Q & A with Jim Wendler
By Jim Wendler and Elite Fitness Systems
We get thousands of questions each month on our Q/A, over the phone and our personal e-mails regarding some very simple but important questions. Here are answers to the frequently asked questions regarding max effort squat and deadlifting.
Question: Do you ever wear a squat suit or groove briefs on max effort day?
Answer: Yes, but not always. Many times if our hips are sore we will wear some supportive equipment on this day. There is no point in getting hurt so if you have to wear some kind of equipment to prevent injury, then wear it. You cannot lift to your potential if you are hurt, so don’t take a chance. If you are wearing protective gear to work around an injury, I advise you to get that injury taken care of!
Question: Do you ever wear a belt on max effort day?
Answer: Yes. Almost all sets done after 70% are done with a belt.
Question: Do you still perform Zercher squats on max effort day?
Answer: If Zercher squats are done than they are usually done as a second movement. We have found that the limiting factor of the Zercher squat was how much weight we could hold. It is better used as an accessory exercise. These can be done with or without a box. Also, Zercher squats can be done with a straight bar or a cambered squat bar. Another great way to perform this exercise, and that allows you to take some stress off of your arms, is to place an 18” 2x6 board in the crook of your elbows and place the bar on the board. This makes a Zercher squat bearable. If you have trouble picturing this, the newest EliteFTS Squat/DL Exercise Index goes over this in detail.
Question: Do you still perform kneeling squats as a max effort exercise?
Answer: No. Because of the amount of weight that was being handled, it is better to be used as an accessory exercise for higher reps (10-20 reps). This is a great exercise to build hip strength. When doing kneeling squats be sure to have some kind of extra padding for your knees. A rolled up carpet or an aerobics mat are good choices. As a side note, if you have an aerobics mat, then maybe we should talk.
Question: Do you ever wear wrist straps when doing max effort deadlift movements?
Answer: Yes. Don’t let your grip be the limiting factor when training for max effort. If your grip is weak, train it separately. Also, a lot of people will always use an overhand/underhand grip when deadlifting. Switching to a double over hand grip and using straps will lessen the chance of a biceps tear as well as eliminating the windmill effect that many lifters seem to have when using a pronated/supinated grip.
Question: What kind of stance do you take when performing max effort squats?
Answer: We almost always take a close or medium (shoulder width) stance. This allows for variety as we always use a wide stance on dynamic effort squat day. Also, this mimics the stance taken when performing a conventional deadlift. Using a close stance also lets the hips recuperate from the wider stance used on dynamic effort squat day.
Question: What height is used for a low box and a high box?
Answer: A low box is about 1-2” below parallel. A high box would be 1-2” above parallel. In determining box height, do not use your body height or inseam as a hard rule. There are many factors that come into play. Have someone who understands what parallel is to determine the correct box height for you by watching you squat on the box.
Question: When performing rack pulls how high should the bar be placed?
Answer: Rack pulls can be done from any height. A good power rack will have small hole spacing to allow for small increments between rack pulls and bench lockouts. Check out our racks to see how it SHOULD be done; not how some manufacturer who has never lifted a weight builds a rack.
Question: When using the Safety Squat Bar, do you hold onto the rack?
Answer: No. Keep your hands at your side or on the padded yolk.
Question: When performing good mornings do I go for a 3RM or a 1RM?
Answer: Always make sure that your form is correct on any exercise before performing a max attempt. Once your form is correct on the good morning, you can perform either a 1 or 3RM. Many people like to perform 5-8 repetitions on the good morning. The good morning is one of the best exercises for your low back, hamstrings and glutes. Unfortunately, many people turn the good morning into a quarter-squat because they want to add more weight. Not only is this sophomoric, it takes the purpose of the exercise away. So if your form is less than desirable on the good morning, take some weight off of the bar, do it correctly and save yourself a trip to your chiropractor.
Question: Do you ever use bands and chains on this day?
Answer: If we use bands, it is done when performing the reverse band deadlift or while pulling on a Jump Stretch platform against bands. Chains are used on some of the squat and good morning movements. Chains can also be used when deadlifting. For the most part, chains and bands are used primarily on dynamic effort day and rarely used on max effort day.
Question: When doing suspended good mornings, how high is the bar that is suspended in chains?
Answer: The bar is about 3 ½ feet off of the ground; generally the bar is set at waist height of the lifter. No matter what height of the lifter, the bar stays at that level. This makes things easier so that you don’t have to constantly change the bar during the sets. Whatever height you set the bar at, be sure you keep track of it. This way you have an easy way to track your progress and your personal records.
Question: What kind of stance do you take, conventional or sumo, when performing max effort deadlifts?
Answer: You can take either stance. Records can be broken using either stance so don’t be afraid to vary things. Just because you pull one way does not mean that you have to always use that stance when doing maximal effort work.
Question: How often do you change your movement?
Answer: The max effort movement is changed every week.
Question: How do you cycle your max effort movements?
Answer: There is no set rule on how to do this. The choice of movements from week to week is not dictated by a written training program but how you feel and what you feel you need to do. If you are having trouble deciding what to do you can rotate the movements every week.
· Week 1 – Deadlift Variation
· Week 2 – Squat Variation
· Week 3 – Good Morning Variation
· Week 4 – Deadlift Variation (different than week 1)
· And so on…
Or another way to structure your training would be to do the following
· Week 1 – Deadlift Variation
· Week 2 – Squat Variation
· Week 3 – Good Morning Variation
· Week 4 – No max effort work; just assistance work.
· Week 5 – Return to a deadlift variation, but different than week 1
· And so on…
Question: What are the most used max effort movements for the squat and deadlift?
Answer: Here is a list of movements that are most often done.
· Good Mornings
· Low and High Box Squats
· Cambered Bar Good Mornings
· Cambered Bar Suspended Good Mornings
· Cambered Bar Low and High Box Squats
· Safety Squat Bar Suspended Good Mornings
· Safety Squat Bar Low and High Box Squats
· Reverse Band Deadlifts
· Deadlifts Off of Pins (done in power rack)
· Deadlifts standing on elevated platform
· Box Squats with Manta Ray
· Box Squats with Front Squat Harness
I hope this answers many of your questions regarding maximal effort work for the squat and deadlift.
IME, use whatever it takes to get the deadlift up, then rely on working your grip with other opportunities.
As much as I loved the exercise because of how easy it was on my back, there's no way in hell I'd be doing them again unless it's as a supplemental.. At best!
Great post keep this westside stuff coming horse.
Great post DH!
Lift at home... buy what you will use and be done with the commercial gyms. My best guess is that most people could own a gym that would make a real man cry with joy for less than the cost of three years worth of gym memberships. I know that I have purchased several thousand worth of equipment for my home gym, and it is more expensive than a gym membership for 5 years, but... I own it, mine, forever... need I say more? No retards are going to constantly break my equipment unless that retard is me! :D Plus I have gone WAY overboard. I have multiple bars, set ups for strongman, Oly lifting (and I'm talking a REAL Oly bar and bumpers), kettle bells, and so many other fun gadgets I can't begin to talk about it all. But at the heart of my gym is the good old power rack, around 800lbs of plates. Total cost here with two bars, pull up bars and dip bars... MAYBE $1000. For 90% of everyone out there, this equipment would be enough to let you develop for years and years in a way that would be ultimately MORE productive than all the crap at the commercial gym, and for less money in the long run.
As for skin tears...
As truly weird as it may sound, the more you moisturize your hands (softening callouses), the less likely they are to tear. This is another trick I learned after getting into strongman. Tears happen, but they can be minimized by a great grip and soft hands. Tears happen as the bar starts to slip, and the friction between your skin and your body is less than the friction between you and the bar :) This is why a super human grip is a bonus. Less bar slipping. Softening the hands using hand cream or whatever helps because callouses seem to be the weakest point in the hand. The place where the friction is most likely to be different, if you will.
Well I'm thinking the callouses themselves are strong enough but seeing as that skin is dead/half detached and the rest of your skin is alive and attached to your flesh then its probably the boundary between these two that gives way first.
This is just a guess but it makes sense to me. lol
Good thread by the way.
Meanwhile, I work at a commercial gym doing front desk and we charge $499 down with $20/mo. as our cheapest long-term package. :gay:
Yeah, I think my tear was more from being a brand new bar than anything else since I've never had a problem using older bars. Sure, nice and shiny, but the grips are fucking rediculous LOL.
I'd LOVE to have my own gym in my garage. So many things I could do. Chains, bands, plywood for Anderson squats.. Seriously, beyond a lot of plates, all I'd really need is one of those DB's that goes from 10-50 lbs, then maybe a 100, 115, and 130. Everything else for a powerlifter is either done with a barbell, or with some Macguyver skills (ghetto styled reverse hypers, gluteham's, ect).
Yes, bars with deep knurling tend to be rough on the old mits. Of course, the opposite end of the spectrum, the typical gym bar worn to a satin finish... they suck nuts too!
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