Monday, February 23, 2015

Really Hard Stuff to do with embarassingly little weight II: Anderson Squats

So, there I was, standing with Cory and his wife, Rita in Clearwater, FL, chatting about my highly theatrical side press that you see in the background as well our mutual failures in the previous Hummer Tire Squats.  Cory's failure was for a different reason than mine.  He didn't have the bar centered properly on his back.  When he hit the boxes, the uneven weight distribution got him stuck.  I explained my previous fun that resulted in my zero.  He mentioned that one guy, and one guy only, managed to get off the boxes when he got stuck...and that guy may well be the best squatter in the whole competition. 

It's difficult to imagine how good this shit tasted!

That thought stuck with me long after the competition, no doubt because the more I look back, I wanted to get that 365 lbs set-up off those boxes more than I want Island Ice Cream to bring back their Maker's Mark Bourbon flavor.  Or, more specifically, I want that kind of capability.  Cory's a seasoned competitor; the kind of guy who when he talks about what a good squatter is, I pay attention.

Squats are beloved for a number of reasons all across the fruited plane of strength training.  The build mass, make you stronger at lots of strength tests, best way to make a nice firm, muscular ass (Yes, you, there is no better way.  Deal with it), and just one of the most favored ways to move an enormous amount of weight.  
Sure, she may have wrote an e-book of butt exercises but she still squats heavy. 

That last part is likely why the subject of why the bottom-started, Anderson squat is largely forgotten in strength training.  It's enormously difficult to do and likely needs to be done with less weight than most people can squat with starting the movement at the top with a FRONT squat, say nothing of the back squat.  It just goes to show how much your body depends on bouncing yourself out of the hole.  A box doesn't even come close to showing you this (chances are, you're box squatting wrong anyway).  It's not surprising to me that Anderson is likely the greatest squatter in history if he bottom-started his squats with regularity. 

One of the earliest lessons about bottom starting this squat was that depth isn't a huge consideration here.  I made the highly unusual mistake of thinking I was starting in a much too high squat and went far too low, practically ass to grass, and couldn't even start high 200's weights.  I learned that just starting just a bit below parallel is all that's necessary for this particular variation. 

Next, this is kind of a low-reps set kind of work.  I've done these for sets of two, all the way to sets of 8.  I much prefer the lower end.  When I do this movement, it feels like a movement best suited for creating a lot of power and strength.  Keep the reps low, the weight higher, and focus on making sure the subsequent reps are started from a dead stop.  Eliminate all bounce!

Yeah, I said keep the weight higher but note I didn't say heavy.  Heavy relative to this movement and the butt-hurt nobody will likely admit to when they first try this one out will likely cause some bullshitting.  Use modest weights on this one.  Really modest.  I was a high 300-low 400 lbs squatter before the back and IT band problems kicked in mid-2014 and when I got around to doing these after Clearwater, I was using 250-275 lbs.  Modesty will pay off, I'm sure.

How sure, I'm not sure.  I'm not about to speculate about how strong my legs will get from doing these.  It's far too soon to speculate.  I can only ponder the namesake of the bottom-started squat:  Paul Anderson.  As much as I read about him, I can't speculate about how often he did these.  I can only offer up an internet-expert (which means:  NOT an expert at all) opinion based on what I've read about him:
  • He was so powerful at the squat that as soon as he started lifting anything for the public, he was smashing world records. 
  • He was lifting so much weight that nobody was making barbells that could take the weight he was lifting, often resulting in him improvising equipment (also improvising out of poverty)
  • His squatting prowess would still make him an elite lifter even today.  This was with no absolutely no modern medicine or equipment.

In other words, Paul Anderson was able to generate ridiculous squatting power sixty years ago that, even to this day, most people can only match or beat with wraps and suits while starting out of a monolift.  that's obviously rare and unusual.  He also did it with marginal and improvised equipment.  I think that the case could be made that starting his lifts from the bottom likely contributed a large part to this. 

While I can find writing that indicates he did do squatting from the bottom position of the squat, there seems to be a lack of photography to prove it.  However, there are numerous pictures of him doing partial squats started from the bottom position.
Even if it doesn't, this has kind of become a personal goal.  It's a sort of personal redemption from Clearwater.  I'd love to be able to bottom start 365 lbs.  Best of all, It's a squat that I can do with the modest quantity of equipment and embarrassingly little weight I have to work with.  

1 comment:

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