By: Louie Simmons

Squatting in the 800s and 900s

In 1971 I broke Tony Fratto's Junior National squat record with a 565. The next year, in Dan Deweltís Powerlifting News, I made the Top 10 by squatting 540 and totaling 1540. Inever dreamed of squatting 800, let alone 900, because a dream is just a dream.
          Through constant experimentation at Westside Barbell, we have had 24 800 squatters, six over 900 and one 1010, by the incomparable Matt Dimel. Speaking of Matt, this is where the journey began. I will discuss how technology has changed an 800 squat from a shot in the dark to almost a joke. Enjoy the journey, but use only the method described later (with bands). Our methods have evolved since Mattís time.
          Matt was the first to squat 800 at Westside. He accomplished this by using a method of box squatting at four levels per workout. After warming upon a box 4 inches above parallel, we did a single that was about 100 pounds more than a contest best. Then we would drop 50 pounds and squat 2 inches lower, by taking out boards, and do a single. Then we would again drop 2 Inches more. Now we would be at parallel. We could do 50 pounds more at a meet than we could box squat at parallel. (For example, I did a 600 parallel box, 630 at a meet with no equipment in 1973 at 181; 630 parallel box, 680 at a meet with junk equipment in 1978 at 198; 705 parallel box, 765 at a meet in 1980 at 220.) Then we would go 2 inches below parallel for 1-3 sets of 1 rep. This type of squat training stopped in 1983 after I suffered a second fracture of my fifth lumbar vertebra. 
          We realized that a better method must be used or others would suffer severe injuries. In addition, we noticed that we were very slow but had no idea why.
          We found the answer from men we had never heard of before: Verkhoshansky, Siff, Zatsiorski, Ozolin, Baroga, Komi, Vorobyev, Medvedev, Bompa. But the first name without a face was A. S. Prilepin. He had done extensive research on loading, both intensity and volume. I had never considered such things, nor had anyone else at the Club, but I found very quickly that this was the key to every-thing.
We learned the value of the relationship between force and velocity, how to build speed strength and strength speed, and how to control proper volume at any level.
After my back injury healed, I resumed training, but no more progressive gradual overload. Now we would use one weight per workout because the data showed that there is a correct weight percent to train with on the dynamic day. We started the cycle with 70% of our 1 rep max on week 1 and went up to 80% by the end of the cycle. We did multiple sets of 2 reps, aiming for maximal force production (think speed).
          Progress in the group started once again. The more lifters I introduced to the system, the lower the percent of a 1 rep max used became. Billy Masters and Angelo Berardinelli were using 60% of a 1-rep max and were making progress. So we tried it. A few years ago, Todd Brock, Kenny Patterson, and Eskil Thomasson made 804 quite easily by using 405-480 for 12-10 sets of 2 reps. An 800 squat was becoming routine among our lifters, but we didnít stop there.
          Vladimir Zatsiorsky and others frequently talked about accommodating resistance (which is using special means to account for increased leverage as you stand up). By attaching chains to the bar, the load could be regulated to accommodate resistance. As the bar is lowered, the ends of the chain pile on the floor and the weight is reduced, enabling one to start the bar up quickly. As the concentric (raising) phase is completed, all the chain weight returns to the bar. The body can handle much more weight at the top of the movement because of improved joint angles. The use of chains moved our average squat to the mid 800ís. But what was more astounding was that we were taking mid 500 squatters into the 800ís in 2 years.
          Dave Williams of Liberty University asked me to do some work with large, strong rubber bands made by Jump Stretch Inc. The bands had some added advantages we never dreamed of. First, they accommodate resistance more effectively than chains. The resistance is evenly added to the bar as you stand up (i.e. progressive concentrics). Also they provide accelerated eccentrics (quick lowering). This is great for reversal strength, but can cause tremendous soreness (sometimes called delayed onset of muscle soreness, DOMS). With accelerated eccentrics and progressive concentrics, this method is phenomenal for speed strength and strength speed, depending on how much resistance is added by the bands. A higher percent of weight and a lower percent of band tension results in speed strength. A high percent of band tension and a lighter weight results in strength speed. We have found a combination that has five men at Westside squatting in the 900ís.
          Science must play a large role in the development of special strength if you are to be successful. It is the central nervous system that must be addressed. The bands not only accommodate resistance but also increase muscle tension and almost completely eliminate the deceleration phase.
          All squat workouts are performed with bands at Westside. The 900 squatters maintain an 810 squat, or 90% of 900, by using 405-455 with added band tension of 200 at the bottom (on the box) and 260 at the top. A 900 squat requires 260 pounds of band tension at the bottom and 375 at the top for 6 sets of 2 reps. The speed day must be accompanied by a maximal effort day 3 days later. Both days require core lifts and special exercises.
          The Chinese say that you can give the keys to the universe to a million men and only one will open the door. Be the one!

Westside Barbell

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