On many occasions through this blog, I have spoken to the value of the “Super Squats” program and eluded to its difficulty and insanity, but never taken the time to fully explain what it is and why I am such a fan of it. This program represented a big turning point in my training, and is a fantastic paradigm breaker, which is why I am to this day a staunch supporter of the idea that ALL trainees, regardless of goals, should run it for 6 weeks. No matter what reason you train, following this program will teach you some invaluable lessons that you can get purely through academics. Without further ado…
WHAT IS SUPER SQUATS
18 of those pounds are balls
“Super Squats” the book, is a publication by Randall Strossen of Ironmind renown. In itself it is a fantastic read that goes over some of the history of the iron game, big names, where the squat came from and, of course, the infamous “Super Squats” program and diet. I first read the book over Christmas of 2006, purely as a curiosity, as I had heard the program and the book whispered about in lifting circles and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Strossen is a fantastic author, because once I was done with the book I was already chomping at the bit to run my 6 week Super Squats program. To understand the significance of that, you have to keep in mind that, at this point in time, I was totally drinking the Pavel Tsastouline kool-aid and firmly believed I only needed to ever do 5 reps to get bigger and stronger. The sheer idea of a 20 rep set was totally anathema to everything I “believed” at that point, but this book sunk its hooks into me.
So you’ll notice I said “20 rep squats”, and yeah; that’s what this program is based around. But right away people screw that up. It’s not a leisurely set of 20, so all those people saying “reps that high don’t build muscle!” have to keep in mind that we’re not talking about 20 rep warm-up set. In fact, the book suggests you start with your 10rm for the set of 20.
Don't base it off of this set
“If it’s a 10rm, how do you squat it for 20 reps you idiot?!” Hey shut up for a second. That’s the SECOND part of the program people screw up; these aren’t squats, they’re BREATHING squats. What’s the difference? On a normal high rep set of squats, you’ll probably knock out the first 3/4s of the reps without stopping, and once you get to the end you’ll take a few breaths between reps to “rest”. With Super Squats, you’re taking those breaths in from rep ONE, and these are supposed to be the deepest breaths of your life. It’s a minimum required 3 breaths per rep, but you are free to do more if you like.
Are breathing squats an old-timey gimmick? No; it’s primitive rest pausing! Now sure, the old timers told you that those deep breaths would give you a deep chest, and maybe there was something to that, but even if that’s not true, what they DO manage to do is force you to take a break between reps to rest and recover. This gives you the chance to do your 10rm for 20 reps. HOWEVER, it also forces you to stand with your 10rm on your back for about 2-3 minutes. Even WITHOUT the squats, that is going to suck, but throw those in and you have the recipe for a TON of tension all across the body for a LOOONG time. Throwing in some other lifting on top of all that just becomes madness.
WHY SUPER SQUATS
Can't I just cycle for legs?
As I mentioned before, Super Squats is a major paradigm breaker in a lot of ways. For one, if you think you train hard, once you run this program you’ll realize how run you were. And, in turn, once you’re done with this program, pretty much nothing else out there will phase you, because you can say “*Psh*, whatever, I ran Super Squats”. I thought I was a complete Billy Badass before this, and about midway through the 6 weeks I realized I was actually dreading training because it was so awful.
However, that dread is another reason why everyone needs to run this program; you gain a valuable lesson in obsessiveness. I realize that word has a negative connotation and yes, being obsessed ALL the time is not a great thing, but if you ever have hopes of being competitive or even simply great at something, you’re going to need to get obsessed sometimes. Super Squats teaches you to be obsessed about getting those 20 reps. Each time you succeed, you are “rewarded” by adding another 5lbs to the bar for the next workout. Whenever you fail, you will spend the next 47 hours thinking about how you absolutely COULD have gotten that last rep if only you weren’t such a wimp. You’ll kick yourself, beat yourself up, and flat out hate yourself because you’ll be convinced that ALL the growth on the program happens on that 20th rep and, if you don’t hit it, you wasted a training session. When you run this program, you will live, eat and breathe 20 rep squats. All time not spent squatting will be spent either dreading the next workout or kicking yourself for failing the previous one. Once the 20 reps are done, you will feel exactly 1 second of relief before realizing that, next workout, you have to do it again with 5 more pounds.
Yeah pretty much this
You’ll noted I say “live, eat and breathe” 20 rep squats, because what you’ll be drinking is a ton of milk. And yeah yeah, everyone is going to say “You don’t need to follow the diet; I know an app that TOTALLY calculates your macros and calories and there’s no reason to eat any more than what the computer tells me to eat!”, again, shut up for a second. This is once again a lesson in obsessiveness. So many underweight kids out there are like that because they’re adamantly CONVINCED that they totally eat a TON and they must just have a fast metabolism. Cool story bro; tell it after you drank a gallon of milk on TOP of a diet rich in solid foods as well. When you buy in completely to the program, to include the food intake, you suddenly learn how much you WEREN’T eating in your quest to get big previously. And you’ll find that all those calories are necessary to keep pushing the weight up on those squats every single session. But if you don’t want to eat that way, well…good luck.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RIB CAGE EXPANSION?!
Hey maybe it works...
Everyone gets so freaked out over this, and I don’t see it as any different than the “extreme stretching” from DoggCrapp. Which is to say; just do it. It’s 20 reps of pull overs; what’ the worst that could happen? You accidentally develop a little chest muscle? Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but you may as well run it just to completely take part in the program.
MY OWN EXPERIENCE/LESSONS LEARNED
I ran this program back in January of 2007 weighing 190 at the start, and finishing in 6 weeks at 202lbs. Yeah, the book says “30lbs in 6 weeks”, grain of salt here fellows. At 5’9, I was pretty stocky there. I was in my senior year of college and had access to a meal hall, so I was able to eat a lot of food that was already prepared for me and had very few demands on my time, which made it pretty awesome. I’d say, if I had to do it all over again, I’d use a little more training volume. I was running the super abbreviated program in the book, which boiled down to 2x12 of a press (bench or overhead), 2x15 of pulls (rows or chins), the squats and the pullovers. There were other programs in there with more volume, along with programs in “The Complete Keys to Progress” and “Brawn” that do the same, and I think I would have been able to recover well, but I was trying to prove something by training less and still growing.
Good luck for those of you that decide to take this on. Feel free to ask any questions you have, and please buy and read the book.