April 6, 2012
April 11, 2012

Sunday saw another large class as we proceeded with the second week of our squat cycle. Before anyone got to the squats though, everyone warmed-up with a few rounds of, er, hopping drills, as well as some…bouncing drills… OK, let’s face, we were trying to make you all jump around like a bunch of Easter Bunnies. There, it’s been admitted. However, we were also working to open up the hips and help warm-up the quads and hamstrings to allow for optimal depth and drive out of the squat. Seems like it worked.

Squat Cycle 1, Week 2: 
 Back Squat 3 x 6 @ 75%

To prep for the working sets, warm-up sets were also programmed at 1 x 10 @ 30-35%, 1 x 8 @ ~50%, and 1 x 6 @ ~65%. This should’ve prepared everyone for the working sets of 3 x 6 @ 75%. Although 10% heavier than last week, this emphasis should still be on a nice smooth movement. The weight will be heavier, but if you find yourself grinding through the lift, or if you find a sticking point that really slows down the movement, assess what may be causing that (other than the weight). Common faults seen yesterday included:

  1. collapsing into the bottom of the squat, or rushing the concentric portion of the squat (lowering the weight), which strips the body of tension and actually makes it more difficult to stand up (this includes trying to “bounce” the weight up from the bottom position); 
  2. letting the knees cave in, which compromises back stability and will often cause you to pitch forward onto your toes; 
  3. allowing the chest to deflate or sag – remember, while we are trying to stand up with the weight, you must drive your chest up with the weight as well, or your hips will rise faster than your torso (this will cause you to pitch forward and lose momentum, stalling the movement as you attempt to regain upper body position); and, 
  4. not squatting deep enough. Remember, the crease of the hips should be at least at the same level as your knees, although it’s preferable that the hip-crease be slightly below the knees. The fix is rather simple (so long as your depth issue isn’t related to one of the faults above), and that’s to simply go deeper.

Adam not having any of the above mentioned troubles yesterday

Also, another point that was in the original notes that were handed out for the squat cycle, and was again brought up yesterday: this is a Team Effort. It’s extremely unlikely that you will ever be squatting solo during class, as the number of racks and size of class will demand groups. As such, be sure that you are involved in your groups effort. When others are lifting, watch them – are they squatting deep enough? are their knees caving in? are they collapsing under the weight? Tell them, and be sure someone’s telling you the same. This will become particularly important as we get into the higher weight ranges which will necessitate spotting. Also, coordinate your group by weight to be lifted, and make the plate changes efficiently – each of you know your numbers for the day, and so you should be able to arrange your group so the weight on the bar goes up with each lifter until you’re back to the beginning. This will ensure everyone’s moving safely, efficiently, and to the required standards.

10 x 2 Sumo DL Speed Pulls

Working in groups, use a weight that is roughly 50-60% of your 1RM. The focus for speed pulls is on making every rep as fast as possible, not on moving heavy weight as fast as you can (it’s subtle, but easy to spot). You should be able to set up to the bar, set-up, and then squeeze the bar off the floor, exploding upwards into the upright and extended position. Don’t forget however, that this must still be a controlled movement.

10min to complete 
5 x 5 burpees + 1 shuttle run,
 then AMRAP OH Walking

With basketball cancelled, and the gym to ourselves, Sunday’s met-con was done down on the court. Everyone grabbed a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and lined up along the sideline of the basketball court. Everyone was given 10 minutes to complete 5 rounds of 5 burpees plus 1 shuttle run (half-way & back, full & back, half-way & back), and then, in whatever time remained, complete as many trips back and forth across the court as possible keeping the DBs/KBs locked out in the overhead position. Tough to do when you’re short on breath, as the abs and glutes must be engaged and elbows fully extended in order to maintain good alignment.

Great work as usual. To have another big class on a holiday weekend was a pleasant surprise. Speaking of which, hope everyone had an enjoyable Easter/Passover weekend. We’ll see you all on Tuesday.



  1. SBV says:

    I survived another week of Survivor CFDC, Squat Cycle Edition. My working sets were at 215#, and I was pretty happy with the bar speed. Will need to continue working the mobility in order to survive the heavier sets. We voted Ben Brown off the island for being a weirdo and using more weight on sumo speed pulls than he used on back squats. We also felt as though he’s been using an artificially low number for his 1 RM in an effort to be the Biggest Gainer at the end of the 16-week cycle.

  2. Katie says:

    Squats are my new nemesis (even beating out burpees). Glad to have this cycle to work on them and improve! I’m trying to be patient, knowing my numbers will go up like they have for everything else. I used 45# again (which I also used for 65% last week), because I don’t think I could do more than that and keep the reps reasonably quick. My cues this week are to keep my chest up, breathe into my diaphragm and keep my abs tight, and keep my shoulders squeezed back.

    I used 65# for the pulls, which felt good. Deadlifts (in any form) are great. I guess I’ll join Ben Brown in being banished, which is fine with me…we’ll find our own island and eat delicious cheddar-stuffed burgers and paleo baked goods and work on our wicked hamstrings all day. :o) Anyone else joining our island?

  3. Julia says:

    <3 fun warmups, sneaky tricks and all!

    Also <3 Sunday fun day squat day!

    I definitely need to work on 1), among other things. And like Katie, I got helpful (and much-needed) cues about staying tight under the bar.

    Happy Easter & Passover, and see you all Tuesday (unless you’ve already left for the island of cheddar and muffins, which sounds pretty awesome to me).

  4. Sara says:

    Squats this week were at 135lbs. I used 61 kilos so it was more like 134lbs. They went well but I am feeling them today a bit. I am not sure I understood the loading for the assistance speed sumo DLs but I went with 55kg which is about 65% of my 1RM squat. They were good after Tom told me I should be pulling off the ground faster and not just exploding once the weight is already a couple inches from the ground.

    I skipped the metcon this week but the overhead walks looked fun.

  5. Sara says:

    Where are all the comments? There were 25 people in class Sunday.

  6. Erica says:

    Sorry Sara! Day two squat cycle, I’d say that was a success. I worked with Anne, MC, and Amelia and squatted 95#s. I echo what I say every week, for some reason, everything always feels heavy! It doesn’t mean I can’t do it, but still feels heavy 🙂 Steph cued me to come down more slowly, which was a big help. It actually helped with exploding up more. For the deadlifts, we used 85#s. Ever since the smackdown, I’m trying so hard not to do improper DLs and felt good yesterday, I sort of loved the metcon. I used 20# dumbbells and did the first couple back and forths without resting, but then had to rest at each endline. Great stability work for me.

  7. Erica says:

    By the way, I realized the importance of posting weights here, so that there is evidence for how much our 1rm is when we do our 16 week clean cycle

  8. Tom Brose says:

    Erica, Stephs point is really important. There are alot of ways to play with the speed of the descent, but you have to learn how to get tight first. Most people are not advanced enough to be concerned with “bouncing out of the hole”. The key to squatting heavy (and therefore getting strong) is to learn how to get rock solid tight.

    Katie, I’m going to make this as simple as possible: Squats=fun, Burpees=suck.

    SBV, if we voted off the wierdos, we’d be left with….?

  9. SBV says:

    You’ll have to tune in for all 16 weeks to find out. We’ll see who can handle 100% for sets of 6 in a few weeks.

    Also, Erica shouldn’t tease about a 16 week clean cycle.

  10. Ben says:

    Yeah SBV, you stay on your island. I’ll take my sumo DLs and join Katie on our own island, where weirdness and strong hamstrings are celebrated.

    I worked with SBV, Adam, and Peter on the squats at 195lbs. Then, YES, I did move over with Dan, Reggie, Tom, and Ethan to do the Sumo DLs with 205lbs.

    I used 45lb DBs for the met-con, which was brutal for the remainder of the 10 minutes. Nice work Tom, Chris, Steph, and Sara for keeping things moving on Sunday with so many people there.

  11. Erica says:

    SBV, who said I was teasing…I have nightmares about not getting that 95# clean when everyone was watching on that dark, stormy sunday morning a few weeks back…

  12. edgy reggie says:

    I’m enjoying this sixteen-week squat cycle. I”m at the end of the first phase of my Idaho Weightlifting program; thus, the cycle was right-on-time.

    I used 225# for my squatting work sets and — as Ben mentioned — 205# for the sumo deadlifts (it was ten pounds more than the “recommended” weight, but I didn’t have any problems handling it).

    @Ben (Brown): You’re always welcome to join us if you ever get “banished” by Sebastian again (Methinks he was drinking a lot of “haterade” at the time)…no need to ask; just jump right in! 🙂

    As far as the “island of weirdos” is concerned, can I be mayor? 🙂

  13. Dan Samarov says:

    Great job on the squats folks! Working weight was 305 except on the last set went to 295. Had been focusing on getting butt-to-asphalt but it was causing me to loosen up and bounce at the bottom and my knees to cave. Salty and Tom emphasized that focusing on getting below parallel (not necessarily b2a) and on keeping tight throughout the lift was most important to getting the right muscles trained for improving my squat.

    Also, don’t know if other folks feel like this, but I feel like I kind of tweak my squat almost every lift… whether it’s foot position, or how I descend, or drive up, etc. Guess I’m still trying to find the “best” position for me.

  14. edgy reggie says:

    I’m agree with you on the tweaking “Dan-imal.” I’m periodically adjusting my foot position so that I can get the correct depth on my squats…and the most optimal squat position for me.

  15. edgy reggie says:

    er…”I agree…”

    Need to proofread better before hitting “Publish.” 🙂

  16. Kenna says:

    I LOVE the post title this week. This blogpost was very helpful, though now I’m confused on which of the mistakes I was making. I thought collapsing and deflating/sagging were the same thing, so I need to figure out which one I was doing, though it might be both 🙁 I know that I sometimes don’t get the proper depth on at least 1 rep per set. Trying to be more consistent there.

    I was using 75# and was trying to focus on my explosion factor since I might have been lacking there last week. Our group used 65# on the DLs, which I could increase on next time.