Monday 3.1.10

Cycle 3 of Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 Program is here!  Add 10 pounds to your previous estimates of your lower body 1 Rep Maxes and 5 pounds to your upper body lifts.  For those of you who feel lost and who suffer from that panicky, "oh... uh... I think I was basing my lifts on x pounds, but I'm not sure, but any way can I just guess and oh well I'll just start with this load"... let me ask you a question:  Why aren't you writing it down some where?  If you aren't Rainman, chances are, you're going to continue to struggle to remember your numbers.  You're busy, right?  Life happens, right?  Bills are due, kids are hungry, your spouse is disgruntled... insert extenuating circumstance here...  Write it down.  Don't come to the gym, shoot from the hip, and expect to excel.  We're getting built.  Its worth recording somewhere.  The numbers don't lie.  Information is your friend.  Use it.

Warning- lots of words ahead. 

I've been thinking about your butt.  Yes you.  Yes your butt.  It is big. In fact it is the largest superficial muscle in the body.  As such, it deserves our attention.  We're squatting today which means your butt is going to be busy.  Gluteus maximus muscle fibers contribute  significantly to squatting at all phases of the squat, but in a full-depth, below parallel position are more active than any other leg muscle ( Caterisano et al. J Strength Cond Res 2002).  I'm on the butt soap box for this reason:  I'm worried that when it comes to the barbell back-squat, you guys aren't really getting your asses into it. 

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a character assasination or commentary about your lack of effort.  I watch you guys get under the bar and turn red and grunt and work plenty hard.  Squatting heavy is a battle.  Every  time I do a heavy squat I'm reminded of this fact and I think that has something to do with the fact that you aren't focusing on your butt... you're too busy trying to survive.  Upon completing a set of squats, if your first thought is, "whoa,  my lower back really hurts" that's a clue that you aren't keyed in to driving out of the hole using your butt.

So what are we going to do about it?  We all know the story about Tiger Woods (no, not that story, wrong website.  Us Weekly covers that stuff).  Tiger famously re-tooled his swing (yes I said that with a straight face) after having won several majors.  He spent the next 18 months without winning a major and then came back to win several in a row.  I think we can benefit from Tiger's example.  I want you to bring a "beginner's mind" to the gym today and "re-tool" your squat.  We're going to start with the buy in.  It consists of several movements that will prime your glutes and hips to fire.  Search the web for the phrases "gluteal dormancy" or "glute amnesia" and you'll find links to several articles.  Most assert that our lifestyles encourage our glutes to underperform.  The buy in should serve as a nice preparatory phase for the really fun stuff... squatting.

When it is time to get under the bar, the key to unleashing the Kraken that is your butt, is to begin with your feet.  Yes the key to a proper squat set-up starts with your feet.  (Side note.  If you aren't lifting in proper lifting shoes, or a thin-soled Chuck Taylor type of shoe, you should lift in bare feet).  Once you've backed out of the rack assume the proper stance, wiggle your toes and then clamp them down in a claw-like fashion.  At this point I want you to begin trying to spread the floor with your feet.  I don't want you to actually slide your feet farther apart, but I do want a very deliberate engagement of your thigh muscles from this spreading action.  Now to the powerhouse: turn your butt "on" ( I know, I know it already is because of this provocative squatting article).  Squeeze your cheeks together like they're one of those funhouse machines that reshapes pennies for 75 cents.  This is the proper degree of engagement.  The hardest thing you are going to do today will be to maintain that degree of engagement throughout the entire squat.  This will be most important once you reach full-depth.  Coming out of the hole, I want you internalize the concept that the glutes are driving you upwards, not your thighs.  Sure your thighs are quite active, but practice will enhance the mind-muscle connection.  Tiger Woods experienced a set back while going through his transition to a new swing, and like him, you may find yourself struggling with this new approach.  You may feel considerably weaker as you begin using this method, but don't despair.  Be patient and driven by excellence over ego.  This is the way to true success grasshopper...


1x5@ 55%

1x5@ 65%

1x Max Reps@ 75%

then in 12 minutes complete as many rounds as possible of:

3 Reps Squat Clean (95/135)

6 Pullups

9 Double Unders

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