Yesterday, I front squatted 295 lbs, which was a personal record (PR) for me. I was very happy about this.
I know of high school athletes who can front squat 315 lbs x 10 reps. That doesn’t concern me. I don’t care what anyone else is doing; I care what I’m doing.
Some lifts will come very easy for you. For me, these include variations of deadlifts, chins, pulldowns, rows, hip thrusts, back extensions, swings, and curls.
Other lifts will not come very easy for you. For me, these include variations of squats and presses.
In the gym, I’m a posterior chain badass and an anterior chain sissy. This doesn’t stop me from pushing myself as hard as possible on my squats and presses. Slowly but surely, they’re creeping up.
Much of this has to do with height, anthropometry/body segment length proportions, and tendon insertion points. It also has to do with genetic variability in muscle mass potential. I could deadlift 405 x 5 reps in my first 6 months of deadlifting at 21 years of age. Granted, they were round-backed, but that’s not the point.
A short, bulky lifter with short femurs and big quads will ALWAYS squat the house. A tall, slender lifter with long femurs and smaller quads will want tend to squat morning the weight up and will never feel like a natural at squats unless he balloons up in weight.
Moreover, most lifters have a particular muscle that doesn’t grow like the others. No matter what they seem to do, the muscle doesn’t budge in size to much of a degree, and it won’t grow like the other muscles. For me, these are my quads and triceps – hence the difficulty with squats and bench. Pecs, biceps, delts, back, traps, adductors, glutes, abs, and calves grow just fine.
My current front squat goal is 315 lbs. When I get there, I’ll definitely be doing a happy dance. What’s that – you can front squat 315 lbs for 10 reps and 455 lbs for a max? Good for you! Those are your PR’s.
But this is my PR, and I’m damn proud of it.
Lift for you and don’t pay attention to what others are doing.
Way to go dude, you should be proud, the only person you should try to be better than is yourself
I heard some Rice Krispies going on at the bottom.. Don’t worry, it’ll only get worse!
Yep. I’ve had rice krispies going on for 15 years in my knees, but never any pain. So I don’t worry about it much…
Way to go Bret!
Is this to be read to the tune of “It’s My Party”?
I think I tend to fall in the same camp as you Bret, I’m not much for squats and the bench, but I love to deadlift and clean. I can load my posterior chain just fine.
Good for you man, solid lift
Loved your post. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about your gaps as well as the areas you kick ass. Front squatting is not something I’m a killer at and I don’t do it much (205lbs @ 165lb BW), but the variations that helped me the most were Zombie Front Squats and putting my hands on the bar in the traditional “clean rack” and really torquing out by externally rotating my shoulders and clamping my rhomboids and lats hard. Practicing these things kept my anterior tension high and helped me when I was Olympic Lifting everyday.
Anywho, just my two cents even though in barbell front squats that’s all I have to spend.
What are Zombie Squats?
Here they are (also called “hands free” front squats):
Congrats on the lift bro! but more importantly i like the way you approach the topic. Everyone should have our mentality in regards to progress.
Bret, looked too easy for a PR! You’ll hit 315 in no time.
i have a similar frame to bret. my legs are my strongest and used to relish 12 reps of 285 back squats.
after a 7 year break and 2 big (unrelated) surgeries along the way, i am starting again. 6’4 and right down to 190lbs. main focus is health and so am prepared to try super slow. but i must say i am very happy at the benefits for squats and deadlifts – by increasing lifting and lowering to 10secs each, the weight has to be reduced. my sensitive lower back is more protected. and where i couldnt feel comfortable with back or front squat barbell positions, i now just hang some flat weights from my neck!
one question. for squats are we still meant to keep knees behind toes no matter what?
Charles, definitely not. If doing a full squat or full front squat, knees go in front of toes (they have to). If doing a box squat, then you want vertical tibias.
cheers very much bret
Woohoo!! Great you should post this today, the day I PR’d my leg press at 380! It’s humble by some measures but I’m 5’2 and 125ish. Like you said “It’s MY PR!”
I have snap-crackle-pop knees too but they only act up from running. Go figure.
Awesome! Bret Congrats on your dead lift progress as well.
Happy dance, love it. Congrats on the DL too.
Congrats on your PR’s!
Learning about anthropometry differences and their influence on the ability to squat, suddenly everything made more sense for me. Thank you for your great work here and at GetGlutes!
Great post. Squats are not a big problem for me, but making gains on DL…. that’s another issue entirely. Good to be reminded that my goals and my achievements are for me and no one else.
I love this post. Thanks for the reminder to keep my PR eyeballs focused on my own PR abilities.
And, congrats on your PR.
Bret, good call on the “..will want tend to squat morning the weight up and will never feel like a natural at squats unless he balloons up in weight.” I’ve only been lifting a year but ballooned up to 200lbs (38″ waist) from 150lbs, never had a problem with goodmorning squats but now that I’ve cut down to 175 (34″ wasit) I just don’t have the leverage now to compensate for my giant femurs. I was confused at why my form degraded so bad, but now after reading this it makes sense. Thanks.
Ever tried weightlifting shoes? The heel should keep your back incredibly vertical and you won’t have to “squat morning”. And Arnold has his heels up in your photo so it must be right. 315 is only a 200$ pair of Adipower’s away.
Good going on the PR!
But, your comment:
Moreover, most lifters have a particular muscle that doesn’t grow like the others. No matter what they seem to do, the muscle doesn’t budge in size to much of a degree, and it won’t grow like the other muscles
Got me thinking about some questions I’ve had for some time.
1) Some lifters, like to 70kg weight class in O-lifts, are not “huge” muscle wise; i.e., their muscle mass is less than someone in the 90kg class for example. One thing I’ve been wondering about is, has anyone tried to model the maximum force a muscle fiber can develop and from that estimate what a muscle of X volume should be able to lift?
2) On the same line of thought, if say two people had the same size quads for example and one was “stronger” than the other, what factor(s) play the more important role in that strength difference:
Number of motor units? Does everyone’s quads have the same number or do they vary?
Inherent sensitivity to Ca, or number of Ca receptors in the muscle?
Just some questions I’ve been wondering about.
What did you do different today to reach your PB? Did you sleep more, eat different or was it just your mental state? It would be really interesting to find out why we sometimes reach our PB and other times we are far from doing so.
I’m looking forward to your response
Great work, Bret! I fall into this category a lot and lose focus of my own personal goals. I always have to remind myself and others to, “do YOUR best!” Looking forward to your next PR, sir.
Bret, regarding triceps that won’t grow:
Have you ever done 100-pushups a day, every day. Sets to failure. Perfect rep form. No garbage reps. You can sprinkle them throughout the day, but after a couple of weeks, move to completing them in less sets, in a 10-15m window. (This is NOT density training.)
You will soon get ‘er done in two sets. Add a band. Rinse, lather, repeat.
This is nothing revolutionary that I am suggesting. It’s as old as Arnold doing calf raises until the cows come home. (Did I just make a pun?)
We usually become bad ass at things that we enjoy doing. We usually enjoy doing things that we are kind of good at. Can you learn to love pushups? (See “The Love of Training”, and adaptation to imposed stimuli.)
Perhaps you have already tried something like this. Might be an interesting future post.
And impeccable form on that FSQ, chief. Good job.
I agree everyone is different. Have gone off the exercise for a little bit. Getting back into it with playing tennis but the result is now my quads and hams are weaker so need to get their strength back up.
On squats my orthopedic surgeon says never go below 90 degree angle as the pressure on the ligaments and tendons are stressed exponentially and little additional muscle growth is benefited but ‘he’s made a living out of repairing knees of lifters’. What are your thoughts? I see a lot of guys at the gym with knee wraps and even in your video I see you bottoming out hip well below knee.
Regarding Triceps won’t grow – I agree with Derrick but in the respect of utilising Triceps push ups on a medball.
I found these to be excellent at stimulating hypertrophy, but I’d go for a couple of sets of 15-20 reps with 30sec recoveries followed by a final set to failure. Then lay off them for a while and bring them back in sporadically.
Although I’ve always had a good bench( PB 185kg) and thought this the reason as to why my triceps never grew. I found upping the reps and reducing the recovery a lot more effective.
Personally I’ve always been good at squats(PB – 270kg), Deadlifts(PB – 300kg) and bench press(PB – 185kg), but rubbish at OH lifts, although I think that I have some kind of restriction there, so I don’t do them any more. Mainly because I can’t even hold my arms above my head in line with my body without a weight, never mind with a weight in my hands.( All done in my late 20’s), I’m 44 now and just started back training after a long, long lay off, as in years and years. LOL! But squatted 170kg, benched 130kg and deadlifted 180kg when working out my now 1rm’s.
Never really got on with front squats because I found the clean grip so difficult, and I’ve never really been mobile enough in the right places to use the cross grip, without the load shifting too far forward on the downward phase.
I’m assuming that since this was written in 2014, you’ve probably hit a few more PR’s since then – but well done on the above anyway.