Hello again everyone, did
you miss me? Well, I had a little disagreement with my lower back
recently and it won. I tried to tell it that we were going to continue
training heavy and not take a break...well, needless to say, there was
disagreement and after some very uncomfortable days and a CAT scan, I conceded.
The good news is...I havenít done any damage and the resulting aches and
such are mainly from continuous stress of the region. What have I
been doing that is so different now than before? I didnít used to
have this kind of back trouble...I mean I have had some strains and Football
didnít do me any favors, but this was different.
I am tracing the culprit back to my rehab
of last year and the beginning of this year. I switched to a Louie
system roughly last July 97' to return to lifting after I had shifted my
sacrum and basically irritated the low lumbar region. The program
worked wonderful and I got back to where I was and then some in a pretty
quick time frame. However I havenít been able to get past some residual
aching. After some recent evaluation of my lifting I have concluded
that squatting has been a big antagonist to the recoup of my back.
Now, before I get jumped on about dissing the squat hear me out.
It has been the method I have been training my squats that is the big culprit.
Yaí see I have been training the squat ala Louie style. I wonít say
this doesnít work or anything (actually is a great system), but for my
squat training I donít think it is optimal. Let me change that somewhat...it
isnít the system per se, rather the emphasis on the lower back/hip area
that was getting to me. I probably should have altered the system
some to give this area a break and maybe concentrated on my quads a little
more. See, I donít think I am not going to be a successful hip/back/glute
squatter. I donít think my build is going to allow it. I have
long legs and a short torso, respectively. In order to be successful
at the hip/glute squat I think you need to stay more vertical than what
I can. I have to lean to keep the weight balanced over my feet.
There is no way around it, otherwise the lever just gets too short.
I have seen a lot of discussion on the list and
on some BB about people not getting much from the Louie system as far as
squats go. I have some theories on this and basically it stems to
the fact that people are using Louieís system too literally. They
incorporate the box squats exclusively and donít realize that this particular
lift is great if you free squat in a similar method (i.e. the hip/glute
squat). If this is the case then you can get away with using box
squats exclusively like Louieís guys do. Personally, I havenít had
much luck with this form. I encounter too many obstacles and my body
structure winds up putting too much stress on the lower back. My
squat doesnít match my deadlift and I know my back can handle mid- 700's
so it isnít a matter of being weak in there. It comes down to shear
forces and lever arm length. Now I am not advocating that box squats
suck or anything. I think they are a great motion and have a definite
place in ones arsenal, for me, they are not going to cut it as the primary
squat motion. The Louie system has you doing a great deal of
lower back work throughout the week so the loss of box squats isnít necessarily
going to hold you back. If you donít normally squat ala hip/glute
then you need to re-evaluate what your speed day motion is going to be.
The principle of volume and heavy days is sound...you just have to make
sure the motions are hitting the areas that you need worked.
Another factor to consider with this system is
that it doesnít put much emphasis on working your quads. Louie is
a big believer that you donít need quads to squat. For some this
is true, I do unfortunately. So I have been finding that when I squat
now (in my old groove) my quads are getting fried and not my hips/glutes.
The hips/glutes are strong as ever (more so I think), but I havenít had
much focus on the quads so they are weaker and as a result I kept adding
more and more of the load to the back. I know that a lot of people
are down on the quad squatting since it puts more stress on the patellar
tendon. Kaz and Furnas were definitely some of the quad squatters
so the style definitely has merit. I might even put Karwoski in that
class too. Anyway, yes it probably stresses your patellar tendon
harder, but your PT will never get stronger if it isnít stressed.
Louie has made the point that in order to get stronger in weak areas you
have to do exercises that are going to stress the vulnerable areas.
I wholeheartedly agree. You just have to be smart about how you train.
Realistic expectations and practical weight jumps will eliminate more injuries
than anything else will.
Before I said that I think people are using
Louie'sí system too literally. I donít think Louie ever intended
his system to be written down on paper and then distributed. It is
too abstract and individual for that. I think that many have tried
to just copy what others have done and then not gotten good results.
The program needs to be tailored to the lifter. Otherwise, I donít
think anyone will get very good results, unless you have similar weaknesses.
My point here is that I donít think the squat portion gets as much tweaking
as the bench portion does. People are more apt to play and modify
the bench part of Louieís system then they are the squat part. This
is unfortunate because I think Louieís system is great and with some modification
to the individualís needs then I think just about anyone can make gains
consistently with it. Most of the alternate moves that Louie has
suggested and utilizes are movements that will help hip/glute squatters
the most. I think if you take some of the motions that are more beneficial
to quad development and incorporate them then the quad squatters might
see some better results.
Okay, well I spent a little more time on that portion
than I meant to. I have been holding some of that stuff for a while
that was specific to Louie. Some things that can help to spice up
your squat that arenít specific to Louie will follow. First of all,
both Louie and Dr. Squat have been proponents of utilizing weak grips and
such to aid in strength gains. I have been using the variable grip
on my bench for a while and I am very pleased with the results. I
figured why not do this with the squats too? Well, let me tell you
it is a different feel altogether and the resulting soreness will get your
attention. I do think that it will be extremely beneficial though
since I am strengthening areas directly that donít normally get directly
stimulated. For those that picked up on the ďwill beĒ in the previous
sentence let me expound. As I mentioned earlier I have to take it
easy for a bit, and I wonít know how this is going to transfer over for
my limit stuff until probably Decemberíish. In the meantime, I am
happy with how it is transferring over to volume training. Basically
I start with a narrow stance for a couple sets, move to a medium shoulder
width stance, then go to my comp. stance (it is slightly wider than shoulder
width), and finish with some very wide stance sets. You really feel
the hips at this point too because they are somewhat fatigued from their
assistance role on the narrower sets. In addition, your quads get
tired so they transfer more emphasis on the stronger hips (which have been
slightly fatigued already) and finally your lumbar region doesn't necessarily
have to jump in to shoulder more than its normal load because you are keeping
the emphasis on your bigger movers........now if you followed all that
then you can see it is a pretty thorough blast for the squat group of muscles.
The best aspect of it is that you donít have to spend so much time worrying
about what to do for the weak portions of your lift. You have just
done some specific training for the weak areas. I think Dr. Squat
said he never did comp. Style squats until he started his peak for a meet.
The rest of the time he was doing any number of variations for his ďsquatĒ
movement. I am using the ďfour stanceĒ squat alternated with Zercher
Squats for my volume training. Try doing multiple sets/reps with
Zercherís for a change and see how different they really feel. They
definitely strengthen stuff a little different and the carryover is noticeable.
One factor with Zercherís, donít concentrate so much on sitting down and
as you do sitting back and down. If you really sit back then you
will feel the groove much better. I might even argue that Zercherís
could be a better primary squat motion than boxes............maybe.
If you want to get real crazy try alternating your stance with Zerchers.....that
is more ambitious than I have gotten at this point, but I will hold it
as an option.
Iíll finish up with a couple of minor points that
I think are extremely important and can do wonders for your squat.
To re-emphasize a point that was made in PLUSA: when squatting it helps
to have your elbows going back! If they are under the bar then you
can, potentially, over arch because your body thinks you are trying to
press the weight overhead. In addition, it puts some funky torque
on your elbow joint because you donít wind up keeping the joint directly
in line with the vector the weight is pushing down on it. I have
been a victim of this phenomenon and I donít recommend it to anyone....gets
real hairy when you bench anytime within a few days after. I am finding
it much easier to hold my natural arch with my elbows back and to keep
nice and tight in the mid-section. I think this is because of flexibility
issues and when you put your arms in an elbow down orientation (like you
are going to military press) it is more comfortable to tighten your abs
down rather than out and down. If that makes sense... If not then
stand with your elbows pointing down and flex your abs like you would to
squat, then try it with your elbows pointing back. If you are still
thinking I am on crack then just know it works for me...okay. ;-)
Okay this next one is a little thing, but
IMO it can be very helpful. Keep your head only slightly elevated.
In other words donít look at the ceiling, instead maybe a few degrees above
parallel to the floor. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple.
For one you body follows your head....wrestlers and football players can
tell you that. If you are standing with your head going up like that
then you are trying to arch back and that is exactly what you will do.
Potentially you could say that you would risk losing the bar upon completion
of the lift, but I think it is subtler than that. What I notice is
that is soon as my head comes way up like that then I arch my back harder
too. This kind of hurts in the lumbar region. You get extra
pressure on the back part of the disk along the rear of your spine.
As if squatting doesnít put enough pressure on your disks....believe me
you donít need to help it any. ;-) Instead of thinking about pushing your
head back when it gets tough....envision pushing your shoulder girdle up
and back. This will keep you neck happy and not put that fractional
more arch on your back that could lead to some hurts.
Okay, final one. Very important to make sure
your knees are tracking in the same direction your foot is pointing.
I see people turning their feet too far out and they almost do the splits
in an attempt to keep their knees in line. This puts a lot of extra
stress on your groin too and that is one region I tend to baby. <g>
This will also insure that you are getting your hips involved, if you keep
your knees out in the hole then you get the very strong hips involved in
your ďholeshotĒ and it makes life much more pleasant. I like to think
about keeping the abs tight and pushing my knees out on the descent.
Watch a film of Ricky Crain squatting to see an excellent example of pushing
your knees out on the descent and keeping them there in the hole.
Well, sorry this got a little long......since I
missed last month I guess I figured I needed to add a little extra.
I hope this has helped in some way, whether you are a beginner or advanced
I donít think you can ever know everything. I have ďre-discoveredĒ
some of these things and others over the course of my lifting. I
get focused on some modification and start forgetting to keep my elbows
back. Result is my squat starts to suck and I canít figure out why.....then
I remember this little minor detail and boom!! Big time gains.
I am notorious for this.....shoot, if I could just keep my head straight
I may just get pretty good at this Powerlifting stuff. A quick little
note, for the Dino freaks out there....I had intended on putting a new
installment up about my recent experiments/training in the field, but the
back stuff has kind of sidelined that whole aspect of training for a bit.
Never fear though, there is more coming and I have some different stuff
I was trying that had promise.
Next month I have no idea what I am planning on
doing so bear with me, but the following one will more than likely be an
initial impression of the German 3x3 system. I am in the process
of an easy adjustment to this type of training and I will be through the
conditioning phase by that time......actually I will be right in the meat
of the power phase, but weíll see how things go. For anyone interested
in what is coming in the future. I know some people expressed an
interest in hearing what that system was like, so hold tight and Iíll give
my opinion in a couple of months. Now unless Jason...our illustrious
leader says otherwise that is my tentative plan. If it is terrible
and you hate it then send me an e-mail and let me know what you would like to see. I am open to just about anything and I love to discuss weights.
In the meantime.....good liftiní and stay strong!!!