TRAINING ARTICLES

Big Squat

The BIG SQUAT program, much like the BIG BENCH program, will be divided into two training sessions per week. One session, entitled Max Effort training, focuses on lifting near-maximal weights, and the other, Dynamic Effort training, focuses on maximum acceleration of lighter weights. This approach is based on the conjugate periodization method popularized by Westside Barbell in Columbus, Ohio.

Dynamic Effort Training (DE)

On the Dynamic Effort training day, the lifter will perform a high number of sets of low repetitions, moving a sub-maximal weight with the focus on the greatest possible speed. This is used to enhance the rate of force and explosive strength.

Dynamic Effort work is based on three-week blocks, varying the weights used and number of sets and reps, before restarting the cycle. The weight lifted may be increased by 5–10 pounds every second or third three-week block. However, bar speed is the best indicator of whether or not the weight should increase. Despite the focus on speed, the bar must remain under control at all times. Accessory and rehabilitation work will be done after the main movement.

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Max Effort Training (ME)

Three days after your Dynamic Effort training day is your Max Effort Training. During Max Effort Training, weight is lifted at a maximal load for maximal resistance. This type of training stresses intramuscular and intermuscular coordination as well as stimulating the muscular and central nervous system. This produces maximum strength gains.

The lifter will choose from the list of Max Effort exercises provided and work up to a 1- to 3-rep max for the day. By alternating the Max Effort exercise every week, it allows lifters to continually train above 90 percent of their 1-rep max without fear of overtraining. Training in this high-intensity, low-rep range is the key to maximal strength. Accessory lifts will be performed afterward to promote hypertrophy, ensure proper muscle balance and strengthen weak muscles that may be hindering the lifter’s performance.

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Accessory lifts

Accessory lifts should be done heavy but shy of failure, with adequate recovery time between sets to perform maximally. Occasional training to failure on the accessory movements is acceptable. However, training to failure on a regular basis will have detrimental effects on one’s maximal strength. It is important to continue training the lower body during the course of this program, even if it’s simply for maintenance during the cycle. Do not skip or slack off on the assistance work. Because fewer movements are performed than in a traditional bodybuilding split, each should be given the fullest of your efforts.

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Warm-up

For your warm-up, spend a few minutes on the stationary bike to increase blood flow to the muscles and increase synovial fluid in the joints. Start your warm-ups light for the first movement of the day, slowly increasing the weight. For an average person, 3–5 warm-up sets should be done before beginning the work sets of a main movement, and 1–2 before the first work set of each compound accessory movement.

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For lifters using the BIG DEADS program

The BIG DEAD and the BIG SQUAT programs overlap, specifically the Dynamic Effort Squats occur on your existing Deadlift day. Follow Program 1 below. Lifters must be careful to listen to their body when doing this. If you begin to feel worn down, back off on Max Effort Squat and Deadlift work for a week to allow yourself to recover, perhaps only working up to 75–80 percent of your max instead of pushing for a new personal record that week. This is not an excuse to get lazy and slack off, but rather a way to allow you to regulate your training intensity based on your current condition.

If however you’re not using the BIG DEADS program in conjunction with this program (which can certainly be done), you will follow the second program in this article. The major difference would be the addition of Speed Deadlifts on DE Day, as well as the addition of Deadlift variations to the Max Effort exercise rotations.

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For lifters also following the BIG DEADS Program

Day 1

Dynamic Effort

Complete your scheduled BIG DEADS Deadlift Main Movement Training

Dynamic Squats:

  • Week 1: 8×2 @ 50% of 1RM Squat
  • Week 2: 8×2 @ 55% of 1RM Squat
  • Week 3: 6×2 @ 60% of 1RM Squat

Rest 60–90 seconds between sets

Supplemental Lift

Romanian Deadlifts | 3–6 sets | 8–12 reps | 2–3 min. between sets.

Accessory Lifts

  • 45-Degree Back Extensions | 3–5 sets | 8–12 reps | Bodyweight or light added weight OR 5 sets | 5–7 reps | heavily weighted or band resisted
  • Leg Curls (Or Glute Ham Raises, if your gym has one)| 3–5 sets | 10 reps
  • Standing Weighted Abs* | 100 total reps | As few sets as possible

Day 2

Maximal Effort

Select a movement from the following list.

  • Box Squat
  • Free Squat
  • Zercher Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Anderson Squat

Perform sets of three, until you must drop down to singles. Continue on to a 1RM.

Supplemental Lift

Good Mornings | 5 sets | 12–15 reps | 2–3 min. between sets.

Accessory Lifts

  • Leg Curls (or Glute Ham Raises, if your gym has one | 3–5 sets |10 reps.
  • Pullthroughs | 3 sets | 10–12 reps.
  • Standing Abs| 100 reps| As few sets as possible.
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For lifters not following the BIG DEADS Program

Day 1

Dynamic Effort

Dynamic Squats:

  • Week 1: 8×2 @ 50% of 1RM Squat
  • Week 2: 8×2 @ 55% of 1RM Squat
  • Week 3: 6×2 @ 60% of 1RM Squat

Rest 60–90 seconds between sets.

Speed Deadlifts | 8–12 sets | 1 rep | 60–65% of your 1RM.

Supplemental Lift

Romanian Deadlifts | 3–6 sets | 8–12 reps | 2–3 min. between sets.

Accessory Lifts

  • 45-Degree Back Extensions | 3–5 sets | 8–12 reps | Bodyweight or light added weight OR 5 sets | 5–7 reps | Heavily weighted or band resisted
  • Leg Curls (Or Glute Ham Raises, if your gym has one)| 3–5 sets | 10 reps
  • Standing Weighted Abs | 100 total reps | As few sets as possible

Day 2

Maximal Effort

Select a movement from the following list:

  • Box Squat
  • Free Squat
  • Conventional Deadlift
  • Zercher Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Rack Pulls
  • Anderson Squat
  • Deficit Deadlifts

Perform sets of three, until you must drop down to singles. Continue on to a 1RM.

Supplemental Lift

Good Mornings |5 sets | 12–15 reps | 2–3 min. between sets

Accessory Lifts

  • Leg Curls (or Glute Ham Raises, if your gym has one | 3–5 sets |10 reps
  • Pullthroughs | 3 sets | 10–12 reps
  • Standing Abs| 100 reps| As few sets as possible
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ME Lift Explanations

Box Squat: Box height should always be set so that you’re at or below parallel (crease of the hip below the top of the knee joint). Keep track of personal records set at varying box heights, and rotate heights for more variation.

Front Squat: Rest the bar across your clavicles with arms folded to hold the bar in place or, if your wrist flexibility will allow it, in the rack position of a clean.

Anderson Squats: In a power rack, set the safety pins to a height where, with the bar resting on the pins, you’re in a parallel squat underneath the bar. Begin the squat from the bottom position. This is great for strengthening the hips and improving strength out of the hole.

Zercher Squats: Similar to a Front Squat, though with the arms held in front (as if carrying a sandbag) and with the bar resting in the elbows. This can be somewhat uncomfortable at first. If absolutely needed, place a pad or towel on the bar where it will be held.

Rack Pulls: Set the pins of a power rack so that the bar is at approximately mid-shin height. Performing these partial-range-of-motion deadlifts will allow the lifter to strengthen the lower back, hamstring and glute muscles, which are important in the top half of the deadlift. It also allows the lifter to acclimate to handling heavier weights.

Deficit Pulls: Deadifts performed from a 4" elevated platform. This builds strength off the floor by forcing the lifter to pull over a longer range of motion. After moving back to regular deadlifts off the floor, the increased strength off the floor will allow the lifter to begin the lift with greater speed, helping to blow through sticking points.

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