Louie Simmons: How to Do the Squat

July 16, 2008

By: Louie Simmons
How to Do the Squat
What is good squat form?
What does it take to develop a great squat? First you must develop the hips, hamstrings, spinal erectors, glutes, and abs. Without a strong posterior chain (the muscles on the back of the body), you will not sit back into the proper squat position. That’s right. Sit back, never down. If the knees go forward in the yielding phase, they could hit the floor and the hips still would be above parallel. I talk to strength coaches from major universities on how to squat. I tell them that we have 24 guys who have squatted over 800 and six over 900 by box squatting with a wide stance. Many times these coaches will reply, I like Olympic squatting. One reason I guess is that Olympic squatting is what they were brought up on. But why do powerlifters use a wider stance? Because you use more muscle, and isn’t that what we’re after on the sports field? Only a wrestler would find himself in the weakest joint angles of an Olympic squat. That’s probably why there are no old, great Olympic lifters. Their joints are gone. When a prominent pro basketball coach said that Olympic squats were the best for his players and that a two-times bodyweight squat was all an athlete needs, I realized that a weak coach can only produce weak players. This coach and many like him must have a huge library and a very small weight room. Take Ben Johnson, for example. He squatted 620 at about 200 pounds. That’s three times bodyweight! Football players’ careers are being shortened not by the competition but by the fact that they are too frail compared to 10 years ago. I saw Brett Favre come out of the locker room and squat cold with the linemen using the same weight. That’s like having five quarterbacks protecting your quarterback, and that’s bull. Let’s get to squat technique, starting with the feet. They should be pointed straight forward. This forces the hip muscles into play. It is much harder to break parallel because the hip extensors and flexors are put in a very strong position for flexion. Turn the feet outward slightly if you are not flexible or if you are very thick in the waist and upper thighs. If you see someone who walks with their feet turned outward, they have weak hamstrings. As far as shoes go, Converse Chuck Taylor’s are best. Don’t have $100 shoes and a 10-cent squat. When squatting, think about pushing your feet out, not down. This will ensure that the hip muscles are working correctly. Push your knees out the entire time, starting from when you are unracking the bar. You should feel this in the hips. Next, start pushing the glutes to the rear as thought you are searching for a hair that is too far behind you. Arch the lower back and keep the chest up. Lean forwards as much as necessary to keep the bar over your center of gravity. To ensure correct bar placement, raise the chest and pull the shoulder blades together, to place the bar back as far as possible. This creates better leverage. However, if one carries the bar too low, it causes the lifter to bend forward, destroying leverage. What stance should you use? Everyone should box squat with a wide stance, because this builds the all-important hip muscles. Thirty years ago, the great Jim Williams said to train as wide as possible and pull your stance in, to a point, to break parallel at meet time. If you watch a great squat technician, you will notice that he bends only at the hips, the knees don’t go forward, and his back does not move. While descending in the squat, never squat down. Always squat back! If you push the glutes back, the knees will not go forward. In fact, if you sit back far enough, the shins will be past vertical. This is only possible with box squatting. And it’s important because this causes a great stretch reflex. Also, by forcing your knees apart, you are significantly increasing your leverage, by shortening the distance between the hip and the knee joint. If you pull your knees together, you increase this distance and create poor leverage. In addition, this is a sign of weak hip muscles. After breaking parallel, you must first push against the bar. After all, the bar is what we are trying to raise. Unfortunately, you see many lifters who push with their feet first. This causes you to bend forward Into a good morning position, which is opposite of what you are trying to achieve, in addition to being dangerous. When your back bends, you are likely to miss a squat or get injured. Most people think of squatting as a multi-joint muscular action. I see it as flexion of the spinal erectors and hip flexors and slight flexion of the knees. It’s much like trying to jump onto a high box; you flex as much as possible in the beginning and hope you make it. Others push gradually through the lift; just enough to accommodate the external force that is being applied. As far as equipment, in a meet, wrap the knees toward the inside. This means wrap one clockwise and the other counterclockwise. This helps to stabilize them. Wear a suit that allows the knees to be forced outward ad the glutes to be pushed out to the rear. Don’t wear straps that are too tight. This will cause you to bend over. In training wear a suit with the straps down and a belt. This will help the technical aspects of squatting. When someone must wear full gear for 3-4 weeks before a meet, their technical skill is low. To summarize, build the posterior chain: calves, hams, glutes, lower and upper back. Strong abs are a must. They are what you lean on to descend and push off of to ascend. Out of our top 100 squat-ters, four use an upright back position. That means that 96% lean forward, with – of course – a great arch. While descending, the glutes move first and the head and bar move last. So, in the concentric phase, the opposite happens. You must push against the bar first. One workout per week must be devoted to speed (box squatting) and one for maximal effort, with a variety of core exercises such as good mornings and squatting with special bars that change your center of gravity. To all strength coaches: the next time you have your athletes do Olympic squats, ask yourself why. The joint angles are not advantageous for the stretch reflex. If a lineman were to use that position on the field, he would easily be pushed backward. The Olympic lifts require flexibility. There are many drills better suited to increase flexibility. Everyone thinks the Olympic lifts are so quick. While your cleans at 60% look fast, so do our box squats at 60%. The athlete who can power clean 400 uses 240(60%). The lifter who can squat 800 uses 480 (60%). Who do you really think would be faster and stronger? Compared to a powerlifter, an Olympic lifter can’t squat with the Sunday paper. A kid that can hang clean 400 would look frail to an 800 squatter. And don’t forget, in Olympic lifting, as the bar is raising, the lifter is lowering himself, making it appear that they are moving the bar at great speed. Olympic lifting is the biggest bust in the United States. We have not placed a single lifter on the “A” list, yet strength coaches still advocate the Olympic lifts.



Powerlifting For Beginners: An Intro

June 27, 2008

Powerlifting For Beginners

What is Powerlifting?
Powerlifting is a mix of 3 lifts; the squat, the benchpress & the squat. The object of Powerlifting is to lift as much as you can for 1 rep in each of these lifts. Contests are held and a lifter has 3 chances to lift as much as possible.

How is it different from Bodybuilding?
Bodybuilding is completely subjective and the training style is completely different. Powerlifting has very little subjectivity to it. Most of the time judges will give the same type of calls to everyone in the meet. Bodybuilding has more politics in it than Powerlifting. The best way I’ve found to strength train is doing no more than 5 reps per set. On average I do 3 reps per set and if I want to increase my volume I will increase the number of sets instead of number of reps. I make sure each rep is done in a fast but controlled manner. Bodybuilding training has much more volume involved in it. Most bodybuilders get the best results from doing 5 sets of 8 – 12 reps. Most Bodybuilders do more isolation exercises while most Powerlifters do compound exercises.

Why do I Powerlift instead of Bodybuild?
As a powerlifter you can still maintain the bodybuilder look as long as you pay attention to your diet. Bodybuilders look like they are a lot stronger than they really are. Bodybuilders are training to create more muscle and Powerlifters are training to create more Power. I like to compete in a more objective arena than Bodybuilding. In Powerlifting you either got the lift or you didn’t, people don’t talk about if you need to work on your delt symmetry.

Why you should at least mix it in to your Bodybuilding routine?
A great way to mix bodybuilding with powerlifting is to Powerbuild. You can build functional strength wile maitaining the look you want.

Wisdom From A World Record Holder

June 20, 2008

Nine Things By Matt Rhodes Learned from World Record Holder Vincent Dizenzo

1. Psychology
“No matter how he feels, he’ll always answer, “I’m feeling f***ing great!” There are no excuses for having a bad day. It’s your job to put yourself in the right frame of mind to succeed.”

Every day is your best day. Whatever the universe throws at you, just take and learn from it. You will only become stronger if you accept reality and move forward changing your perception and you will get better control of your reality.

2. Breathing
Without O2 you can’t do anything. BREATH properly and you will get plenty of your number one nutrient.

3. Toes up
“We all know that we need to have most of our weight on our heels when we lift”

Do you want an instant 20 pound jump in your Squat? Put on some Wrestling shoes.
I’ve found incredible results using wrestling shoes while working out. Wrestling shoes offer no cushion for your feet. Cushion is great for running sports but terrible for Powerlifting. Wrestling shoes allow to push the power from the resistance of the floor directly into your muscles and the weight being moved.

4. Video
“This is the best way to see what you’re doing. Your training partners can tell you what you’re doing wrong or right, but it will only really click when you see yourself doing it.”


5. Leg drive in the bench
“It’s just like you’re “on the bottom.” Drive those hips as if…”

I make sure my legs can drive resistance straight through the floor making the Benchpress exercise a whole body movement.

6. Breathing revisited
“Hold your breath.”

This is HUGE!!!!!! Holding your breath during an exercize will put internal pressure on your core muscle tightening them. Forget the Swiss Ball, just practice holding your breath during reps, your core muscles will respond like never before. WARNING: If you have high Blood Pressure holding your breath will increase it even more ,so be careful.

7. Diet and supplementation
“Put the good stuff in your body. Every big bastard (275 and above) eats crappy food. We love it. The cholesterol flows through our veins and our hearts skip beats as if to say, “WTF is wrong with you?”

Diet and supplementation is everything. If you aren’t giving yourself the proper nutrients to recover you will never get anywhere. Ever wonder why a lot of guys call themselves “hard gainers”? Just ask them to list you what they eat and as them if they are eating well enough. You will find the “hardgainers” don’t eat well enough and usually do the same workout year after boring year.

8. Sleep
“You’re supposed to get one hour of sleep for every two hours that you’re awake.”

How many people do what they are supposed to do. When you are tired, rest, go to a park, rest and relax. Meditate. I watched a video of Tibetan Buddhist Monks who were released from prision and wasn’t allowed to sleep for 18 years. He was locked up in solatary for all of those 18 years and had bright lights and loud music played 24/7 for all 18 years. he put himself in a deep meditive state for 18 years. They released him because he could never be broken and wasn’t going to fight back violently when released.


At least get 6 hours of sleep per night and catch up during your days off. You won’t grow if you don’t allow yourself to rest.

9. Expect to move big weights
“Expect greatness from yourself and you’ll get it. Greatness isn’t measured in world records. It’s measured in setting and breaking your own goals and records.”

So many guys at the gym think if they keep lifting puny weights on machines for 12 – 15 reps that one day they will become strong. WRONG!!! In order to become strong you have to lift heavy weights, plain and simple.

My standard Leg workout is simple
Squat 3 sets of 3reps, 2 sets of 2 reps, 3 – 4 sets of fast moving singles
Hack Squat 2 sets of 3, 2 sets of 2 fast reps
45 deg Leg Press 5 sets of 3 fast reps

my Squat Personal Record is 515 lbs @ 162 lbs set 6-4-08

To Squat or not to Squat, That is the Question

June 13, 2008

Yesterday I was in the gym and I had to wait a while when someone was using the Squat rack not for Squatting but for straight bar curls.

So many guys in the gym want to grow big muscles but only focus on their puney arm muscles instead of their leg and back muscles.

The best, easiest way to grow massive amounts of muscle is to SQUAT. There are many different versions of the squat but the main idea is to make the Squat the main focus of your leg workout. So many people think the Squat is bad for their knees. FALSE! If you Squat properly your knees will be better than ever. http://www.askmen.com/sports/bodybuilding_200/216_fitness_tip.html

As a child I had bad knees but a Doctor from Johns Hopkins recommeded to put the Squat into my workout to build up the supportive muscles around my knees. I’ve always kept Squats as a key multi-joint exercise.

The key to the Squat is to engage all of the muscles involved. The wider your stance the more hip involvement you will have. The narrower the stance the more quad engagement you will have. If you go narrow be careful about the placement of the bar on your traps. The higher you place the bar on your neck, the more pressure you will put on your knees.

Powerlifters generally have as wide a stance as possible and position the bar as low on their traps as possible.