Two and a half years ago my squat max was 407 lbs. Two months ago at the USAPL Raw National Meet I squatted 507 lbs. I thought it would be helpful and inspirational to others if I wrote about how I accomplished that feat. This is the first part of a two part series on “How I Squatted 500”.
I met Steel in May of 2009 when I came to Franklin Field to meet him about doing a summer internship at the University of Pennsylvania. At the time I was a GA Strength Coach at Temple University and had completed all my coursework for grad school. All I needed was to do a 6 credit internship to earn my Master’s Degree.
At the time I was 25 and had been lifting for a good 9 years. Like most people, I started off doing random bodybuilding routines and lots of arm work but little leg work. In college I was an exercise science major and started to understand better methods of training. When I met Steel I had been “lifting” for 9 years, but only training somewhat effectively for about 3 years. Those years still helped me pack on some size and strength though and served their purpose.
I remember the first day I walked into Coach Steel’s office in the old weight room in Franklin Field. At the bottom of my resume I had a section for “Additional Accomplishments/ Strengths”. Underneath that I listed some of my powerlifting accomplishments. At the time I had been in 3 USAPL meets; earned gold medals in two of the meets in the 198 lb raw division and silver in the other (Can’t say I was up against the best competition). I had been writing my own workouts for a long time now and being that I was almost done with grad school and been around some good strength coaches I felt pretty good about myself and my knowledge of strength and conditioning. Then I was brought back down to earth! Steel looked up from the resume and said, “That’s good that you do powerlifting. What are your numbers?” At the time my best squat was 407. Steel replied, “Your bench and deadlift aren’t bad but what’s up with your squat??? You need to get your squat up! We have football players in here squatting 500 below parallel with ease!” I had won a few meets so I didn’t think my squat was that bad but that day I was brought back to reality. I was stuck right above 400 for a few months so I was open to his advice even though it hurt my pride to admit my training principles needed help. He said, “Why don’t you let me give you a program to do?” I was hesitant at first but glad that I agreed. I liked writing my own programs and experimenting with different methods. Before this I had done basic periodization, undulating periodization, German volume training, Olympic lifting, Westside variations and some other powerlifting type programs. Many times I often did a hybrid of all of these methods of training. That summer I started doing what Steel told me to do. My squat hasn’t been the same ever since! “I have to squat 500!!” was engrained in my brain from then on out. Every time I put the bar on my back I would always think about squatting 500.
Tune in to “How I Squatted 500”- Part 2 to find out what type of things I did to help my squat improve and what types of popular methods I did NOT use.
Stephen Brindle is an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Pennsylvania. He can be reached for training consultations or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org