Brandon Cass — Record-Breaking Squat Strategies

TAGS: high bar position, low bar position, bar placement, squat frequency, training PR, squat strategies, Master's all time squat, Brandon Cass, leg press, World Record Squat, Josh Bryant

COACH

In the last year, Brandon Cass has beat cancer while simultaneously breaking the all-time master’s raw squat record at 220, with 740 pounds weighing 218. Since then, Brandon has bested his 740 to 770 in training and will soon devour 800.

The following five strategies helped Brandon take his squat to the next level.

Decrease Squat Frequency

#Squateveryday might be an amusing hashtag on Instagram, but for the battle-hardened powerlifting veteran in his third decade of competing, this ain’t going cut it! And it would very likely lead to overtraining and injury. Sure, squatting is a skill and a distinct movement pattern, but at this stage in the game, Brandon’s training is an equation of building brute strength and recovery.

Application Point

When it comes to squat frequency, find what works for you and keep in mind that more is not necessarily better. The minimum frequency that will maximize results is optimal. Since decreasing Brandon from squatting twice a week to once, his squat has increased. Older and injury-prone lifters especially take note.

Decrease Volume

While a one-size-fits-all squat frequency recommendation would be as welcome as a mariachi band on the morning after a bender in Ciudad Juarez, we can all agree that there is an inverse relationship between volume and intensity. Brandon squats very heavy once a week. A “high-volume” day might be three singles. We have cut out compensatory acceleration sets after Brandon’s heavy sets; this is something I am known for in programming, but Brandon’s squat is going up! As a coach, my priority is his results, not self-righteously sticking to “my way.” Results are MY WAY!

Application Point

I love high-volume training, but aging lifters and those with a history of injuries sometimes feel and perform better with less volume. The goal is to lift the most weight on the platform, so volume is a means to an end — that’s it. Less is better if the results are the same.

Bar Placement

Like the old country song says, “You've gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” A low bar position was not working because of past shoulder injuries and it also just didn’t feel right; Brandon has committed to a high bar position, and with intentional focus he is now the Zen Master of bar placement. Every set and rep, regardless of weight, is the exact same high bar position. 

Application Point

When I do seminars, alignment is often something on every lift I immediately correct. Strong people often haphazardly just get under the bar; once you find the right spot, stick to it!


MORE: Matt Sohmer — Squat and Deadlift World-Record Strategies


Leg Press

Some consider the leg press the gateway exercise to poodle-dickery; Ed Coan used it and he is the best powerlifter of all-time. Ed mentored me, and one exercise he introduced me to was the one-legged version of the leg press. This was huge for Brandon because his back is so strong! Brandon is one of the best deadlifters of all-time.

Application Point

The leg press does not transfer one-to-one to the squat, but a squatter with forward lean using a lot of back can benefit from direct thigh work. The unilateral, full range of motion version of the leg press fits the bill and does not require the thousands of pounds the “burnt out” former 80s bodybuilder uses for partial reps as he fades away in the limbo (AKA the local commercial gym).

Descent

You've gotta commit to the descent. Too often lifters descend quickly with light weights then majorly slow when things get heavy. Brandon has increased his descent speed; this allows him to take advantage of the increased elastic-like energy that propels him out of the hole.

Application Point

Different squatters have done well with different descent speeds. Find what works for you, stick with it, and master the motor pattern!

Final Thoughts

Besides being one of the most courageous human beings on the planet, Brandon runs a very successful personal training business in Blue Springs, Missouri. Brandon has never missed a workout in the five and a half years we have worked together. I am lucky to consider Brandon Cass one of my closest friends.

These strategies worked for Brandon; find what works for you and discard the rest.

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