these muscles can handle the activity and loads of weight training. Activity outside of the weight room (physical fitness) is also essential in the form of sports, running, jumping, etc. This will develop an incredible amount of coordination, mobility, flexibility, agility, body awareness as well as refreshing the mind and body. All of these things will also help develop the ligament and tendon strength needed to handle heavier training loads. The next obvious question is when to start implementing max effort training. There it no set guideline for this. This will vary greatly and must be done with some guidance from a coach.

    So in review, let’s examine how to get to the dynamic effort method for a beginner.

    1. Develop a base using physical fitness and repeated effort method.
    2. Max effort method
    3. Dynamic effort method

    I do realize that this article isn’t incredibly in depth, as far as sets, reps, volume, etc., but it is written so that people understand how certain aspects of training must fit into the overall picture. It seems that everyone wants to start racing a Ferrari before they learn how to put the key in the ignition.

  9. #9
    Blown_SC is offline Retired Vet
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    The Safety Squat Bar
    By Dave Tate
    For EliteFTS

    My First Safety Squat Bar Workout

    I used to think this bar was a total waste of time and money before I used it for the first time at Westside Barbell Club in the early 1990’s. I came to Westside from a very intense progressive overload background. For those who are not familiar with this style of training, progressive overload begins by performing sets of 10 repetitions for several weeks and over two to three months, one would gradually decrease the reps until you perform singles. This style of training worked well for me when I first began training. As I got more experienced, I needed something more advanced and started training at Westside Barbell. I had to find something new or I was never going to get better. While at Westside, I was introduced to a whole new style of training. It was completely different and I had never seen or read about this kind of training before. I was hesitant at first but since I had not made any progress in many years I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    I had seen the Safety Squat bar before and thought it was a total joke. I always thought that if you wanted to squat more, you simply squatted. And if you wanted to deadlift more, all you had to do is deadlift. To me everything else was just to get bigger, not stronger.

    I still remember my first training session with the Safety Squat bar. It was a max effort training day. On max effort days, we always pick one exercise and work up until you hit a one rep max. On this particular day we performed a Safety Squat bar squat off of a low hassock (which is similar to a soft box). After one set I knew this bar was going to absolutely destroy the muscles of my upper and lower back. 135 pounds was loaded on the bar and we all began to work up. Back then Westside was not the gym it is today. Yes, there were still very strong lifters there but nothing like there is today. I can’t remember who I was training with but I do remember the intensity of the training session. I had always had training partners but never more than one or two and the intensity was nothing like what I was about to experience.

    After a few sets of 135 we proceeded to work up using 3 reps with only 45’s and 25’s pound plates being used. Anything less was a sin. I knew this bar was about to kick my ass when we got up to 315. 315 pounds should not have been that heavy as I had recently squatted 760lbs. But it was and my lower back was screaming. Since I was new at Westside, I didn’t let anyone know. I did not want to look like a chump. The thing that killed me was that 315 was a total joke for all the other guys, and they all squatted less than me! I had no idea why I was so weak. The next jump was to 365 and when I unracked the bar I wasn’t sure if I was going to get it. It felt like a ton when I took it out of the rack. This bar is in a constant process of trying to dump you forward and you have to use the muscles of your lower back to stay arched (another thing I had no idea how to do) and your upper back to keep from dumping forward. After unracking the bar there were several shouts of encouragement from the spotters. I grinded out my first rep. I was about to rack the bar when Louie yelled for me to do two more reps. After the second rep, my eyes began to water and I started seeing stars. The third rep, I don’t remember.

    The rest of the guys once again had no problem with the weight and I began to feel humbled. I thought I was done squatting when I heard the 45 slap on the bar. 405 pounds was loaded on the bar and they were calling me back up to the bar. For the first time in my life I did not want to squat. 365 just about knocked my head off and now I was expected to squat 405. Being that I had never made smart decisions in the past with my own training, I figured what the hell. I got under the bar and unracked the weight and proceeded to do one of the slowest single rep maximums of my entire life. I am sure my spotters were yelling the whole time but the only thought going through my head was to stand back up with the weight. After the weight was racked the room began to fade and then I saw flickering silver dust particles all around me. I held onto the bar to ensure I did not pass out and then walked over to the glute ham raise and held myself up for the next half hour. I watched, drooped over the pad and my world spinning, while my new training partners all worked up to 600 pounds.

    The next day I was sore as hell from my calves to my neck. There was not a single muscle on the backside of my body that did not hurt. When I looked in the mirror I noticed that both my eyes were blood shot and I had broken capillaries all over my face. I hated the Safety Squat bar but realized how valuable the bar was. Over the next few years I saw my squat jump from 760 to 935 and have to say that some of this increase was due to the torture of the Safety Squat Bar.

    Dynamic Training with the Safety Squat Bar

    The newest application for the Safety Squat Bar has been its use for speed (Dynamic) squat training. This offers many benefits for the strength athlete. First, it is a great way to build the explosive and static strength of the lower back and many have found that this bar is a great way to increase your deadlift. Second, it takes much of the stress off of the elbows and shoulders. This has a huge recovery effect for your bench training. This is of great value for those lifters who are training for bench press only meets or those who are trying to recover from pectoral, shoulder and elbow injuries. With the safety squat bar you will be allowed to train around the injuries and still get in a quality squat workout. Third, the safety squat bar is a great bar to use for GPP or lactic acid tolerance training. Listed below are some of the more popular squat cycles done with a safety squat bar.

    Lactic Acid Tolerance Training Cycle

    Application: This is a great cycle for off season training when you would like to give your arms and shoulders a break. This is also a great way to peak your bench for a bench meet without having to stop squatting. This is good for beginners, intermediate and advanced lifters.

    Training Cycle (Three week version):

    Week 1 – 35% for 10 sets 2 reps with 45 second rest periods.
    Week 2 – 37% for 15 sets 2 reps with 30 second rest periods
    Week 3 – 40% for 15-17 sets of 2 reps with under 30 seconds rest. * The rest period for this week should be back to back sets. Two people should squat together and as soon as one lets go of the bar the second guy should be grabbing the bar. Each lifter should try to wear the other out and see who dies first. BE AGGRESSIVE AND DON’T LOSE.

    Training Cycle (One week version)

    Week 1 – 37% for ? sets of 2 reps with 30 second rest periods. With this cycle you should use a training partner of that is close to the same strength as you and try to run each other into the ground. We have seen battles go in the upwards of 38 sets! BE AGGRESSIVE AND DON’T LOSE.


    · Training percent is based on current one rep max with the free squat with equipment.
    · These percents are used as guidelines. The more advanced the lifters the lighter the percent needed. If you are a raw lifter or do not use power lifting gear then a minimum of 10% should be added to the listed percents.
    · All sets should be performed on a parallel box.

    Title: Basic Three Week “Straight Weight” Advanced Cycle

    Application: This is a very good cycle for higher advanced lifters for off season training or as a de-load cycle before a competition or test day.

    Training Cycle:

    Week 1 – 45% for 10 sets 2 reps
    Week 2 – 48% for 10 sets 2 reps
    Week 3- 50 % for 10 sets 2 reps

    Notes:· Training percent is based on current one rep max with the free squat with equipment.
    · These percents are used as guidelines. The more advanced the lifters the lighter the percent needed. If you are a raw lifter or do not use power lifting gear then a minimum of 10% should be added to the listed percents.
    · All sets should be performed on a parallel box.
    · If you feel good after your sets, work up to a heavy double. This should not be done every week but should be completed at least once through the cycle.
    · You should rest no more than 45 to 60 seconds between sets

    Title: Basic Three Week “Chains” Intermediate Cycle

    Application: This is a very good cycle for the intermediate lifter who has good squat skill and form. The
    chains will help to develop a greater level of squat stability as well as increasing the explosion out of the bottom of the squat. This would be a very good off season strength cycle for the intermediate lifter.

    Training Cycle:

    Week 1 – 50% for 8 sets 2 reps
    Week 2 – 53% for 8 sets 2 reps
    Week 3- 55% for 8 sets 2 reps

    Suggested Chain:
    Squat Max: 200-400 Pounds – 60 total pounds of chains
    Squat Max: 400-500 Pounds – 80 total pounds of chains
    Squat Max: 500-600 Pounds – 100 total pounds of chains
    Squat Max: 600-800 Pounds – 120 total pounds of chains
    Squat Max: 800-950 Pounds – 160 total pounds of chains

    Max Effort Training with the Safety Squat Bar

    The Safety Squat Bar has been used very successfully over the past ten years for max effort training. Max effort training is the selection of one movement and working up to a one rep maximum attempt. This bar is great for this as it is in a constant process of trying to force the lifter forward. This places much of the stress on the muscles of the lower and upper back. Think of it this way. If you are to miss a squat or dead lift, what usually happens? In the squat, most people will shift or fall forward. This bar will help you develop two things thank can make a huge difference. It will increase your static strength and thus keep you from falling forward in the first place and second it will help you develop the strength to help your recover if you do fall forward. Here is a list of some of the most popular max effort movement you can do with the safety squat bar.

    Chain Suspended Good Mornings - This is a great max effort exercise to help your deadlift. There are two ways to set up this exercise. One way is place the barbell on the safety pins; the other is to place the barbell in 3/8 inch chains. For the latter, place the two chains at the top of the power rack and loop them so that the barbell is suspended. The bar can be set at any height, but is usually slightly above your navel. To perform the exercise, place yourself under the bar and simply perform a good morning. This is a great exercise to help build your deadlift because both lifts are a concentric only lift. Do not get caught up in maintaining your hips at a certain level; simply get under the bar and get it up! Be sure that your hands do not get caught under the chains or the safety pins. Any width stance can be used.

    Safety Squat Bar Box Squats - This movement is performed the same as the regular box squat except you will be using the Safety Squat Bar. This bar is designed to keep the bar high on the traps and force more of the weight forward on the body. This places more stress on the muscles of the upper and lower back, glutes and hamstrings. The best way to use this bar is to hold the yolks on the front of the bar. This keeps the stress on the muscles we are trying to develop. This bar is one of the best max effort and supplemental movements you can do. The reason for this is because most people miss a squat because the bar shifts forward and they end of trying to do a good morning. This bar will help to develop the muscles to keep this from happening in the first place. The box used on max effort day can be a low box (1-3” below parallel), parallel box, or a high box (1-3” above parallel). Usually a close to shoulder width stance is used. Groove briefs or a loose suit (straps down) is often used to maintain the health of your hips. A weight belt is usually used when attempting weights at or above 80% of your max. For max effort training, a narrow stance is used; this is usually shoulder width or narrower. A good rule of thumb is to take the same stance as you would when performing a conventional deadlift.

    Zercher Squats - This is a great exercise to build your deadlift and teach you to maintain proper position when squatting. Because of the position of the barbell, it forces the lifter to maintain tight abs, an arched lower back and proper chest position. Begin by placing a bar in a power rack just below your armpits and unrack it in the crook of your elbows. Keeping your back arched, stomach pushed out and chest up, squat back until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure to keep your elbows and arms close to your body. This can also be done by using a box. A shoulder width stance is usually used. The amount of weight you can hold in your elbows will limit the bar weight used on this exercise. The safety squat bar is makes it easier because of the thickness of the bar.

    Backwards Bar Safety Squat Bar Box Squats – This is the same as “Safety Squat Box Squats” except the bar is placed backwards on your shoulders. This alters the camber of the bar and makes for a completely different movement.

    Other Applications
    The Safety squat Bar is not limited to just max effort and dynamic effort training. There are many more movements that can be trained with the Safety squat Bar. These movements are not intended to be trained for dynamic or max effort training but for repetition effort training. Basically, these movements will be used to bring up specific weak points and/or muscle groups. Give a few of these a try. We are sure you will find them very productive.

    Good Mornings – Done with a safety squat bar, the good morning is one of the most difficult exercises to perform, but also one of the most effective. Begin this exercise by unracking a barbell the same as you would a squat. Your feet can be set at a close, medium or wide stance. This can change depending on what you feel works best for you. For example, a wide stance seems to work the hips more. Get into a tight position (arched back, shoulder blades pulled together, knees slightly bent, abdominal pushed out against your belt). This is the starting position. Slowly bend forward at the waist until your torso is slightly above parallel with the floor, then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. This is usually done for reps between 5-10 and used as a second exercise. You will have to fight to maintain position throughout the entire movement so make sure you start with very light weight.

    Triceps Extensions – While it may seem weird to perform a triceps movement with the Safety Squat bar, try this for a little variation on an otherwise boring movement. The bar should be set up so that when racked, the yoke is pointed toward your feet. Unrack the bar with your hands about shoulder width apart and bring the yoke to just above your nipples. Let the points of the yoke hit your chest and the bar will rotate towards your chin. Let it come down until your forearms are almost parallel to the floor and extend up. Because the bar is a little thicker than a standard bar your elbows will take less of a beating. You also may want to place a folded towel on your chest to prevent the points of the yoke to bruise your chest.

    Shrugs – With the bar on your shoulders, attempt to raise your shoulders to your ears. This is a great variation to standard shrugs with a barbell. You can try placing your hands down at your sides or place them out in front of you, holding the rack.

    Partial Arches – This exercise is great for your entire back; from your upper back to your erectors. One of the best ways to do this exercise is to place the bar on your back and sit on a box. While sitting on the box arch your low back and upper back. After holding this position for a few seconds, roll your upper back and round your low back. Make sure to stay tight in this position. Hold this for a few seconds and arch back to the original position. Concentrate on arching hard and rounding over; this will exhaust the muscles of your back. This exercise will not only build a ton of muscle but allow the lifter to feel what it is like to arch at the bottom of your squat.

    Lunges – Lunges have gotten a bad rap lately simply because they’ve been embraced by the fitness community and have been the main exercise of housewives everywhere. But this is one of the best exercises to develop overall leg strength. Done correctly, they work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Also, don’t short stride your reps so that you can handle more weight. Too many times people perform lunges by taking short 6 inch steps and brag of the weight they can handle. This is not a lunge! This is a squat done with bad foot position. Try doing walking lunges, backward lunges or standard lunges; all work well and the benefits will make you wonder why you ever dropped this exercise in the first place. The soreness you get the next day will probably answer the question, though. There are many different variations of lunges you can try; walking lunges, backward lunges, side lunges or lunges done with your front foot elevated.

    Walking Safety Squat Bar - This is an old exercise that is used to build overall endurance and it is pretty simple. Place a safety squat bar on your back and begin walking a prescribed distance. A good way to do this is to have you and a training partner take turns walking from the squat rack to a certain point and back. This can turn into a contest and is great for overall body strength as well as mental strength. It is recommended that you begin this exercise with light weight. Also, be careful when performing this exercise as it’s very difficult to dump the bar when you are tired. Still, this exercise will build your traps and legs like no other. Do not perform this exercise often as it will absolutely annihilate you!

    Glute-Ham Raises - This is done like a regular glute-ham raise except the with the safety squat bar across your back. This is an exercise for very strong lifters, only!.

    45 degree back raises - By putting a safety squat bar on your back during a 45 degree back raise you will greatly increase your low back, hamstring and glute strength. Also, it will hit your upper back and add some serious mass to this region. This can also be done on a standard back raise or back hyperextension piece of equipment.

    Pushups w/ safety squat bar - With this exercise you will need a partner to help stabilize the bar on your back. Place the bar on your back the same way you would squat and perform pushups. This can be a very challenging exercise.

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