Squat The Key Lift
The squat has been labeled a monster by the Journal of American Medical Association (Aug. 1961) and by Prof. Karl Klein of the University of Texas in Sports Illustrated (March 12, 1962). Coaches across the country, who once used squats as a conditioner, now shun it with alarm. I offer myself as proof that the squat is a valuable exercise, and is not harmful if properly done. You never send a baseball pitcher out in the spring to throw full game the first day. He works hard doing pushups, lifting dumbells, running, chinning and throwing for hours at half speed before he is ready to toss a high, hard one. The same applies to the squat.
During the summer months I spend most of my evenings crouched behind the plate as a baseball umpire. My position ranges from full squat to half squat. In an average nine-inning game, I’ll crouch no less than 300 times, and often will make quick movements from that position. Working a two-man system means the plate umpire is continually running. A man’s legs must be both strong and flexible to withstand 100 to 150 games a summer, most of them behind the plate.
I received a badly damaged knee in high school some 14 years ago. Though the knee hurt considerably no one checked it. Today, when I grow lazy and do not work with the weights the knee still troubles me. Only by squatting and running am I able to hold up an entire summer on the ball field.
Since squatting is both fun and helpful, I’ve made it my pet lift. My immediate goal is a 600-lb. squat by this coming August. Last August my personal best was 410. Here’s one man’s method of progressive training to keep the legs and knees in condition and make a name for yourself to boot.
To get the muscles loose and the blood flowing, walk or run three miles. The run need only be a slow run and the walk should be a heel-and-toe walk. I prefer the latter. When I don’t run or walk, I try to box 3 to 6 rounds before working out. In case I do none of the three, I start the workout with a set of abdominal raises on an inclined board without touching back or shoulders to the board. Usually 30 reps are sufficient.
Then I take 275 and do half-squats (parallel), then full squats, little rest between warmup sets. Next I take 315 and do 10 reps in the normal squat. This is with feet as wide apart as the shoulders and toes pointed straight ahead or slightly pigeon-toed. Heels are flat on the floor and often squats are done barefooted. I never use a heel board.
After these 10 reps I take 365 and do five reps in the half-squat from the bottom. This means coming only halfway up, then returning to the full squat position. Using the same weight I often try (often without success) to do five reps in the breathless squat. When the full squat position is reached, it is held and all the breath is exhaled. Then return to normal standing position. (A paused full squat with bottom exhalation and return to top on empty lungs.)
Move the weight then to 415 and do three reps in the double squat. Go down full, but return only halfway to standing. Then go full again and stand all the way. Do this three times. Jump to 450 and see how many times you can execute a double squat. Jump to 470 and do as many reps in the normal squat as possible. I try a maximum squat once every two weeks.
Now comes the top end. Go 50 pounds more than your maximum and do two sets of half-squats or lower with that weight. Move to 600 and do the same, then to 650 and do the same, maybe making only quarter-squats here. Jump to 750, 800, 850, 900, doing quarter-squats, as many as possible.
Go next to the hack lift. Warm up with 455, doing five reps. Jump to 500 and try to get 10 reps. Go next to 550 and try to make 4 reps. Single rep at 600, if possible.
This should be, and is, a long, hard workout. But it has allowed me to jump from 410 to 505 in five months of working out on an irregular schedule. Start with weights you can handle accordingly. Be your own boss. Let your ability determine what weight you should use and don’t get in too big a hurry. Big mistake. You must be progressive in your training, just like a baseball pitcher. Work three times a week for best results.
I’ve set the following goals for myself by August:
600 squat / 700 hack / 500 Zercher / 425 one-handed deadlift.
It will be interesting to see if this routine will make it. Also, to see if my knees collapse.
by Bill Clark (1962)