Starting "Mission 500 Raw Squat"

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending an event organized by lifter Benjamin Butty.  He called it the "United Lifters Powerlifting Social".  His goal was to create an event where powerlifters from any federation could meet and exchange ideas and stories.  We met at a local bar in Oakville and also attending was his brother Frank, and 4 lifters from the StG team out of St. George, Ontario.  All told, we had lifters from about 5 different federations together and by all accounts it was an excellent time.  We spent almost 5 hours talking powerlifting and other things strength related.

A night like that gets you pumped up about hitting the gym and starting the quest for new PRs. Benjamin lifts in the 148 lb weight class and recently hit a 431 lb raw squat.  His brother Frank lifts in the 181 lb class and has hit a 550 lb raw squat.  I lift in either the 100 kg, 105 kg or 110 kg class depending on the federation and my best raw squat at those bodyweights is a paltry 457 lbs.   Granted, Benjamin and Frank are very genetically gifted for strength but it's still a kick in the stones to be so significantly out-lifted.  As I thought about what I needed to do to get my squat moving up, I had to be brutally honest with myself.  I've never been able to do a pistol squat.  In fact, I can't even come close.  What are the chances I'll ever squat 500 lbs if I can't even do a one-legged squat with my bodyweight (much less than half of 500 lbs)?  I figure I've gotten as far as I have based on hamstring and glute strength but I have a hugemungous weak spot with respect to my quadriceps.

Prior to my last competition, I made a late attempt at trying to introduce some extra quad-focused work but it wasn't enough.  Now that I don't have any significant competitions on the horizon, it's time to take a step backward in order to take two steps forward.

Going forward, my squat day will focus on improving my poor quadricep strength.  When the day comes that I can do a pistol squat, I'll know that added quad strength will carryover to my competition back squat.

I can't do this.  That gal can probably squat more than I can, pound for pound too.

Today's workout started with leg extensions.  I did them one leg at a time, doing 5 with each leg and alternating until each leg had done 10 reps per set.  This was humbling.  I only used 60 lbs per leg and it was hard.  Sheesh.  I did three sets and then went to the new leg press.

A safer, more effective leg press

This leg press allowed for each leg to work on its own.  I like this feature alot--something the old Nautilus leg press machines always accomodated--because it addresses the bilateral deficit and it keeps one's hips from rounding into lumbar flexion.   A key injury risk when doing heavy leg presses with both legs is the tendency for the hips to round and lift off of the pad when your knees approach your chest.  By doing one leg at a time, the straight leg stabilizes the pelvis prevents lumbar flexion.

The bilateral deficit is a phenomena where the amount of weight one can move with both legs or both arms is less than double the amount one can move with one leg or one arm.  By being able to use one leg independently of the other, I can use weights that stress each leg to its maximum capacity--weights that if doubled and lifted with both legs as in a traditional leg press wouldn't be lifted for as many reps.

So, moving on, I worked up to a top set of 10, again using the 5/5/5/5 rep scheme, alternating between legs and then hobbled over to the squat rack.  My top sets of 365 felt super heavy but that was my intention.  Without much quad strength left after the previous two exercises, my glutes and hamstrings had to kick in extra to make up for little strength in the mid-range portion of the lift.

I think the workout went well and look forward to rapid improvement in my quad strength.  I'll probably start trying some reduced range of motion pistol squats as a bench mark for my strength gains.  I'll never raw squat 500 lbs without being able to do a pistol squat first so first things first.


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