Respecting the Squat

I’ll let you in on a little secret. As much as I love squats, sometimes they scare me just a little. Some days you feel strong and invincible, like you could squat a new personal record, while on other days, even the weights you know you could easily do for reps feel tough. Last week’s squat day, I felt powerful, strong and fast. I also had a lot of excitement and energy bouncing around inside with the airing of my interview that day. Wow! Was that really only a week ago?! But today was not the same as last week. The rest of my day was good enough, and I was definitely looking forward to my squats; however, it didn’t take long for the muscles to feel a little shaky and the bar to feel a little heavier than normal. The challenge is to take that little niggle of fear and twist it in your favour rather than letting it shake your confidence. That’s not always easy to do, but I try to approach the bar in the same way each time. There is confidence in the routine…and in the knowledge that there are safety bars and a coach watching my back!

1a. high bar squats

without belt: 45 x 10, 95 x 5, 135 x 5, 155 x 5

with belt: 185 x 5, 190 x 5, 195 x 4 This was supposed to be a set of 5, but Michael called it after the fourth rep. He has discovered my weakness. It’s all in my upper back! 195 x 5 This was a new PR and an example of a time when I felt a little bit of fear. The previous set felt rather tough, tougher than I felt it should have, even though I’ve never done 195 pounds for even 4 reps before. I hate dropping a rep, especially when I know that I should have had it. So, I was frustrated by the missed rep, frustrated by the feel of the weight, and then suddenly I was afraid of the next set. What if it felt even more difficult? What if I couldn’t get all the reps? What if I couldn’t even equal the number of reps on the previous set? What if my legs finally collapsed into a puddle of jelly? That sounds like an awful lot of worry and fretting, doesn’t it, but it passes so quickly. The fear isn’t something I typically dwell on. I feel it. I acknowledge it, at least mentally although seldom out-loud to Michael, and then I buckle down and do what needs to be done.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 x 8, 70 x 5, 90 x 5, 100 x 5 My right shoulder slipped during the very first rep, but I seemed to recover somewhat as the reps went on. Michael said that my upper back was likely fatigued from alternating sets with the squats. He told me to think about pushing my shoulders into the bench rather than thinking about pushing the bar away from my chest. 100 x 2 + 3 So I tried thinking about pushing my shoulders into the bench. I think it helped, but the act of thinking about it made the process feel more difficult. Also, I paused longer than usual for the first rep, as I was kind of expecting Michael to give me the press command like he had the set before. Really, it just takes me a set or two to adjust to changes in grip, positioning, or mental focus. Still, Michael dropped the weight for the next set just to get the rhythm again. 90 x 5, 100 x 5

2a. floor press-close grip

85 x 7, 85 x 8, 85 x 8

2b. box squats-high bar

195 x 5, 215 x 5, 225 x 5

Since my back is my weak spot, Michael is going to attack it. The box wouldn’t quite get as high as he wanted for these, so he set it on top of a block. The idea was to have a slow, controlled descent in my usual squat position until I touched the box and then return to an upright position. These were definitely not legal depth, but it was all about feeling heavy weight and requiring my back to stay tight. In all honesty, I figured the first set would be okay, but I was a little afraid of the following sets. Well, actually that isn’t quite accurate! I was really only a little afraid of the final set, because I made a mental error before the first set which carried over into the second set. I thought that the first set was only 185 pounds, so when Michael said to add 20 pounds to the bar for the next set, I figured it was 205. Okay, so even the thought of 205 made me a little nervous, because I have only done 2 sets of 2 @ 205. Even though these weren’t full and proper squats, it was still a lot of weight. I was surprised by how “easy” the second set felt, and then I was surprised to realize that it was 10 pounds heavier than I had thought! Now that is a good confidence boost! Still, putting a second plate on the bar for the final set was both exciting and scary. I’ve never had two plates on the bar for a squat before, but I like the thought of it. Again, they weren’t proper squats, but they felt rather good and the weight felt lighter than I expected, even when Michael made me stand with it on my back for 10 seconds after I finished the set.

3. toes to bar

x 6…because my hands got a little too sweaty and I’d rather not fall from the bar! I could have done more with chalk, but Michael wants to work on my grip.

Fear might be a strong word, or maybe it is completely appropriate. That’s a lot of weight on your back. Standing there with it is simple enough, but you need to take a step back, unlock your knees, squat down, and then return to a standing position. I guess it all comes down to respecting the bar. It’s not like going for a walk in the park.

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