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Squat Every Day Variations to Peak
Our team just had the best National performance of its existence. There are a few things that we did differently that might have contributed to the success. I am going to go over them in the coming weeks to help all of you with your own ideas. One thing that we changed was the way that we peaked in terms of our squats. Most of you know that I am an advocate for high frequency squatting. That doesn’t mean we work up to a heavy squat single every day especially when we are peaking for a weightlifting meet.
The last 4-6 weeks before a meet is all about peaking for competition in the Snatch and Clean & Jerk. All the work prior to this phase was designed to get the athlete stronger in movements like the squat. During the competition phase, the squat work is designed to keep their legs strong and fresh. There are a few ways that manage to do that. Here are a few:
• Velocity focus
• Accommodating Resistance
• Volume or Repetition Method on Saturday
• Recovery Squats
• Front Squat Max Effort
As you can see I try to spread the love with all the different methods. The key was placement of all the different methods to maximize the intended effect of the competition movements. This is the first time that used the velocity focus, but it worked really well. I chose to place velocity/dynamic effort squats on the heavy squat day closest to the athlete’s max effort snatch and clean & jerk day. By heavy I mean that I only program three to four days of squats with moderate volume during the competition phase. The other squats are mainly recovery squats that I will talk about more a little later.
With velocity squats the main focus was moving the bar as fast as possible. The goal is to move the bar somewhere around .8m/s. Obviously Louie Simmons has been talking about this forever, but I am starting to understand the application more as a coach. My friend Coach Spencer Arnold has done research over the last year to make velocity based training more applicable to the sport of Olympic weightlifting, so right now he is my go to guy for understanding the process even more. Spencer is using a velocity focus for almost his entire program, and I will say that it’s the most intriguing thing that has come along in several years for me. I am not just talking about dynamic effort squats. Hopefully Spencer will release it to all of you in the coming months.
I use the velocity squats to fire the legs. In simple terms it’s a way to squat without the focus necessarily being about the load. Obviously I want the load somewhere around 80% to insight a response, but I don’t want the joints destroyed. When you are peaking for a meet, the joints are already taking a beating from the heavy Olympic lifts. We use bands and chains to accommodate resistance, which takes some of the stress off the joints as well. That brings me to the next point.
Accommodating Resistance is something that I have talked about in the past. We used it this time for three reasons:
1. Take stress of the joints in the most extreme range of motion for the squat. Obviously as you squat lower the chains or bands deload, so when you are in the hole, the total weight is lessened.
2. Keep the Load at or around 75-85%. If your goal is to keep the legs strong, you have to have a minimal load to insight a response.
3. Keep the focus on velocity. Bands do a great job because they actually pull the lifter down faster during the descent causing a more explosive stretch reflex and a faster ascent.
We still kept the volume somewhat high on at least one day per week. For us that day is normally Saturday because we take Sunday off. That gives us a day of rest before going back to the grind on Mondays. The volume is to keep the hypertrophy that the athletes worked so hard for up to this point. Legs are like any other body part because you either use them or lose them. On this day I am looking for an average intensity of around 85% with 15-20 total repetitions.
Recovery squats are the way that we keep the volume up on squats. Some days we are working up to a heavy squat single paused 3-7 seconds in the bottom with an 8 RPE. This isn’t a heavy movement at all. It’s designed to help the legs recover while aiding proper movement and mobility. These types of squats are designed to make the joints feel and perform better.
During this phase, we use front squats for any max effort work. The reason is that front squats are more specific to the sport and they are naturally performed with a lesser load. Most people front squat about 10% less than they back squat, which takes the load off the joints. The athlete is still teaching the body to grind through heavy loads without as much joint damage.
These small changes really helped us focus more on the competition movements during the peaking phase. Hopefully you can figure a way to implement these methods of squatting into your own program. I have to admit that a lot of this has come by trial and error due to a lack of research, but the results of the competition never lie. These methods might be improved over time, but in general they will be staying around and showing up in our program from now on.
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