To get yourself out of “the hole”, you first have to get yourself in there…

I recommended deep squats with a wide stance because it’s a natural position to squat from, it allows you to engage more muscle, it gives you a larger range of movement and it gives you some breathing space if you’re a little inflexible. I’m talking about going as low as you can, without compromising ANY form, whatsoever.

However, in order to engage all of that muscle and get yourself stronger in that full range of motion, you have to have the confidence to squat that low, knowing full well that you might get stuck at the bottom. Yesterday in the Day 3 session, I had a mini-meltdown mid-set and handed over my testicles to the nearest florist. I did, however, snatch them back immediately and receive a beautiful bouquet in the process.

The session yesterday was a little different from the others. It was a 5×4, followed by a 3×1, then an 8×1. This means the usual graduation of 5 reps over 4 sets, increasing weight gradually before performing a single 3 rep set, then an 8 rep set at 75% weight of the 3 rep set. Read that again, you are probably lost in a world of 3’s, 5’s and 8’s. The programme is organised in such a way that on the last session of every week, you perform a 3 rep set at the weight which will be lifted in your final 5-rep set in the first session the following week. It’s a pretty solid way of doing things as the load allows you to get used to shifting that weight so that you don’t freak out next session when it’s sitting on your back. Without that 3-rep set, even from a neurological stand-point, you would perform less admirably the following Monday. It gives you confidence for the next session and teaches your body that the weight is manageable.

You don’t reap the benefits of the last session of the week if you shit yourself. Not in the literal sense (though that would hamper performance also) but in the fearful sense. In this session, I hammered through the first four sets with complete ease as I was well prepared – fed, watered, warmed and awake. Then it came to set number 5, the 3 rep set. Considering I maxed out at 140, shifting 122.5 should have been a doddle, but instead, I got the fear and nailed out 3 very shallow, very shakey reps. For a second I stood back and thought “I guess that’ll do”…but then I thought again…I had squatted this weight 3 times with improper form, with barely any successful range of movement and without truly achieving anything. I paced forward then paced back, focused ahead, stepped under the bar and hammered out 3 solid, deep, well-balanced reps then put the weight back in its place.

The lack of confidence simply stops there. It is dead, I have killed it. The fear came from uncertainty. Due to the knee issues I’d had when maxing and doing my sets earlier in the week, I was unsure if I’d be able to pull it off, wondering if things would buckle or if I’d get stuck at the bottom. When this fear comes to you, remember this – no one gives a shit if you cannot squat the weight on your back except yourself. Next time you’re squatting, take a weight that is beyond your squatting potential and rest it, heavy, upon your shoulders. Squat down as low as you can, with solid form, and then try to shift it upwards…notice that you cannot? Now, shrug the weight off and let the squat rack catch it with its’ safety bars. Stand-up and look around. Is everyone in the gym staring? Are they mocking you? Are they chanting “coward” at you? No. In fact you’ll notice, frankly, everyone is too busy doing bicep curls and looking at themselves in the mirror.**

Now, don’t be afraid next time you think you might get stuck at the bottom. If you panic and can’t shift it, no one will notice, you are not labelled an idiot and you can train all you like without your macho self-image getting in the way of your progress.

The whole session followed the same set/rep order as the squat, with bench press and bent-over rows, both of which are much easier than squatting, purely from a mental stand point – you don’t feel as though you’d die if the shit hit the fan.

** All of this is null if your squat rack does not have safety bars. If it does not have safety bars, you are training at Globo-gym and probably shave your under arms. Of course, loud noises turn heads, but rest assured, they don’t care about you missing a squat, they just want to know if they’re about to be shot by revolver totting whackjob. (so they can flex, one last time)

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Ross is currently suffering an issue a lot of lifters come across when they first start shifting heavy loads…a very sharp low abdominal pain in his left side. It can happen with either left or right. The general concensus is that this is a warning sign for a hernia and I agree wholeheartedly. As such, Ross will be squatting lighter next week with some additional abdominal exercises to strengthen up his abdominal wall. This may not happen at all, as often this same problem is down to wearing shorts with some kind of irritating band in the lining…perhaps a wardrobe change will alleviate his “hernia”.

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From our Day 3 session, take the following:

– For the love of God, squat lower (if your flexibility can handle it) *
– It does NOT matter if you get stuck at the bottom, the point is that you get there and make your best effort (technically and intensely) to shift the load.
– No safety bars? Change gyms.
– Though I didn’t mention this in the above post, when you’re squatting, always make a conscious effort to keep the weight constantly on your heels. Helps with balance and makes sure your power is coming from the right places. Imagine that you’re not trying to push the weight off the ground, but rather trying to push your heels through the floor. Keep your back straight, eyes ahead, shoulders back.
– Do not, under any circumstances, shave your underarms.

*Hip flexibility can hamper your squat depth majorly – try cook or goblet squats to open up your hips.

Cook Squat – Courtesy of MMA coach Paul McVeigh who will be successfully defending his CWFC Bantamweight title tonight!

Goblet Squat – Can be done with a kettle bell, a microwave, a football, a pair of socks…or nothing.

 

 

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