Squats, Assistance Lifts, Mobility, & PRs! It’s all in here!

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​Weekly I get hundreds of questions regarding performance, weightlifting, powerlifting, and nutrition, and I try to answer as many as possible. Answering the questions of the Weightlifting Talk listeners and my blog readers is one of my favorite things that I do. It’s a chance to give back to a world that I have devoted most of my life. The willingness to share knowledge is the main characteristic that separates the field of strength and conditioning from all the rest. Two chemists would never share formulas. My partner Jon North on “Weightlifting Talk” has done a great job in forming a family of soldiers that we call “The Attitude Nation”. We all have a common bond of the barbell and all the trials and tribulations that come with it. The daily struggle that comes with the barbell is symbolic of the daily struggles of life. The barbell like life is telling you to quit every day, and it is up to you to say no to the barbell. It is up to you to lift the barbell above your head and slam that sucker in defiance just like life. Life says to get a job behind a desk and be miserable the rest of your life, and you say no way I am going to open a training facility for people to slam bars. Maybe one day you get fired from your job, and you thank your boss because now you are going to go out and get the job that you have been wanting. We call this the “Black Sheep” lifestyle. This means that you don’t follow the herd, or as I would say, “I do what I want.” The “Black Sheep” bond is what probed me to write this blog. I wanted to answer several common questions that I receive, and hopefully I will give you all new ideas that will allow you to say no to the bar. These answers will hopefully allow you to Snatch that bar to overhead, and violently slam that cold piece of steel back to the earth as you hover above in victory.

​Question #1 How often should I squat?

​Answer: The fact that I get asked this question so often makes me love the Nation even more because most people don’t want to squat at all. Once again this is what separates you from the rest of the white sheep world. To answer this you have to ask yourself two questions. How often do I squat now? What is my purpose for squatting? If you squat once per week, then immediately going to five times per week isn’t a good idea. Are you squatting to become a better weightlifter, athlete, powerlifter, or just to keep you in shape? If you are a weightlifter, you need to check your front squat to clean ratio. If you are a weightlifter, and you front squat 20 kilos or higher more than you clean, then focus more on the performance of the clean. If you are the typical weightlifter that front squat 10-20 kilos higher than you clean, then squat a lot. Three days per week is optimal, but remember if you are squatting once per week, go to twice per week for a month or so before making the march to three. There are a lot of programs out there right now like smolov or Hatch, but if you are a rookie, here is a basic eight week program:

Week 1

Mon Back Squats Max 5, then subtract 10% for max reps
Wed Front Squats Max 5, then subtract 10% for max reps
Fri Front Squats Max 2 with 5 second pauses in bottom, then subtract 10% for max reps all with 5 sec pause in bottom.

Week 2

Mon Back Squats max 5, then subtract 10% for 5, then subtract 15% for max attempts
Wed Front Squats max 5, then subtract 10% for 5, then subtract 15% for max attempts
Fri Back Squats max 2 with 5 seconds pause in bottom, then subtract 5% for 2 with 5 sec pause, then subtract 10% for max reps with a 5 sec pause for each

Week 3

Mon Back Squats max 5, then subtract 5% for 5
Wed Front squats max 5, then subtract 5% for 5
Fri Front Squats Max 1, then subtract 20% for 3 reps x 1 set with a 2 sec pause each

Week 4 Deload

Mon Back Squats -10% from your all-time max 5 for 5 reps x 3 sets
Wed Front Squats -10% from your all-time max 5 for 5 reps x 3 sets
Fri Back Squats max 1 with no down sets

Week 5

Mon Back Squats Max 3, then subtract 10% for max reps
Wed Front Squats Max 3, then subtract 10% for max reps
Fri Front Squats Max 2 with 5 second pauses in bottom, then subtract 10% for max reps all with 5 sec pause in bottom.

Week 6

Mon Back Squats max3, then subtract 10% for 3, then subtract 15% for max attempts
Wed Front Squats max 3, then subtract 10% for 3, then subtract 15% for max attempts
Fri Back Squats max 2 with 5 seconds pause in bottom, then subtract 5% for 2 with 5 sec pause, then subtract 10% for max reps with a 5 sec pause for each

Week 7

Mon Back Squats max 3, then subtract 5% for 3
Wed Front squats max 3, then subtract 5% for 3
Fri Front Squats Max 1, then subtract 20% for 3 reps x 1 set with a 2 sec pause each

Week 8 Deload

Mon Back Squats -10% from your all-time max 3 for 3 reps x 3 sets
Wed Front Squats -10% from your all-time max 3 for 3 reps x 3 sets
Fri Back Squats max 1 with no down sets

The key to this program is to track max rep records, max, duration of workout, and all the other variables that you might improve week to week. This is straight linear periodization, and a plan like this has been used for thousands of world records. You as the athlete just have to put in the time, and more importantly the nutrition and sleep.

Question 2 How often should I set a Personal Record?

We are going to call personal records PR’s for short, and this is a complex question. I think with a sound coach and plan that a lifter should expect to set PR’s weekly for the first twelve weeks sometimes longer. Now almost all of what I am about to tell you depends on genetics, nutrition, sleep, recovery, and past injuries, so I am just telling you averages. PR’s are determined in big part to the program. This means that there are times that the volume is so high that the body is left weak. This is totally a desired response because the program is forcing the body to adapt to the unusually high stimulus. All programs are peaked with a tapering where the volume is decreased, and then the body overcompensates causing a surge in strength and energy. The body is like one warrior getting used to fighting three people, and now God takes away two of them and now the warrior only has to fight one guy. That would be easy for the warrior at that point. I’m trying to over simplify this article, so that all of “The Nation” and my “Mash Elite Family” can have an idea of why programs are the way they are. During this two to three week taper period the athlete should expect to have a big surge in PRs. As far as how big of a PR well that depends on how long that you have been training, and how well your training cycle has gone. 5-10 kilos per training cycle is the goal range, but if you are Donnie Shankle or Jon North, the plan changes. Those guys are hoping for any PR, and to at least hit their max in both lifts at the competition. For example Jon has hit 166k in the Snatch and 195k in the Clean & Jerk, but he has never hit both in competition. If he just hits his best in the same competition, then that is a big PR.

All of this is just parameters because sometimes lifters hit PRs the whole training cycle because their bodies are primed for a surge forward. James Tatum of Muscle Driver USA was hitting PRs almost weekly earlier this year, and went from a barely ranked lifter to a Pan American Team Member. Of course Glenn Pendlay’s programming is awesome, but it was just James’s time to shine. His body was simply ready for a jump. I hope that this helps, but I will say one more thing. If you have only been lifting for two years or less, and you have gone twelve weeks without a PR, I recommend changing the program. Make notes of what works! If higher squat volume works, then squat more. If it doesn’t, then don’t.

​Question 3 What assistance lifts should I do?

​Answer: It all depends on what you need work on, and what body parts are lagging. Now I believe like Gray Cook that the best way to strengthen a movement pattern is to perform the pattern. This means that if you can’t Snatch well, then Snatch more. There are assistance exercises that mimic the lifts that are great for improving the movement like Angel Drops, Hit and Catch, and Tigger Squats. I have placed a link for all three below. If you have trouble catching the Clean in a good position, work on Cleans off the High Box and Front Squat a lot. In Powerlifting if you have trouble staying upright in the squat, perform more Zercher Squats and Goodmornings. Both of these exercises will strengthen the core both anteriorly and posteriorly. Once again I have placed a video of these two exercises.

Videos:

Angel Drops http://youtu.be/12dDRJETSD0

Hit & Catch http://youtu.be/zV532Bpc8XU

Tigger Squats http://youtu.be/IEh1e32KGy8

Zercher Squats http://youtu.be/U2OKweR-N-g

Goodmornings http://www.catalystathletics.com/exercises/exercise.php?exerciseID=183

​Exercises that are good for hamstrings are RDLS, Reverse Hypers, and Glute Ham Raises. Exercises that are good for quads are Back Squats, Front Squats, and Zercher Squats, but all work them in a slightly different way. The key is having a coach that is aware and familiar with anatomy that can point out weaknesses that need work. Weaknesses are great to find because now you have something to target that will help increase overall strength. My prescription for assistance exercises is as follows: stick as close to the main lifts as possible. Assistance exercises that don’t resemble the lifts that you perform should be minimized and chosen to strengthen a diagnosed weakness.

​Question 4 Mobility?

​Answer: There are four different mobility issues that are common among weightlifters, powerlifters, and all athletes alike: ankle, hip, shoulders, and T-Spine. I have made four videos with simple solutions to address each of these. If you want to learn how to diagnose certain movement pattern discrepancies, I recommend the book Movement by Gray Cook. Below are the videos:

hip mobility http://youtu.be/k2jWD5A7cbs

shoulder mobility for racking a clean http://youtu.be/vT-6XYd70oc

OH Mobility http://youtu.be/yF0rDVvdLLU

Ankle Mobility. http://youtu.be/Z3m8xRVOTDk

I hope this article has helped answer some of your questions. We have a lot of seminars coming up the rest of the year. If you get the chance, come check us out. I’ll elaborate even more at my Level I “Learn 2 Lift” Seminars!

FREE Training for Wariors Seminar
September 21, 2013
Introducing Mash Elite’s newest program: Training for Warriors! This program will teach you all the essentials of fitness, covering all aspects including strength, flexibility, endurance, and much more. Join us and take the first step toward the fitness lifestyle you’ve always wanted!
Advance, NC

Learn to Lift Level 1 Lamour Training Systems
October 26, 2013
Mash Elite’s Learn to Lift seminar will be a one day experience for beginning weightlifters, athletes, CrossFitters, or anyone who just wants to get jacked! The seminar will focus on the lifts of weightlifting (snatch, clean & jerk, & progressions).
Greensboro, NC.
Learn more

Learn to Lift Level 1 Wilkesboro CrossFit
November 9, 2013
MashElite’s Learn to Lift seminar will be a one day experience for beginning weightlifters, athletes, CrossFitters, or anyone who just wants to get jacked! The seminar will focus on the lifts of Weightlifting (Snatch, Clean & Jerk, & Progressions).
Wilkesboro, NC.

Learn to Lift Level 1 at Gaglione Strength
November 23, 2013
Mash Elite’s Learn to Lift seminar will be a one day experience for beginning weightlifters, athletes, CrossFitters, or anyone who just wants to get jacked! The seminar will focus on the lifts of weightlifting (snatch, clean & jerk, & progressions).
Farmingdale, NY.

To learn more go to: http://www.masheliteperformance.com/#!news/cuc

To sign up go to: http://www.masheliteperformance.com/#!store/crf1

We also offer online training and programming. If you are interested, email me at:

http://www.masheliteperformance.com/#!store/crf1

For more information about Mash Elite Performance go to:

www.MashElitePerformance.com

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