The Squat

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After moving to Westside, A.J. Roberts has improved his squat from 1008 to 1140 pounds in just over 2 years by following the conjugate system. This includes a speed strength day, where a series of 3-week waves are performed. The percent of a 1-rep max used is 50% to 60% within the 3-week wave. Bands or chains or a combination of both is used to prevent accommodation.

A.J. will use an assortment of bars such as a regular 65-pound Bulldog squat bar for a 3-week cycle. At other times a Safety squat bar, a bow bar, or a 14-inch cambered bar is often utilized. Sometimes a front squat apparatus will be used for sets. A.J. has a record for a max single for each type of bar he uses. Westside lifters discovered many years ago that a regular straight bar can cause shoulder discomfort as well as bicipital tendonitis even when using maximal hand spacing.


It is easy to manipulate the volume while doing the same percent, the same number of lifts in a set, and the same number of sets.  After the speed strength sets are done, which occurs on Friday at Westside, 3 or 4 special exercises are selected and rotated when necessary.

Let’s look at some examples of 3-week cycles, or speed strength phases, that A.J. uses.  He will wear a Leviathan suit with the straps down and no knee wraps.

 

START OF THE 3-WEEK SPEED STRENGTH WAVE USING A BULLDOG SQUAT BAR

WEEK

PERCENT

WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION

SETS

REPS

TOTAL NUMBER OF LIFTS

1

50%

560

25%

10

2

20

2

55%

620

25%

10

2

20

3

60%

690

25%

8

2

16

NEW 3-WEEK WAVE BEGINS, CHANGING FROM SQUAT BAR TO SAFTEY SQUAT BAR

WEEK

PERCENT

WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION

SETS

REPS

TOTAL NUMBER OF LIFTS

1

50%

450

25%

10

2

20

2

55%

495

25%

10

2

20

3

60%

540

25%

8

2

16

NEW 3-WEEK WAVE BEGINS, CHANGING FROM A SAFTEY SQUAT BAR TO A FRONT SQUAT

WEEK

PERCENT

WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION

SETS

REPS

TOTAL NUMBER OF LIFTS

1

50%

350

25%

10

2

20

2

55%

385

25%

10

2

20

3

60%

420

25%

8

2

16

NEW 3-WEEK WAVE BEGINS, CHANGING FROM A FRONT SQUAT TO A 14” CAMBERED BAR

1

50%

425

25%

10

2

20

2

55%

470

25%

10

2

20

3

60%

510

25%

8

2

16

These are just some of the speed strength cycles that A.J. uses throughout a yearly plan. Almost always they are 3-week waves, and as you can see, the volume changes each week by changing the percentage. The bars change A.J.’s leverage, and changing from band tension to chains and to just bar weight further prevents accommodation.  The squat is always done to a parallel box with a wide stance, except for front squats. At the end of some workouts the box is lowered. This is typical for all Westside lifters.
The strength speed cycle will last only 2 weeks, as it is very taxing with the large amount of band tension. A.J. and our other 1000-pound-plus lifters use 700 pounds of band tension plus bar weight.


Below is an example of A.J.’s last strength speed 2-week cycle.

WEEK 1

BAR WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION (LBS)

REPS

SET 1

240

700

2

SET 2

330

700

2

SET 3

420

700

1

SET 4

470

700

1

The 470 pounds plus 700 pounds of band tension was a personal record.

WEEK 2

BAR WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION (LBS)

REPS

SET 1

240

700

2

SET 2

330

700

2

SET 3

420

700

1

SET 4

480

700

1

SET 5

510

700

1

The 510 pounds plus 700 pounds of band tension was also a new personal record .

This concluded a 2-week strength cycle with two new records. Remember, a strength speed cycle lasts only 2 weeks. It is done twice a year. Why? Because A.J. normally competes twice a year. In 2011 A.J. broke the world record total three times.  While doing this, two circa-max squat cycles were also done. It is very similar to a strength speed cycle but with more bar weight and less band tension. The total lifts over 90% of a 1-rep max are 4 minimum, 7 optimal, and 10 maximal. Westside lifters stay close to the optimal.

Here is an example of A.J.’s circa-max phase. It is recommended to count lifts at 70% and above with a suit and briefs.

WEEK 1

BAR WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION (LBS)

REPS

SET 1

240

440

2

SET 2

330

440

2

SET 3

460

440

2

SET 4

550

440

2

SET 5

660

440

1

SET 6

710

440

1

Set 6 with 710 pounds was a personal record with just Predator briefs.

WEEK 2

BAR WEIGHT  (LBS)

BAND TENSION (LBS)

REPS

SET 1

240

440

2

SET 2

330

440

2

SET 3

460

440

2

SET 4

510

440

2

 

WEEK 3

BAR WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION (LBS)

REPS

SET 1

240

140

2

SET 2

330

140

2

SET 3

460

140

2

 

This concludes the circa-max phase in a 3-week wave. The third week with the 140 pounds of band tension is the second week of delayed transformation. Providing a week of rest gives A.J. 21 days from the heaviest squat. This makes it possible to be fully rested regarding the bench and deadlift. Seventy-two hours later the max effort workout is done on Monday.

All squat bars are used, but never a regular squat bar, and on some type of box. Deadlifts of all kinds are done, but seldom a regular deadlift, and an assortment of good mornings.  Each week the exercise is rotated and is never done twice in a row.  Below is a sample list of special exercises.

Week 1

 Front squat on a variety of boxes

Week 2

Safety squat bar on a variety of boxes

Week 3

14” cambered bar on a variety of boxes

Week 4

Bow bar on a variety of boxes

Week 5

Rack pulls, plates 3” off the floor

Week 6

Rack pulls, plates 6” off the floor

Week 7

Rack pulls, plates 9” off the floor

Week 8

Rack pulls, plates any height with 250 lbs of band tension

Week 9

Rack pulls, plates any height with 350 lbs of band tension

Week 10

Box pulls on a 2” or 4” box conventional

Week 11

Box pulls on a 2” or 4” box sumo

Week 12

Deadlift with 220 or 280 lbs of band tension

Week 13

Concentric good mornings

Week 14

14” cambered bar good mornings

Week 15

Safety squat good mornings

 

A.J. has his favorites and uses a rotation of 5 or 6 special exercises. A.J. knows it does not do him any good to be strong in the wrong exercises, so he picks them carefully. Just like on speed day A.J. will do 3 or 4 special exercises for the low back, erectors, lats, hamstrings, and abs. His main exercises are as follows:

  • Reverse Hyper machine
  • inverse curls 
  • 45-degree hypers
  • bent-over rows with a bar or dumbbells
  • sled pulls
  • all type of abs
This is a standard program for A.J. and his training partners. Our top 5 official squats average 1160 pounds and are constantly going up.

Keep an eye out for A.J.’s progress. There is always progress at Westside.

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