How to Increase Your Squat and Deadlift and Do Less Work in the Process!

TAGS: bench, deadlift, squat, powerlifting, Elitefts Info Pages, bench press

While sitting in the warm-up room at the WPC World Championships in Lake George, New York, I reflected on the three squat attempts that I had just completed in bewilderment. I had just bombed out my third time in the last four meets and had hurt myself during the warm ups. I was discouraged and confused as I tried to understand why I was losing my balance. My knees were coming forward too much, and my hips always hurt. As a result, I was struggling to get deep enough on every attempt.

Later that day, after viewing a video of my attempts, I realized that my stance was noticeably closer, and I seemed to have a twisting motion on my descent. I knew that I was bigger and stronger than ever before, yet I hurt worse and felt uncomfortable. I had trained the same way for all of the four years that I had competed. My attitude had always been to continually increase volume, and I pushed myself harder and harder in my workouts right up to meet day. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. Over the last few years, people who have gotten to know my training principles have shared their thoughts with me. I’ve been told that I just plain overtrain and that I would get better if I did less and in strength waves.

I told myself it was time for a change. I decided to address my weak points and concentrate on finding my groove again. I couldn’t decide what equipment I wanted to train with over the next ten weeks. Therefore, I trained totally raw. I didn’t even use a belt for a while. I dropped my box to thirteen inches and went with boots. They were more comfortable. My hips hurt if I went wide on my stance. I also trained with heavy bands—two blue bands, a green, and a purple tension—up to two RM for four weeks. Then I decided to seek out help in developing a better program.

I was reading so much contradicting information, and I wasn’t sure who to talk to. I wanted to learn and incorporate kettlebells and had read about Marc Bartley. I knew he was in South Carolina, which is only four hours from my home. I decided to go there and learn kettlebells. In doing so, he talked to me and seemed to understand my struggles in powerlifting. He offered to help me, and I gladly accepted.

It was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I followed his program to the letter. It was so much different than what I was used to and such a different approach. It felt as though I should have done more. However, I was determined not to deviate. I also made a decision to continue and finish totally raw to see what I could accomplish. My goal was to walk the weight out from the racks for no other reason than to just see if I could do it.

Mark put me on an eight-week program with a deload week after three heavy weeks. I found this strange, and my heaviest lift was four weeks prior to the contest. I thought it was crazy, yet I’m a believer in his theory and application of strength principles now.

He had me stop the band work because I was already five weeks into them. I used to only do bands to different degrees until contest time so to stop them after only five weeks felt weird. I went with squatting with chains even though I backed the weight out. I did five sets of three, increasing each week for three weeks. Then in the last set of the third week, I did an all out double with chains. This was followed by a deload week, which was extra sled (Prowler) training (hack squats, etc.).

After the deload week, I came back to hit a workout set of five reps. I then did three sets of three each, going up in the percentage of weight and then back to the five rep set. The last two weeks were deload weeks. The first week was 60 percent of my max for five sets of three without a belt, and the second week was 50 percent of one RM for five sets of three without a belt. This was the max effort day. During this time, I rack pulled for three weeks up to a three RM on eight inches of height. Then I went to the floor for a three RM on three inches. The next week I did a two RM on two inches. Marc had me stop doing heavy five RM good mornings and kettlebells three weeks out, but he had me continue using the reverse hypers, finishing with core work of the grappler and abs.

The speed pull day consisted of 60 percent for six sets of three off the floor with no belt on until one week before the contest. My assistance was kettlebells, heavy back work, and hack squats. To my arguments, Marc suggested that I cut down on the assistance work two weeks out.

The results were an 840-lb squat, which I backed out of the rack and a 700-lb pull. Both totally raw!!! I benched 535 lbs, but the bench routine is another article. I totaled 2,075 lbs at 305 lbs. My previous best deadlift was only 722 lbs and that was with briefs and a max Inzer deadlift suit. I feel that I have improved quite a bit. I knew when I started this program that I would struggle to back out properly because of weakness and fear from a very bad accident to both my quads and knees four and a half years ago. I did struggle backing out of the racks with 800 lbs and didn’t go deep enough. However, in the monolift, I could do it. Therefore, the 840-lb squat and how I performed it was a big improvement. I’m not trying to argue the impressiveness or credibility of these lifts. I’m only trying to show the improvement that I had in only seven weeks with applied knowledge.

I agreed to write this because in the years that I’ve known Marc, he has been overly helpful and supportive. I consider him a friend and am fortunate to have him helping me in my powerlifting career. My hope is that this article motivates someone who reads it to sincerely apply Marc’s principles in the squat. You will get stronger without a doubt.

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