Squat or Rot


Over the past couple of months I’ve been working at removing machine weights from my training regime but up until last week I was using machines exclusively to train my legs.

My mate Tony had shown me how to squat a good few months ago but not only was I afraid of injuring my back with improper form I was downright intimidated by this, the daddy of all exercises.

I spent a good chunk of time reading about the technique involved and last Thursday I stepped into the power cage to give it a go. I started practicing with just the bar and proceeded to add a couple of 10 Kg plates, being very conscience of my form and trying to get a full range of movement. I had difficulty getting my quads parallel to the floor and some guy started giving me his “advice.” He told me about stretching my achilles tendons (thank you) but then went on to suggest I put a plate under each heel… I tried this approach without any weight and found I could get down deep enough but I had read discouraging things about this technique, so I thanked the guy and went back to what I was doing before, safe in the knowledge that if I put the practice in I’ll get there eventually.

I upped the weight a bit more and did a set of 10 reps. A modest beginning but when I stepped out of the power cage my heart was beating fast and I was covered in sweat, a sure sign that I had done something right.

Last night I was back. I found supporting the weight across my traps a bit easier (with less pain in that area today than last Friday) and gradually increased the weight through successive sets and finished on a set of 10 reps with 40 kilos of plates on the bar. This is a fraction of the weight I was doing with a leg-press machine but I’ve found it to be a completely different experience. About half-way into the set I had one of those “uh-oh” moments; I was trying to squat as deep as I could and had paused slightly before my ascent. I think my right knee or my torso moved slightly and I thought “I’m not going to make it back up,” but the moment passed and I finished my reps, breathing heavy with my heart pounding.

It’s going to be some time before I start doing work sets, but the love/hate relationship with this exercise has begun!