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02-01-2012, 12:54 PM
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Jarick
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Weightlifting Q&A

Just because I'm a mod doesn't mean I can't ask questions

1. Anyone do box squats instead of, or in addition to, back squats? I've been reading good things and since my 3x5 program has two days of squats, might do one day back and one day box.

2. Power cleans...I'm relying way too much on my upper body. Are you basically just trying to jump to propel the weight? I see a lot of guys trying to teach from the top down and others going from deadlift -> jump shrug -> hang clean -> power clean, or something like that.

3. Any opinions on Trap Bar deadlifts? Looks safer/easier compared to regular DL's but does it shortchange the development of the hamstrings and lower back?

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02-01-2012, 08:49 PM
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Tried box squats today they felt great. Much easier on the knees which were giving me trouble.

Also cleans felt better doing a shrug movement during the jump.

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02-02-2012, 02:59 AM
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1. At 28 you can still do 2 squat days, but I am not sure you really need it. What I've found refreshing is learning the pistol (one legged squat) and use it as a joint mobility / balance / concentration exersize (all great for hockey). It is also full range of motion and I find it really helps my stride as that's a one legged push too. I was concerned with my knees first (I was 38 learning it), but it actually feels very good (after warming up properly of course).

2. On the power cleans I would go down with the weight and work on the technique until you almost do not use any upper body strength at all. My understanding is that you should propel the weight with an explosive thrust of the lower body, and the arms are staying loose only guiding the motion of the bar.

3. I tried it when I was younger and I liked it. I do not think there's much difference, but of course there's some (whatever that might be, prolly changes with body proportions as well) change towards the quads lifting a bit more.

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02-02-2012, 06:49 AM
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2 squat days? oof. I could never do that even at your age.

Playing 3x per week it's hard for me to even do 1 day and to be honest my legs are stronger if I go 9-10 days between workouts vs. 7.

Right now I just do higher rep traditional squats(12-15 reps) and reverse hockey lunges stepping back and out at a 45 degree angle which really mimmicks the skating stride. Leg extensions and curls of course and some adductor/abductor work.

No power cleans or dead lifts for me. At 39 and with plenty of old wounds from lifting hard for 20 years I have to pick my movements carefully.

What are you calling box squats and back squats?

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02-02-2012, 08:54 AM
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Well I started from 100 and am up to 140 in the last month, which is absolutely nothing to write home about. According to the Rippetoe program, I should be adding 15 pounds per week to the squat but I only do 2x instead of 3x per week due to hockey.

Also I hadn't been doing the warmup set/reps properly and trying that last night felt much better, much less fatiguing (2x5 empty bar, 1x5 small load, 1x3 larger load, 1x2 larger load, 3x5 working load). And adding in a big protein shake post workout on top of my meal.

Box squat

*** my "box" is actually 2-3" below parallel so I'm getting more range than that picture

Back squat

It seems it's a good teaching tool to learn to back squat (regular squat) properly, in that you put your butt back. I was not getting back far enough and leaning too far forward, which put pressure on the knees, causing some knee pain.

But a lot of what I've been reading is that for athletes who aren't competitive lifters, the box squat can be as good as or superior to the back squat because it puts less stress on the knees and incorporates an explosive movement out of the "sit".


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02-02-2012, 09:21 AM
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The box squat is all about how you use the box. If you use it to get a bounce, it's counterproductive for its purposes. If you use it to gauge depth and power out of the hole, it's a great help. Most people can't control the descent of the lift well enough to be able to squat free, bottom out, pause, and come back up. With that, the box becomes very handy but to that end you still have many who use it as a safety net to catch themselves and they use it as a way to get some bounce on the way back up. A pause at the bottom is ideal.

Age doesn't have much to do with how many this or that days you do in the gym. Look at old powerlifters like Louie Simmons. Not every session requires you kill yourself.

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02-02-2012, 10:26 AM
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I was lightly resting on the box, pausing, and then pushing back up. I did some squats both ways and you can feel the difference huge in the hamstrings and the top of the quads compared to the free squat (terrible technique I'm sure) where I felt it a lot more in the bottom of the quads, knees, and calves.

My plan is right now to follow Rippetoe's beginner program TO A T and once I plateau to start doing other things like heavy/light days. Right now I'm more learning the lifts and teaching muscle memory as well as the mental side of being able to lift heavy weights instead of directly challenging my muscles to grow. Building the foundation so to speak.

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02-02-2012, 12:15 PM
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That's what you've got to do, lest you become one of the average people in the gym who barely gets stronger or bigger over the years.

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02-02-2012, 09:35 PM
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I do barbell deadlifts instead of trap bar deadlifts because they work my lower back, glutes, and hamstrings more. The trap bar deadlifts feel like squats to me.

If you're using the shrug for your power cleans, try shrugging forward more than up. For me, that moves the bar forward by a crucial inch-and-a-half, so that I can get my back slightly more vertical with a slightly deeper knee bend before the "jump".

If you think you're using too much upper body in your power cleans, try adding more weight. Or you can practice more with the empty bar, as in these 4 complexes:

How to master the power clean

I haven't worked up the courage to try box squats (they look like a good way to wreck my spine), but some guys at my gym do them. I do alternate between low-bar back squats and front squats, though.

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02-02-2012, 09:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktang View Post
I haven't worked up the courage to try box squats (they look like a good way to wreck my spine), but some guys at my gym do them. I do alternate between low-bar back squats and front squats, though.
Why do you say that? You sound like you know what you're doing in the gym, I wouldn't expect you'd have an issue with trying to box squat. All you've got to do is make sure you stay tight throughout your entire body and you won't even feel any sort of compression once you hit the box.

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02-03-2012, 12:11 AM
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Never been a fan of the box squat. Good way to compress your spine.

If your program works for you then keep at it. I personally have issues with it. Twice a week(overtrained especially if you are skating/playing), adding 15 lbs. a week(too much), going below parallel(the stress over the patella past 90 degrees of flexion can lead to all kinds of issues)

All no no's and I know a little, but not trying to start a weight lifting debate. If it works for you then more power to ya. Just pay attention to results, pain, and injuries.

Not the greatest for explosive power, but 185lbs for sets of 15 to just above parallel will be your friend when your old Injury/pain free and you'll reap the benefit all through those 60 sec. shifts.

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02-03-2012, 02:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozz View Post
Why do you say that? You sound like you know what you're doing in the gym, I wouldn't expect you'd have an issue with trying to box squat. All you've got to do is make sure you stay tight throughout your entire body and you won't even feel any sort of compression once you hit the box.
If I have to dump the bar onto the safeties in the rack, I can just lower the body and then it's done. If there is a box and I need to dump the bar, the box or bench is in the way.

Also, if something spasms and I can't control the descent, and I have to dump the bar, it's safer with no box or bench holding up my pelvis while the bar compresses or shears the spine.

It's a good exercise, but not worth the risk for me at my age (45).


Last edited by ktang: 02-03-2012 at 11:53 AM.
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02-03-2012, 08:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktang View Post
If I have to dump the bar onto the safeties in the rack, I can just lower the body and then it's done. If there is a box and I need to dump the bar, the box or bench is in the way.

Also, if something spasms and I can't control the descent, and I have to dump the bar, it's safer with not box or bench holding up my pelvis while the bar compresses or shears the spine.

It's a good exercise, but not worth the risk for me at my age (45).
Depending on the equipment at your disposal you could easily set up a safety to dump the bar. Been there, done that, nothing like pausing on the bench and getting stuck to give you an "Oh ****!" feeling I hear ya, though.

In a box squat, maintaining that tightness is key. I'd say moreso than in a free squat for the reasons you mentioned. That's one of those "train the weak spot to make it stronger for your real lift" exercises.

Personally I prefer full squats down to the floor. The full depth was always great for my leg development and power, dumping the bar is a snap, it really makes you train your "out of the hole" speed & power, and the gains there translate directly to any other type of squat.

On that note, Zercher Squats are another popular one amongst power lifters, they really kill your core. I'm also very partial to barbell hack squats from a bodybuilding perspective.

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02-03-2012, 10:18 AM
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For me I'm trying to just strengthen the lower body. I've got really good genes in terms of muscles looking big but I've got the strength of a 12 year old girl. And as I creep up into my late 20's that starting to turn into a bit of back pain, knee pain, etc.

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02-03-2012, 11:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarick View Post
For me I'm trying to just strengthen the lower body. I've got really good genes in terms of muscles looking big but I've got the strength of a 12 year old girl. And as I creep up into my late 20's that starting to turn into a bit of back pain, knee pain, etc.
We're all different for sure, but the main constant is to always listen to your body and take care of it. That's not to say one can't lift very heavy and have no issues doing so, but..you know what I mean. I know plenty of younger serious power lifters and bodybuilders who have more problems than plenty of other older ones I know. Whatever is best for yourself is always #1.

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02-03-2012, 03:37 PM
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Jarick,

1) squats shouldn't really cause knee problems if done correctly. you should probably make a video and post it here for a form check. your knees could be collapsing, or tracking too far forward. when in doubt, consult Starting Strength.

Box squats are good as assistance. another thing you might try is doing back/front squat split. front squats are the nuts.

2) those who teach deadlift -> clean are doing it wrong IMO. although the setup is similar, explosive movements and timing the jump are as much proprioception as strength, and thinking about the DL during the lift kinda fails at that. fwiw, Starting Strength 3rd edition has a very nice expanded chapter on the PC.

3) trap bar DL's are safer and easier. the torso is more upright, there are less torsion forces on the spine and more compressive at the beginning of the lift. the range of motion is also lower with a trap bar. unless you have a spine disc issue or a VERY STRONG PREFERENCE to trap bar, you should just do regular DLs.

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02-03-2012, 03:42 PM
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Pull the box back some. Do a squat without any weight first and you want to edge of the box so when you are in the most down spot your butt can just barely touch it. This will teach you stop leaning forward.

This is how i learned to do squats. Not sure if all that makes sense but yea.

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02-03-2012, 03:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozz View Post
The box squat is all about how you use the box. If you use it to get a bounce, it's counterproductive for its purposes. If you use it to gauge depth and power out of the hole, it's a great help.
never ever bounce off the box. that's a good way to get hurt and probably the number one danger of doing a box squat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarick View Post
Well I started from 100 and am up to 140 in the last month, which is absolutely nothing to write home about. According to the Rippetoe program, I should be adding 15 pounds per week to the squat but I only do 2x instead of 3x per week due to hockey.

Also I hadn't been doing the warmup set/reps properly and trying that last night felt much better, much less fatiguing (2x5 empty bar, 1x5 small load, 1x3 larger load, 1x2 larger load, 3x5 working load). And adding in a big protein shake post workout on top of my meal.

Box squat

*** my "box" is actually 2-3" below parallel so I'm getting more range than that picture

Back squat

It seems it's a good teaching tool to learn to back squat (regular squat) properly, in that you put your butt back. I was not getting back far enough and leaning too far forward, which put pressure on the knees, causing some knee pain.

But a lot of what I've been reading is that for athletes who aren't competitive lifters, the box squat can be as good as or superior to the back squat because it puts less stress on the knees and incorporates an explosive movement out of the "sit".
perfect. but you shouldn't rely on the box squat to teach you depth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarick View Post
My plan is right now to follow Rippetoe's beginner program TO A T and once I plateau to start doing other things like heavy/light days. Right now I'm more learning the lifts and teaching muscle memory as well as the mental side of being able to lift heavy weights instead of directly challenging my muscles to grow. Building the foundation so to speak.
:thumb: try to eat a LOT. not kidding. late 20's is nowhere near too late.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozz View Post
That's what you've got to do, lest you become one of the average people in the gym who barely gets stronger or bigger over the years.
uhhhh... that's entirely upto him whether he keeps up his form, progression, and calories.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Guffaw View Post
Never been a fan of the box squat. Good way to compress your spine.

If your program works for you then keep at it. I personally have issues with it. Twice a week(overtrained especially if you are skating/playing), adding 15 lbs. a week(too much), going below parallel(the stress over the patella past 90 degrees of flexion can lead to all kinds of issues)

All no no's and I know a little, but not trying to start a weight lifting debate. If it works for you then more power to ya. Just pay attention to results, pain, and injuries.

Not the greatest for explosive power, but 185lbs for sets of 15 to just above parallel will be your friend when your old Injury/pain free and you'll reap the benefit all through those 60 sec. shifts.
lots of myths in this post.

- he is doing squats with 140lbs. that's nothing. anyone can do that 3-4 times a week easy, even while playing hockey. call me when the squats get heavy, i.e. 2x bodyweight.
- overtraining is a term that gets thrown around a lot. needing an extra rest day every once in a while is not overtraining.
- +15lb/week is superstandard for beginners upto 1.5-2x bodyweight, provided he eats enough calories above his maintenance.
- below parallel is not dangerous, and not the cause of knee pain. look at front squats, the patela goes well beyond 90 degrees of flexion. according to Rippetoe, the reason to only do parallel with back squats is because ass-to-grass squats don't give you much more stimulus than just below parallel.
- re: sets of 15, that's endurance training, not strength. it has it's place, but he should focus on raw strength first.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarick View Post
For me I'm trying to just strengthen the lower body. I've got really good genes in terms of muscles looking big but I've got the strength of a 12 year old girl. And as I creep up into my late 20's that starting to turn into a bit of back pain, knee pain, etc.
:thumb:

look into some SMR and/or sport massage to handle some of the lifting pains.

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02-03-2012, 04:40 PM
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Thanks for all that, it's pretty much what I've seen most places. Good validation from someone smart though!

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02-03-2012, 04:46 PM
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never ever bounce off the box. that's a good way to get hurt and probably the number one danger of doing a box squat
That is what I said. Were you agreeing or did you read me wrong?


Quote:
Originally Posted by newfr4u View Post
uhhhh... that's entirely upto him whether he keeps up his form, progression, and calories.
My comment of "that's what you've got to do" was in regards to him "building the foundation" as he put it. I guess my lack of quoting that exact phrase ruined clarity of the conversation.

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02-03-2012, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
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That is what I said. Were you agreeing or did you read me wrong?

My comment of "that's what you've got to do" was in regards to him "building the foundation" as he put it. I guess my lack of quoting that exact phrase ruined clarity of the conversation.
first post, i wasn't disagreeing with you, just clarifying.

second post, foundation is where it's at. most of what we do in the gym should be improving our foundation continually throughout our athletic careers. it is entirely possible to keep making gains working only on "foundation".

edit: the body has an disproportionately high percentage of its muscle in the posterior chain and back. it makes sense to maximize that for power.

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02-03-2012, 05:09 PM
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Thanks for all that, it's pretty much what I've seen most places. Good validation from someone smart though!
i am sure you didn't just call me smart, but i'll thank you anyways.

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02-03-2012, 05:12 PM
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first post, i wasn't disagreeing with you, just clarifying.

second post, foundation is where it's at. most of what we do in the gym should be improving our foundation continually throughout our athletic careers. it is entirely possible to keep making gains working only on foundation.
Got'cha!

And yep, the basics are the basics for a reason. As you mature as a lifter and become more advanced, the basics can be even more important. I wonder if I could even get through a routine I was doing 9 years ago without wanting to die halfway through...I won't find out though, because I don't have to do that to spark gains any longer. It's nice!

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02-03-2012, 05:19 PM
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Yeah I suppose my goals are fairly basic...get down to 165-ish at ~12-15% body fat (36" pants -> 32" pants) and meet the basic strength standards for the major lifts.

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02-03-2012, 07:20 PM
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For standard squats, the only time I got any knee pain was when my form was off. I was letting my knees collapse inwards, when you need to keep them wide/in line with your toes. I was also letting my knees track too far forwards, they shouldn't track beyond your toes (if you have trouble keeping your knees from tracking too far forward, try getting your weight a bit more on your heels than your toes, and bend well at the waist, while keeping your back straight obviously). Once I corrected these issues, I no longer get any knee pain at all on standard squats, and I have semi-messed up knees (not from squats) that I have to do physio for. If you're getting knee pain on squats, you might have similar issues with your form that you need to correct.

Box squats are good too though, as others have mentioned they're a more explosive movement than normal squats, so can be good for hockey training.


p.s. newfr4u, I took your advice from another thread and switched from sets of 10 to sets of 6 (was doing 3x10 on most lifts, now 4x6), and also added power cleans to my routine, and am liking both so far, thanks for the tips! I think I'll occasionally go back to 3x10 for a bit of a shock to the system once in awhile, but I am able to increase weight faster at 4x6, was hitting a bit of a plateau at 3x10

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