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Old 04-26-2010, 08:44 AM   #1
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Default The "Anderson Squat"

Ground Up Strength: Anderson Squats

Looking through the pages of GUS you’ve probably seen Anderson being used to describe squatting exercises. Way back when Paul Anderson was a major powerlifter he would deload his barbell during his squatting. The term deload, in this case, implies that the barbell is rested on the pins of a power rack or similar apparatus such that you are no longer ‘loaded’ with the barbell. Anderson used various methods, including digging holes. After deloading he would brace himself and drive into the barbell, and complete the squat.
What’s the difference between a regular squat and an Anderson squat?

As mentioned above, the main difference lies in the fact that the barbell is deloaded at some pre-determined depth. There are a few other differences which are not so subtle.

1) The deload prevents ‘bouncing’ in and out of the hole (the transition between eccentric and concentric). This is a very well known method for overcoming a sticking point, however we all know that well known methods are not necessarily the best.

2) If we’re performing Anderson Front Squats there is a very large core component involved, mainly activation. Ordinary front squats involve a core component as well but imagine the speed and force at which you must activate the core musculature in order to not only support the weight, but to also support it while accelerating the weight from a dead stop. There is something to be said about being able to very rapidly engage and stabilize your core.

3) Consider what the main difference is between a continuous movement and one that has a deloading portion, eccentric contraction. As you perform the eccentric portion of movement you are elongating the muscles while maintaining a contraction, when you reach the transition point, between eccentric and concentric, and begin to perform the concentric portion your muscles are sort of preloaded with tension. More accurately it can be thought of as a displaced spring, in other words a store of potential energy. If you deload the weight you also lose the stretch shortening cycle1. In layman’s terms, it adds difficulty to the movement.

Why use Anderson squats and how do you implement them?

As mentioned above, the main advantage is the core activation component. When very heavy weights are being used there is also the advantage of being able to grab a breath or two when the barbell is deloaded. It also helps form to a degree. If your form is sloppy or you aren’t able to get into, or maintain, proper position then you will run into problems.

Another advantage is that this may help develop explosive starting strength. Over a very short period of time you are going from a dead stop to exerting a large amount of force, thus increasing the speed of recruitment of motor units. This is a main component of explosive starting strength.

Implementing them is rather easy. Any squat can be turned into an Anderson squat and any depth can be set. Depth also allows for another means of progression. Rather than increasing the weight or reps you always have the option of lower your pins another notch. You can go ahead and do a straight substitution for any of your regular squats but, like so many things, a bit of experimentation is a good idea.
How to perform them:

1) Set your pins or catches on your squat rack at the desired height.

2) Step into the squat rack and unrack the barbell as you normally would do.

3) Perform the eccentric movement, decelerating as you approach the pins. You do not want to be dropping down and smashing into the pins every rep, deload gently.

4) When you reach the pins completely deload the barbell. Its even a good idea, providing you don’t get out of position, to drop down an extra inch or so and completely break contact with the barbell.

5) Regain contact with the barbell and apply a slight pressure. Brace your core and drive into the bar to accelerate it. The best way to describe this is analogous to punching in martial arts. Just as you would try to punch THROUGH your target, try not to squat against the bar but try to drive through the bar.

6) Finish the concentric portion. Either rack the barbell or perform more repetitions.
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Old 07-31-2012, 12:57 AM   #2
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I noticed on the website, they showed a video of him doing squats without a grip- resting on his arms. Is that a old school way of doing it or was there a reason?
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Old 07-31-2012, 05:09 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by WilldBill'88 View Post
I noticed on the website, they showed a video of him doing squats without a grip- resting on his arms. Is that a old school way of doing it or was there a reason?
Pretty sure it was just something that was comfortable for him. Maybe it was just more convenient with the barrels/wheels.

One thing I notice with this method is that it still limits the load by how much you can take out of the rack. I prefer his method of squatting off the pins directly and increasing depth that way.
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Old 07-31-2012, 06:57 AM   #4
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So, this is similar to pausing at the bottom only with a complete deload?
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Old 07-31-2012, 07:52 AM   #5
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I did Anderson squats for a large portion of this year regularly. Very good exercise, I'd say a few things in favour and a few things against.

For:

1) Get's your supporting structures used to more weight at least while standing there statically.
2) Quads and lower back get worked thoroughly

Against:

1) Merely wedging yourself in and squatting up, won't give you the practice in taking weights out of the rack. I was using Anderson Squats by getting under the pins and squatting up. I used weights close to 700lbs, however I would have struggled to walk that out of the rack. So I would definitely prefer people to be walking these out and then squatting down, rather than wedging under the pins first.
2) Once again wedging yourself in and squatting up puts you in danger of strengthening the wrong groove from the bottom up. Another reason you should unrack, walkout and then Squat. Often if you can reach the bottom in a good position you can get up, but if you're messing your groove up with a poorly thought approach you will suffer.

All in all I'm in favour of them, I just think people need to use their noggins a little with the performance and how it's effecting their form on the regular Squat.
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:24 AM   #6
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Default

Possibly, there are other variants of Anderson squats.

The one I had heard was a bit different. Basically, un-rack the weight and do a partial squat where you squat down to a depth such that the barbell touches the pins set at a pre-determined height, and then squat back up - the bar need not REST on the pins in this variant. Now, you start with the pins set pretty high up, but in each session, you progressively set the pins down until you get to the proper squatting depth.

This allows you to take the load off the rack - and use a load that is well above your squat 1RM when you are starting, since with high pins, it is basically a partial squat in the first few sessions. After a few sessions, when you have run down the rack to the desired depth, this weight is basically your new 1RM.

All in all, this one is almost a squat walkout coupled with progressively deeper partials.
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:40 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by kitarpyar View Post
Possibly, there are other variants of Anderson squats.
Yep, there are. The one you describe is a modern variation of what Anderson did, it's more suited to a modern gym setting.

What Anderson actually did was to dig a hole in his garden to the point where he could stand in it and do a very high partial Squat with a lot of weight. When he had mastered that, he would throw in some more soil (thereby increasing the ROM) and master that height. He would continue to do so over weeks 'till he was actually squatting the weight.

At which point, I imagine someone might ask him to stop digging any further holes!
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Old 07-31-2012, 10:12 AM   #8
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Here's my take on Anderson squats and to be honest I agree with fazc, you have to use your head on this one. This is simply a movement to strengthen your main movement. I believe that it should only be used in that capacity. It would be like saying because you can board press 500#that your actual bench is 500#. . . Sorry no sir its not. It's a strengthening tool and should be treated as such.

experimentation is a good idea with this lift, I have used this lift in a variety of positions with different bars.
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Old 07-31-2012, 10:27 AM   #9
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Personally I got much more out of a short period of properly performed Banded Box Squats than I did out of 6 months of Anderson Squats.

When developing strength it's all about strengthening the correct grooves, it's not always important to focus on how to finish the lift BUT RATHER how you set yourself up to allow you to finish.
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Old 07-31-2012, 10:51 AM   #10
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Exactly, once you strengthen those grooves then you will be able to be strong enough to finish. It's like a puzzle that is constantly evolving, so you have to adapt

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