If they had told me it would take 21 years of training before I would finally squat over 500 lbs...

I got my first gym membership in 1980 when I was 14 years old.  I worked out consistently until I was 27.  In those early years, I was always interested in getting stronger.  I competed in powerlifting between the ages of 21 and 27.  I was never particularly good at it but I enjoyed the camaraderie and the process of slowly increasing personal records.

Back in those days (87'-93'), there was only equipped lifting so we competed in squat suits, used knee wraps, and near the end of that period, the first rudimentary bench press shirts.  As a result, I never tested my 1 RM "raw" squat.  Back then, my 1RM in a squat with knee wraps and squat suit was 500 lbs.  Even though the internet nowadays likes to somehow claim the suits and knee wraps of the early 90's were equal to today's singlet and tight knee sleeves, this was not close to the truth.  I got almost 100 lbs from my Marathon squat suit and Marathon Goldline knee wraps.

1989 USPF East Beach Open 473 lb equipped squat

In 1993, I moved to Toronto, Ontario via a job relocation and although I worked out at the gym sporadically for the next couple years, there was no more powerlifting competition.  It wasn't until I started training for competition again back in late 2007 that I started working towards moving those long dormant 1 RM's up from my younger years.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday, August 25th, and I decided that I would finally squat 500+ pounds without knee wraps or a squat suit.  Most lifters at or above 200 lbs of bodyweight are able to pass this milepost within 2-4 years of serious training.  The rest of us, it just takes time.  In my case, lots of time. I knew I was finally going to do it because I had hit 495x1 twice in a workout about a month before but I waited until the 25th to do it on my 49th birthday.

In the hole with 505 lbs
Getting to that point a month ago when I knew I finally had a 500+ squat in the bag has been an interesting process.  When I resumed powerlifting competition back in March 2008, I competed raw in the USAPL.  My first meet back was largely a "get my feet wet again" type of meet but my second raw meet in November 15, 2008 served as a fair starting point.  In that meet, I squatted 470 lbs after weighing in at 256.6 lbs. That equated to a squat Wilks coefficient of 123.5.

Over the next two years, I trained and competed equipped because that was the only format in the Canadian Powerlifting Union at the time.  When I decided to compete "raw" again in early 2011, my raw squat Wilks coefficient was down to 119.5--no doubt due to a lack of specificity since training for equipped squatting 1 RM's is different than training for raw 1 RM's.

Since then, the progress of my raw squat Wilks (I use the Wilks coefficient because my bodyweight has fluctuated between 113.6 kgs and 100.9 kgs over the past 4 years) is as follows:

Squat Wilks over time

My recent 505 lb lifetime PR is the last data point, 135.8 Wilks.  The pattern seems to be a pretty consistent one year of progress, one year of plateau.  The latest PR seems to signal another year of progress.  I can't remember if my progress in my younger years followed this pattern but I suspect it did, just not as long in terms of progress and plateau intervals.

505 lb squat PR on my 49th birthday

Since it's hard to gauge depth from the front, this is what that looks like from the side (screencap from a 475 lb squat last year)

475 lb squat from March 2014

If someone had told me 35 years ago that it would take me over 21 years of training before I would finally squat over 500 lbs, I'm sure I would've told that person they were full of it.  Even though I was a poor squatter and an even worse bencher, I managed to deadlift over 600 lbs within a couple years of competing.  In my youthful exuberance, I thought for sure that 700 was just another year or so away.  Of course, I'm still chasing that number too, never having lifted more than 644 in the deadlift and not more than 628 in this second competitive go round.  The passage of time and the accumulation of experience has tempered my previously over-ambitious expectations but I'll still keep chipping away, little by little at those milestones and we'll see what lies ahead.

Comments

  1. Interesting your comment on plateau's. For a few yrs I have thought that like you say you make progress then seem to stop. I think what seems to happen is that your body grows stronger then takes a break to "Solidify" the gains, then it will take off again by making you stronger then back into the solidify mode. If you look across sports you can see it happen all the time. I first heard of it in an article from a guy called Dave Palumbo probably about 10yrs ago since then I have seen it play out a number of times with myself or though other sportsman in other sports. Congrats on the PB. Also interesting your comments on the marathon suit as everyone I know who used one says the same thing about it. Way ahead of it's time. I got into the sport after they had been banned.

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    1. yeah, I've read a similar thought from Mike Webster, former NFL'er during the Pittsburgh Steelers' glory years in this article: http://startingstrength.com/articles/quotes_mike_webster.pdf Thanks for the congrats Keith, looking forward to hearing about your lifting exploits again!

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  2. Hey Craig.... congratulations.. great job and way to persevere!

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