On Christmas day this year I back squatted 200kg for the first time having been focusing heavily on my squat for the past 8 weeks. I first squatted 180kg back in May, however since then it has been stuck there. Nothing I did seemed to push this number up until my latest 8 week programme…..
If you are reading this, looking for a secret solution from a self-proclaimed strength training expert then I suggest you head over to someone else’s page instead. The only purpose of this blog is to share the knowledge that was passed onto me for getting stronger and discuss my training over the last 8 weeks.
I am also not proclaiming to be an ‘expert’ so whilst I’m happy to answer any questions, in reality they would be better addressed by someone who has coached multiple 200kg+ squatters or achieved at a very high (international) level in strength sports themselves. This is a great article to read, although you might not like what it says (hard work is the best way to build a big squat)
So onto lesson 1…. After my last competition of 2015 I approached Andrew Callard, head coach at Europa Weightlifting club to ask if he would help me. The first thing he told me was that my legs are weak, he’d seen me lift twice and both times I looked weak. To quote “If you want my advice, just squat, squats fix everything. There’s no point having good technique if your legs are weak”
If reading this you’re not sure if your legs are ‘weak’, your legs are weak.
Lesson 2: Always squat first. This means if you are a Weightlifter no Snatch or Clean and Jerk first, ALWAYS squat first when you are fresh. ALWAYS. How can you expect to get strong if, by the time you come to squat you have been training for 2 hours and can barely move?
Lesson 3: Keep the reps high to ‘put some meat on your legs’. After being told my legs were weak, I turned up at Europa weightlifting club 2 days later and as instructed squatted first. I did 6×3 at 145kg. When Andy turned up he asked me if I had done my squats and what I had done, he was less than impressed when I told him about my heroic 6×3……. Telling me ‘you’ve gotta keep those reps up and get some meat on those skinny legs, 5×5 and 6×6 only!’
Lesson 4: Stop trying to focus on everything at the same time. For me this meant dropping the amount of Olympic lifting I did to focus on getting strong. Twice a week in each lift was more than enough on top of squatting, I personally kept the weight light and reps high so on non-squatting days I did 6×3 snatch at 75% and 5×2 clean and jerk at 75% for example. Forget the weight and concentrate on doing reps with good technique, your focus is on getting strong remember!
So with all those lessons under my belt what did I actually do? Nice and simple really, I trained 5x per week for 90mins-2 hours, completing:
Back squat x2 per week (5×5 and 6×6) the 5×5 started at 80% and the 6×6 at 70% of 1RM, I then just added 2.5-5kg each week depending on how hard the sets felt. By then end my bests were 5×5 @ 155kg and 6×6 @ 142.5kg.
Front squat x1 per week (5×5) but not enough to grind reps, just heavy enough to challenge me. The heaviest I went on this was 132.5kg but most weeks was around 125kg.
Snatch/snatch variation x 2 per week focusing on volume and good quality reps PLUS Clean and jerk/variation x 2 per week focusing on volume and good quality reps. I also added in a small amount of accessory work, such as dips, pull ups, presses etc. but only for 3-4 sets at the end of each session. Stretching daily for 15-20 mins was also essential to keep my aching body mobile!
When it came to deloads, in the 5th week I felt pretty broken and exhausted so I just did the 6×6 back squat and 5×5 front squat sessions as they were the lightest. Olympic lifts and variations were also made lighter for this week. The 8th week (when I did my 200kg squat) also had slightly less volume, only doing 3×3 on the Monday at 165 before my Friday PB’s.
That’s it. No secret sets and reps. No magic programme and no bullshit, just plain old fashioned hard work. It may not be cool or even subtle but it definitely works. I really hope this blog has helped anyone reading this and good luck with your training. Thank you to everyone who gave me advice and help.