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!!! 


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