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Other/Mixed How would you train for long squat sets?

Other strength modalities (e.g., Clubs), mixed strength modalities (e.g., combined kettlebell and barbell), other goals (flexibility)

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
Hi All,

I guess the method could be used for any lift, but I have seen @Period talk about squatting with an equal sized person on your back for 40 reps in wrestling and I believe @Boris Bachmann (maybe?) talk about doing a set of squat with 1x body weight on your back equal to his age.

I’m not planning on doing this, but it got me thinking about how the best method for training to do this would look. I came up with three logical ways, but not sure if any or all of them would be smart.

1. Start with a weight you could do 40 reps, and slowly add weight until 1x body weight.

2. Start with 1x body weight and slowly add reps.

3. Try to add strength with low rep sets, but try to get as much strength as possible to where 1x body weight is a very low percentage of 1rm so it feels easy.

A combination of these? None of these? How would you go about trying to accomplish something like this?
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
#3. As I go through a training cycle, I periodically do a higher rep set with a lighter weight. It’s usually a weight that I started a cycle with and could only get a rep or maybe 3, and I like to keep going back to that weight, maybe once every 2 weeks or so, to see where my near-max reps are at. But I stop when it get something in the 10-12 rep range - could go further if I was trying for many reps.

-S-
 

Kev

Level 4 Valued Member
I’d just put a sandbag on my shoulders, say 75kg and just squat until I couldn’t. Then I’d breathe with it still there and maybe do another 5 and breathe and repeat. I did 75 with this method once with a 100kg sandbag. As an aside, when Mark Berry and Curtis Hise published their results with 20 rep barbell squats another lifter replicated their results with lighter weights insofar as they got bigger but didn’t get as strong. It was concluded that it was the “forced breathing” that stimulated growth. This is all in “super squats” by Randal Stroessen.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 6 Valued Member
Yeah, I've squatted bodyweight on the bar x age a few times - it wasn't a big deal when I was in my early 30s, but now, at 50 (and not getting lighter), it's getting to be more of a deal.
I believe that how you go about training for it depends on where you're starting. It (hopefully) goes without saying that you MUST start w. a firm base of technical competence.
I made a video on this recently. Let me know what you think and if you have questions:
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
Yeah, I've squatted bodyweight on the bar x age a few times - it wasn't a big deal when I was in my early 30s, but now, at 50 (and not getting lighter), it's getting to be more of a deal.
I believe that how you go about training for it depends on where you're starting. It (hopefully) goes without saying that you MUST start w. a firm base of technical competence.
I made a video on this recently. Let me know what you think and if you have questions:
Ha, that is pretty much aimed right at my question. Did you do it again a week later and did doing a longer warm up help?
 

Alan Mackey

Level 6 Valued Member
Hi All,

I guess the method could be used for any lift, but I have seen @Period talk about squatting with an equal sized person on your back for 40 reps in wrestling and I believe @Boris Bachmann (maybe?) talk about doing a set of squat with 1x body weight on your back equal to his age.

I’m not planning on doing this, but it got me thinking about how the best method for training to do this would look. I came up with three logical ways, but not sure if any or all of them would be smart.

1. Start with a weight you could do 40 reps, and slowly add weight until 1x body weight.

2. Start with 1x body weight and slowly add reps.

3. Try to add strength with low rep sets, but try to get as much strength as possible to where 1x body weight is a very low percentage of 1rm so it feels easy.

A combination of these? None of these? How would you go about trying to accomplish something like this?

I would mimic what girevoy sport competitors do to achieve maximum number of reps within ten minutes.
 

Starlord

Level 5 Valued Member
#3. As I go through a training cycle, I periodically do a higher rep set with a lighter weight. It’s usually a weight that I started a cycle with and could only get a rep or maybe 3, and I like to keep going back to that weight, maybe once every 2 weeks or so, to see where my near-max reps are at. But I stop when it get something in the 10-12 rep range - could go further if I was trying for many reps.

-S-
This.

Ideally you would have a program in which you would use blocks of training. But I am aware that you also concurrently train BJJ so there will also be your BJJ and potentially additional conditioning work thrown on top.

A simple step loading program performed 3 times a week is what I would suggest for your squats.

Followed by direct core work and back raises to traction the spine. But these would serve more as injury prevention, as opposed to the meat and potatoes.

Which is your squats.
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
What is the benefit you're aiming for? Hypertrophy, strength endurance, strength, conditioning? Or just because it's a goal?
None of the above. As I said, I’m not actually looking to do this, it just made me curious as to how you would go about it.
 

Period

Level 6 Valued Member
There are a variety of ways one can go about it. Traditionally, you'd start with a lighter person, pick them up in a fireman's carry, work up to 40 reps, get a heavier partner and repeat. You can do the same with a barbell, heavy bag, sandbag, dummy, a stone, a log, bands, whatever. You could also choose to mainly work with two sets of 15-25, if you find that easier to recover from. And/or you could go through a cycle or two of 20 rep squats every once in a while, if you don't mind the weight gain and the forced reduction of other training activities that comes with it (read: usually not an option for grapplers, unless they are forced to take 8 weeks off the mat for whatever reason).
Then, there are timed sets, which have the advantage that you don't need to count reps. Bodybuilder Tom Platz was probably the most famous proponent of them, but wrestler/strongman Bert Assirati actually introduced them first. He was reputedly able to squat for half an hour (!) straight with 235 lbs on the bar according to Charles Smith (Bert Assirati - Charles A. Smith), while Platz apparently liked to squat 225 lbs for a "mere" 10 minutes. Here is a routine for timed squats using a lower weight; interestingly enough, it is also credited to a (nameless) Hungarian wrestler: Hungarian Oak Leg Blast
Finally, I'd like to mention progressive range of motion, which Pavel talked about in Beyond Bodybuilding, giving credit to Paul Anderson and Bob Peoples. You could apply this to all the strategies above, provided you have the necessary hardware to control squat depth. The easiest way I have found to achieve this is two adjustable straps (or chains) hung from two sturdy ceiling hooks (preferably for boxing bags) or inside a power rack. This allows for very precise adjustments, unlike most power racks which have 10 cm jumps between the settings of the safety bars. Alternatively, you could use boxes or benches of varying heights for box/bench squats.
PS: Kurt Angle wrote in "It's true" that during his preparation for the 1996 Olympics (225 lbs class), he varied his squat numbers and weights from week to week. One week, he'd use 225 lbs (his record being 77 reps apparently), the next week 315 lbs (record 41 reps), and finally 405 lbs (record 28 reps). He does not mention his 1RM, but I don't think he really cared about that.
 
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Period

Level 6 Valued Member
What is the benefit you're aiming for? Hypertrophy, strength endurance, strength, conditioning? Or just because it's a goal?
I mentioned this in another thread, since it's apparently one of the fitness standards of the Russian Sambo team. The reasoning behind it, as far as I can tell, is primarily strength endurance and increasing work capacity. Of course, your 1 RM will not be too shabby either if you can complete this. However, the 1RM may be less suited for testing grapplers for a variety of reasons: first of all, due to different muscle fiber distribution and whatnot, two people who can both squat their bodyweight for 40 reps may have wildly different 1RMs - one may be able to "only" squat double bodyweight, another may approach triple bodyweight. Secondly, the most a person will have to squat during a match or training session is their opponent's weight, but they may have to do so repeatedly, the more often the better (if I can do 40 double leg pickups before gassing out, and you can only do 20, I will get in more reps during a training session, meaning I can hone my technique a lot more efficiently; also, it will take me longer to fatigue during a match, meaning I can wrestle more tactically if I need to). Thirdly, few wrestling or Sambo gyms have a dedicated weightlifting area with racks and bars, but there is always people around that you can lift. And finally, grappling sports in general tend to attract more people who have good strength-endurance (in comparison to their max strength). For those, max strength training will often take a much bigger toll on recovery than higher reps with lower weight, so it makes more sense to favor the latter. You can go on the mat, do your wrestling, and when you're done spend ten minutes to do some extra specific strength endurance work by squatting a partner, climbing rope, doing push-ups etc. (also taking into account the level of fatigue you have accumulated), and be back for more the next day. That's just a lot more efficient compared to missing two mat sessions because you're sore from one heavy squatting session.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
Yes, I did it a week later and a longer warm-up made some difference:
Awesome set! I can't imagine doing 50+ squats never putting the bar down. Just holding bodyweight on the bar for as long as you did is an impressive feat in itself.

I think you're right about the warm-up. Doing something to get the HR up before the effort, with lighter efforts before it, helps get the aerobic system fully online for maximum aerobic energy production during the hard effort. A lot of people miss this when they go to do a 5-min snatch test, IMO.
 

william bad butt

Level 6 Valued Member
How would I train?

Let's pretend I weight 200lb and my goal is to be able to do 40 reps at bodyweight. Or 40 reps for 200 lb.

This might be an overly simplistic answer. But I would get my max up to at least 2 times bodyweight using proven programming methods (5 3 1, 10 20 Life, Reload, SS, etc...). I would get strong. If I can squat 400+lb then a 200 lb squat is only <50% of my max. It becomes a feat of endurance. I'd make it a feat of endurance, not strength.

Once I am strong enough, I would spend 1 month "peaking" or preparing. On my 1st attempt, I am very very confident I could do 20+ reps at <50% of max, with no specific training whatsoever nor without mentally torturing myself. I wouldnt say "easy" but a "not hard" 20 reps. Then spend the next month building that to 40 reps via a intelligent programming.

I train for strength with sets of 3-5 reps (on average) of about 60-80% of max (on average) and this allows me to build strength and makes endurance tasks easier.

In general, when in doubt, I train for strength (GPP). Then peak/taper/prepare for specific competitions/tasks/challenges/races (SPP). I'm sure there are exceptions to this Rule (and maybe you are 1 of them), but this likely applies to most people unless one is hyper-focused on a specific sport or skill that requires a tremendous amount of technical training and maintenance.

That's how I'd do it. And that is how I do it.

Regards,

Eric
 

Period

Level 6 Valued Member
I honestly find it interesting how the exercises seem to change people's perspective a lot. If the question was "how do I get to 40 push-ups/pull-ups/reps in the long cycle with double 32kg", I assume few people would suggest working up to a single with twice the weight or a one-armed push-up/pull-up first. Why is there a tendency to view the squat differently?
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
I honestly find it interesting how the exercises seem to change people's perspective a lot. If the question was "how do I get to 40 push-ups/pull-ups/reps in the long cycle with double 32kg", I assume few people would suggest working up to a single with twice the weight or a one-armed push-up/pull-up first. Why is there a tendency to view the squat differently?
That's a good point. I think it has to do with the range of what is realistically attainable. Anyone can get their squat MUCH stronger, i.e. 150 lbs to 300 lbs, with a few months of focused work. It might take years to get a press or pull-up effectively doubled.

I also think there's more energy-systems training going on with increasing one's strength on big compound movements like squat. This carries over to many things. Not nearly as true for press or pull-up.
 

Period

Level 6 Valued Member
That's a good point. I think it has to do with the range of what is realistically attainable. Anyone can get their squat MUCH stronger, i.e. 150 lbs to 300 lbs, with a few months of focused work. It might take years to get a press or pull-up effectively doubled.

I also think there's more energy-systems training going on with increasing one's strength on big compound movements like squat. This carries over to many things. Not nearly as true for press or pull-up.
An interesting perspective. My follow-up question would be whether you know of anybody who did so "with a few months of focused work" while training a grappling sport (or something compareable, e.g. boxing) 3-5 times per week on the side? Again, in my experience, higher reps with lower weight actually can be easier to recover from compared to low reps with a high percentage of 1RM. But of course, training history, muscle fiber composition etc. will play a role here.
Also, I agree about the energy systems (although something like a pull-up may actually predict performance better in a number of styles compared to the squat), but why wouldn't that be true for higher reps with a lower weight as well? You might argue it could carry over to a number of things potentially even more so than a strong single. For example, when carrying a load for distance, my money would be on the person who can move more weight for 40 reps, not on the person who can squat more for a single.
Interestingly, my advice for increasing a pull-up or push-up would be almost identical to what I'd advise people in the squat, even if they are looking to increase their max (ok, in this case I'll look at their 1RM and their 10RM and the difference in between those; a high 10 RM in comparison suggests people are either better off training with more reps or not yet ready for heavy singles, which comes down to the same for the immediate concern). Reason being that the first time I ever added weight on pull-ups (aged 16 or so, weighing 65 kg) I could already add more than 50% of bodyweight (35 kg) just from doing tons of reps with bodyweight. At least for me, training strength endurance was usually the more efficient way to build up strength (again, muscle fiber distribution, levers, genetics etc. will play a role here).
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
My follow-up question would be whether you know of anybody who did so "with a few months of focused work" while training a grappling sport (or something compareable, e.g. boxing) 3-5 times per week on the side?

Definitely not with other training. What I mean by "focused" is, nothing else but strength - dropping all other training and doing a focused strength-building program only. The one I'm most familiar with is Starting Strength Novice Linear Progression, but I'm sure there are other alternatives that would get a similar result. I have seen, not firsthand, but online (and similar firsthand, but not as dedicated or impressive) many younger, untrained males go from 150 or less to 300 or more with 3-4 months on this program, and many women get to upper 200 lbs in squat. For myself, with a little over 3 months of this, my squat went from a 1RM of 200 to 260 lbs, and a 5RM a similar increase from about 150 to 210 lbs. I was not starting from untrained, having already done 5/3/1, a little PTTP, and SFL prep, so already able to do 150 lbs for 5 reps when starting it. Also, female in my late 40s at the time. In contrast, I've never been able to increase pull-up or any pushing exercise even remotely as much.

Also, I agree about the energy systems (although something like a pull-up may actually predict performance better in a number of styles compared to the squat), but why wouldn't that be true for higher reps with a lower weight as well? You might argue it could carry over to a number of things potentially even more so than a strong single. For example, when carrying a load for distance, my money would be on the person who can move more weight for 40 reps, not on the person who can squat more for a single.

Agree, and another good point!

I think building strength and muscle is the best focus for a while, until one develops capacity... then capacity can be trained directly, to create more of it. But it depends on one's goals, timelines, desired physical state, and performance objectives.

At least for me, training strength endurance was usually the more efficient way to build up strength (again, muscle fiber distribution, levers, genetics etc. will play a role here).

Yes, definitely works for some, especially those who are dedicated and disciplined and consistent.

I do tend to think that this why kettlebell training "works". Sort of the same way labor "works". When a young person spends a season doing a hard manual job, they will be physically changed by it, and no doubt will get stronger if it is just moving a very sub-maximal weight for a lot of reps.

I also tend to think the ability to use strength endurance to drive strength gains and other adaptations has a lot to do with one's aerobic base -- primarily, lactate production and ability to buffer and shuttle it around in the body for use elsewhere in the body in slow-twitch fiber "sinks". People who walk a lot, are generally active, or do base-building aerobic training tend to have a good aerobic base whether they even know it or not, and this affects their response to other types of training as sort of a silent variable. They can do a lot more volume of work, and therefore it works better to drive strength increases.
 
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