As I clicked submit on the entry form, I remember thinking, "You are so much stronger than you were the last time you walked out a squat; it'll be no sweat."
Spoiler Alert: The next squat session, I was sweating because walking out 605 felt like it was going to be the death of me.
I knew the basics of walking out a squat:
- Take one step to clear the hooks.
- Take another to set your width.
- Max one more to make sure everything is right.
The problem was that nothing felt right.
It had been eight years since I had competed in a walkout meet. In those eight years, I had gotten pretty good at taking full advantage of using a monolift. With a monolift, you don't have to move. The arms swing clear of the squat bar, you can get set perfectly, get everything tight, and be exactly where you need to be to squat before the bar even clears the hooks. Therefore, the monolift removes the disconnect between the initial setup and the lift so you can set up, be exactly where you need to be, then squat.
With a walkout, you have to set up, stand the bar up, step back from the rack, reset, and then squat. There is a lot between that initial setup and the squat, and I underestimated how much trouble it would give me.
If you're reading this and used to walking out your squats, you're probably like, "What the hell is this guy going on about? Walking out isn't a big deal at all."
When I was a 19-year-old kid competing in the Canadian Powerlifting Union, I thought the same thing. I was used to walking out, I was comfortable walking out, and I never had to put any thought into it because it was all I knew. Flash forward eight years, and everything I learned that made me great at using a monoift COMPLETELY screwed me when it came to walking out.
With a monolift, it's about getting everything set before you stand the bar up: Your stance, root, air, brace, upper back, everything. The less that needs to change after you stand the bar up, the better your squat will be. My squat setup was designed to eliminate the need to do anything other than squat once the hooks were pulled. Yet, that strategy bit me when I was the one who needed to clear the hooks.
With a walkout, if I set my brace as I did with a monolift, I would have to lose my brace to step back—it felt like I was going to die. If I set my stance as I did in a monolift, I could hardly step back because my feet weren't under my center of mass—again, it felt like I was going to die. If I held my air in like I did in a monolift, I couldn't rebrace after the walkout, AND I was near passing out—again, it felt like I was going to die.
So, here's what I learned while getting my walkout back:
Embrace the Chaos
Amidst my struggles, I went back and watched some of my old fat kid walkout videos, thinking that there was something I was doing back then that I had forgotten. Maybe there was something that would make the walkout feel less, well, terrible.
Watching the videos, it looked terrifying. It was way worse than any of my recent walkouts. The only difference was that I was OK with the little bit of sketch.
2014 Single Ply
If you're walking out, between standing up the bar and squatting, you will have to take a couple of steps. If you're used to squatting out of a monolift, taking a couple of steps will not feel secure.
Get over it.
Once you get over the fact that it's going to feel sketchy, it suddenly begins to feel less sketchy. You have to step back from the rack, and moving with a heavy bar on your back WILL feel wrong until you get used to it, so allow yourself to get used to it.
Use the Steps to Get Tighter
If I set up before the pick as I did with a monolift, I can't move. Using my monolift setup, I was locked in, set, and ready to squat. But, being locked in is not conducive to stepping out from the rack. To step back, I have to lose all semblance of tightness and brace, which only adds to the sketch.
The first step is learning to pick WITHOUT being totally rooted, so you can take a step without losing all the tension created. With a monolift, I used the weight of the bar to torque into the floor, literally screwing my feet into the ground. It works great when I can just squat; it doesn't work great when I need to move my feet before squatting.
To be able to walk out, lose the root—dropping that torque gave me the freedom to step back, but it was at the expense of tightness that I previously depended on. I had to learn how to get it back.
The second step is learning how to use each step to your advantage; to set into the root, load into that foot, to create torque, and to dig into the floor.
With each step, as I set my foot down, I loaded and torqued into the floor, set my hips, and enhanced my brace. Pretty soon, I learned how to root better with a walkout than I had ever been able to achieve with a monolift.
Earn Your Trust
The thing that will make or break your squat is whether you believe you can squat it.
Re-learning to walk out, I didn't have trust in myself. I did not feel secure. I did not feel strong. I did not feel ready to squat. My trust in my setup limited what I could put on the bar, and I didn't trust myself to be able to handle more.
Trust needs to be earned. You can't expect to have faith in yourself if nothing you have done indicates that you should. If you are learning or re-learning to walk out your squats, allow yourself to build that trust. Not only do you need to learn the skill of walking out, but you need to learn to trust your own skill.
When your third attempt is on the bar, you don't want to wonder if you are tight enough—you need to know that you are. That will only come from showing yourself that you can get there repeatedly until it becomes automatic.
350kg Sleeves Squat at USPA Florida States
Seth Albersworth is a powerlifter with experience in and out of gear. His best totals are 2105 pounds raw and 2408 pounds multi-ply. Seth has completed his bachelor's degree in kinesiology from the University of Calgary and recently graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic's Florida Campus. He's in the process of acquiring licensure as a Doctor of Chiropractic.