So Why Do You Do It?
In speaking with a competitive powerlifter of some fame, he made the statement, "I don't understand how the people you train, especially your boys, can squat so much weight for high reps. Its hard to believe and I guess that a lot of guys don't believe that he (referring to Gregory) did more than 500 for the reps he did. I saw him do it when he trained in the gym but you know, its just hard to believe it when you don't see it." Its a matter of perspective and most trainees do not have the proper perspective.
Let me elaborate. Most powerlifters never squat any weight for more than five reps or three reps in the majority of their training time. They may have a "high rep" period where they squat for ten reps or more, but this will be done on an extremely infrequent basis, perhaps an "off-season conditioner" done for a few weeks at most, once a year. If you squat 500x3, 600x3 and a 750 single, this is your "perspective" on squatting.
The lifter could have squatted the 500 for 10, 15, 20 or more reps, but never did, never wants to, and never will. That particular perspective makes it quite understandable that one can squat 750x1, a feat that literally boggles the mind of not only the general public but day to day gym lifters, but is very well accepted as "normal" by the competitive lifting group.
Sol began training when he was approximately twelve years of age. In accordance with my philosophy of not using "heavy" weights or low reps with young trainees, he began to squat within the first month of training and always did 15, 20, or 30 reps sets of squats. Sol is now 19 years of age and as I write this, has another week remaining in his freshman year of college. He finds it difficult, with adapting to his heavy load of study and classes, his on campus radio show, and all of the other activities college presents, to remain as motivated to train hard while at school as he does when he is home for vacations and the summer.
Despite working for the Town Of Hempstead Department Of Sanitation as a garbageman, a hard, hot, physical job, Sol, when he is home, will train twice per week and train hard. He will squat fifteen to twenty reps each and every workout. He "maintains" his squat and overall condition while at college, by completing a set of 10, 15, or 20 reps at least once per week, every single week of the school year with approximately 210-225 pounds. When he is home this summer, he will "jack that up" quite a bit and push significantly heavier weights.
Gregory began training at 13 years of age. He is presently 26-years old and while he trains as consistently as his position as a coach in the National Football League allows, it is not as consistent as he or I would like. However, he has a wonderful gym in his garage and the first thing I bought him was a power rack and his own York set. Thus, for 13 years, through high school football and a productive, award-winning collegiate career where his weight, at 5-foot-8 ranged from 235-272, Greg has squatted for 15, 20, or 30 reps once or twice per week, every week, for 13 consecutive years without ever not doing this. Greg had a friend in high school by the name of Keith.
Keith was a tough, hard nosed kid and both he and Greg were considered to be very much from "the wrong side of the tracks." Keith worked hard at a number of after school and weekend jobs, especially one in a deli which at least allowed him to eat a lot. Keith would come over to train with Greg on occasion and despite being a tough, mature kid for his age, would always be visibly nervous. I can recall as clearly as if it were yesterday, Keith pacing back and forth, breathing heavily, before beginning our workout, one that of course would include high rep squats.
He looked at Greg who had just tied his sneaker laces and was sitting quietly and breathing evenly, and said, "How can you just sit there knowing what's about to happen and how hard these squats are going to be?" Greg looked up and said "Hey, this is what we do in this house. This is what we always do, what's the big deal?" Please, read that again. "This is what we always do ..."
Kevin began training when he was twelve years of age. He "peaked" physically at 268 pounds but spent most of his "big days" time at 248. Those who saw him have not forgotten just how much photos did not do him justice. From the time Kevin was twelve, he squatted 15, 20, or 30 reps in the squat once or twice per week, every week. When he was in the Navy, he lifted in a hold that was perhaps ten by ten and would squat while the ship, the USS Independence, listed from one side to the other. He would stand, wait for the ship to "hit center," squat and come up, wait in the "up" position while the ship listed to one side, do another squat while it centered, and completed all of his reps that way. He never missed a workout, even while on active combat alert. Every year for almost 20 years, he squatted for high reps, once or twice per week, and did so, like Greg and Sol, "all out." It wasn't a "big thing," it was what we did.
Does it make sense to the reader that if this is what you did, if this was the centerpiece of your workouts once and twice per week, every single week for ten, 12, or 15 years, that 50-to-90 times per year you were going to go to absolute muscular failure/fatigue for 15, 20, or 30 reps in the full barbell squat, that after ten or 12-or-15 years, it would be very acceptable that guys who weighed 240-250 pounds or more, of extreme muscular development, would in fact be able to squat 500-600 pounds for 20-to-30 reps? That makes a lot of sense to me.
What's The Big Deal?
When I completed 400 x 20 at 44-years of age and 160 pounds or so, someone said to me, a non lifter who has known me since I was 15-years old, "So what's the big deal? Its not as if you haven't done that when you were younger and its not as if you haven't had enough practice at it. You've been doing that kind of thing you've been doing for what, 30 years or more?" Yeah, it was and doesn't that make sense? If this is what I do, if this is what I've done, if this is what I have always done once or twice per week for the majority of my training time, 50-to-80 times or more every year for perhaps at that point in time, thirty one years, I should have been disappointed if I couldn't have done it.
If Kaz or Coan or Kirowski or any of the world's top Olympic lifters (and let me interject that Randy Strossen has said to me many times that it is awfully difficult for him to get excited about some guy who weighs 275 pounds squatting a single rep, wrapped like a mummy, and going down to perhaps three quarters of the distance a world class Olympic lifter descends to, with 800 pounds, when the Olympic lifters he sees around the world at 250 pounds are squatting more than 700 for reps with no belt, no wraps, no suits, no spotters and going until their butts are actually contacting their calves and doing it for multiple sets, multiple times per week) focused on squatting 20 rep sets of squats and did so for the span of their careers as lifters, you don't think that they would squat 600, 700, 800 x 20?
Kaz could have done anything he wanted to. I have no doubt that if his training were geared to it, he could have squatted 1000 x 20! That just wasn't his perspective. So get some appropriate perspective, especially in the squat. Stop talking yourself out of doing it, out of suffering with it because the reps will make you suffer.
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Dr. Ken E. Leistner,