Top Five Squats: Part 1

We have 17 men who squat over 1000 pounds. The top five average 1,143 pounds. Our top five totals equal 2,690 pounds. How can one gym develop such a strong group? The answer is hard work, coupled with science, experience, and dedication.

But what is the system that produced this top five average in the squat? It’s a two-day system. One day is max effort day, which is done on Monday. Three days later, on Friday, we devote to special strength, explosive speed, or strength speed. Let’s look at speed day on Friday. 

Here, we do multiple sets depending on the percentages. For speed strength the percent is 50-60% (based on a contest max) for box squatting in briefs or a suit with the straps down. The sets can vary from 8 to 12. Bands or chains must be used to accommodate resistance to eliminate most of the deceleration phase. For speed strength the band tension is an average of 25% at the top. There is also great tension at the bottom to eliminate momentum. The bar speed should average 0.8 m/s. The rest between sets should be held around 60-90 seconds. The stance should be very wide to utilize the hips, glutes, and hamstrings. You must use the correct box squat form. This means pushing the knees out to the sides to exert force outward. The shins must never come over the toes but should be past vertical to the rear. This causes one to leg-curl off the box. Now, let’s look at a three-week pendulum wave for the development of speed development. Let’s look at Tony Bolognone, who is an 1,150-pound squatter. Below is a table showing a three-week wave. 

Week 1 10 Sets 2 reps 575 pounds bar weight 250 pounds band tension
Week 2 10 Sets 2 reps 635 pounds bar weight 250 pounds band tension
Week 3 8 Sets 2 reps 690 pounds bar weight 250 pounds band tension

J. Roberts has an 1,100-pound squat. Below is a table showing a typical speed-strength three-week cycle.

Week 1 10 Sets 2 reps 550 pounds bar weight 250 pounds band tension
Week 2 10 Sets 2 reps 605 pounds bar weight 250 pounds band tension
Week 3 8 Sets 2 reps 660 pounds bar weight 250 pounds band tension

For both men, the band tension is slightly less than 25%, but at Westside a strong band gives us 250 pounds of tension.

Dave Hoff has a 1,075-pound squat at 275 bodyweight. Below is a table of a three-week wave with weight and bands together. This is a combination of 160 pounds of chains and 140 pounds of band tension. This is a typical three-week speed-strength wave.

Week 1 10 Sets 2 reps 540 pounds bar weight 300 pounds bands + chains
Week 2 10 Sets 2 reps 600 pounds bar weight 300 pounds bands + chains
Week 3 8 Sets 2 reps 660 pounds bar weight 300 pounds bands + chains

The three examples above show a 1075-pound, an 1100-pound, and an 1150-pound squatter. You see, the weights are slightly different per lifter. There can be no hypothetical reasoning. The math must be correct to maintain proper bar speed. This is all based on mathematics. Strength-speed work is also done on Friday. The band tension must be at least 50% of the total squat at the top.

Below are two examples of a strength-speed workout by A. J. Roberts using two different combinations of band tension and bar weight. The first strength-speed workout will be with 440 pounds of band tension, working up to a 1 rep max. The work looks like this:

320 pounds bar weight 2 reps 440 pounds band tension
420 pounds bar weight 2 reps 440 pounds band tension
510 pounds bar weight 1 reps 440 pounds band tension
600 pounds bar weight 1 reps 440 pounds band tension
660 pounds bar weight 1 reps 440 pounds band tension

The circa-max workout netted an 1100-pound squat for A. J. A pure strength-speed workout is where the band tension is greater than the amount of bar weight. The strength-speed workout outlined below will produce great strength at low velocity.

160 pounds bar weight 2 reps 700 pounds band tension
240 pounds bar weight 2 reps 700 pounds band tension
330 pounds bar weight 1 reps 700 pounds band tension
380 pounds bar weight 1 reps 700 pounds band tension
425 pounds bar weight 1 reps 700 pounds band tension

 

You will notice that the top net weight is with two different combinations of band weight. The total is 1100 pounds with 440 pounds of band tension and 660 pounds of bar weight. The second workout was with 700 pounds of bands and 425 pounds of bar weight. This matches with A.J.’s meet squat. Is this a coincidence? No, not at all.
 
Using the circa-max phase, Tony Ramos made a squat with 470 pounds of bar weight plus 375 pounds of band tension, which equals 845 pounds at the top. Tony has an 810-pound meet squat. I made 585 pounds bar weight plus 375 pounds of band tension. That adds up to 960 pounds. I made a strong 920 pounds. This shows that band tension of 35-45% works well. As your bar squat goes up, of course the bar weight goes up, but the band tension goes down somewhat. Let’s look at the history of Tony Bolognone’s squat progress from 1000 pounds to 1150 pounds. As your squat improves to 1000 pounds, the band tension goes from 375 pounds to 440 pounds. 

Tony's Squat

  • 600 pounds bar weight + 440 pounds band tension = 1000 pounds
  • 650 pounds bar weight + 440 pounds band tension = 1050 pounds
  • 675 pounds bar weight + 440 pounds band tension = 1075 pounds
  • 690 pounds bar weight + 440 pounds band tension = 1100 pounds
  • 720 pounds bar weight + 440 pounds band tension = 1120 pounds
  • 720 pounds bar weight + 440 pounds band tension = 1130 pounds
  • 720 pounds bar weight + 440 pounds band tension = 1150 pounds

 

As you can see, there is a direct correlation of Tony’s contest squat with the top value of his box squat with the band and weight combinations. I have seen many such results. 
 
After each Friday speed development workout, the lifters use the Reverse Hyper machine and do calf/ham/glute raises, abs, and some kind of lat work. At times, sled power walking, back extensions, good mornings, belt squatting, or light speed pulls can be done. Below is a simple guideline to follow to determine what to expect at meet time based on a box squat record. 
800 pounds meet squat 500 pounds bar weight 375 pounds band tension
850 pounds meet squat 550 pounds bar weight 375 pounds band tension
900 pounds meet squat 600 pounds bar weight 375 pounds band tension
950 pounds meet squat 650 pounds bar weight 375 pounds band tension
1000 pounds meet squat 600 pounds bar weight 440 pounds band tension
1050 pounds meet squat 650 pounds bar weight 440 pounds band tension
1100 pounds meet squat 700 pounds bar weight 440 pounds band tension
1150 pounds meet squat 720 pounds bar weight 440 pounds band tension

This will cover most of the population. If you squat 400 to 550 pounds, simply cut the weight and band tension in half. The second workout for the squat also works for the deadlift.

Max Effort Day

This day is for lifting a max single, the best on that day depending on your level of preparedness. Doing heavy doubles or triples builds strength endurance, so stick to singles. Each week, rotate a special squat, pull, or good morning. There are many special exercises to choose from. This means eventually you will select six to eight lifts to rotate between, not the ones you like, but the ones that work best for raising your squat and deadlift. Below are exercises that Jake Anderson may choose from, depending on which work best for him. All are core lifts.

  1. Pin 2 rack pull
  2. Low-box front squat
  3. Bent-over good mornings
  4. Band deadlifts with 220 pounds over the bar
  5. Band deadlifts with 280 pounds over the bar
  6. Zercher lifts
  7. Ultrawide sumo deadlifts
  8. Safety squat bar
  9. Box deadlifts 2 inches off the box
  10. Box deadlifts 4 inches off the box
  11. Rack pulls with 250 pounds of band tension
  12. Rack pulls with 350 pounds of band tension
  13. Concentric good mornings
  14. 14 inch cambered bar low box squat
  15. Power cleans or snatches

There are countless max effort workouts to rotate between. The max effort day is dedicated to both the squat and deadlift. Just as Jake has learned that some work better than others, you will also learn not only what special exercises will build your strength but also what exercises will tell you how strong you are without doing a real squat or deadlift.

Everyone knows Westside always does box squats. Remember, the box height should be parallel. You must release your hip muscles while sitting on the box. The rest of your body must remain tense. While on the box your chins must be at least straight up and down, or the knees slightly behind the ankles. This overloads the hamstrings and glutes. Always push the knees out to the sides as you lower and rise from the bottom of the squat. A simple tip is to raise the big toe. The best shoe is Chuck Taylors. Actually, the best shoe is no shoe.

Speciality Bars

Only use a squat bar on speed-strength day. This is the only way to perfect technique. Other bars should be used only if an injury prevents you from using a squat bar. Remember, use three-week waves for speed-strength work and two-week waves for strength-speed work, and for speed work use some accommodating resistance through the use of bands or chains.

Max effort day exercises must be rotated each week. Small exercises such as lat work of all kinds, lower back, abs, and hamstrings should be rotated when necessary.