This programme came about due to a conversation I had at work with two other trainers as a potential route to give me some structure to my training again. I had been suffering for over a month with elbow tendonitis and I was incredibly bored with meandering from session to session without pushing myself. I was just going through the motions to try and avoid any upper body work in the hope of preventing the need to have any more operations (I’ve had enough of these already!!!!).
Then the topic of squatting came up. I mentioned that I’d been stuck for over a year now at 170kg (which turned into 165kg on the first test…..bad times). Then someone mentioned a squatting every day study. This sparked an idea in my head! The first thought, as it seemingly was with everyone I’ve mentioned the programme to was;
“Is it even physically possible?” and obviously therefore safe to do. All of the research suggested yes; so from there it was a no brainer. This was what I was going to do, I just then needed to find a group of experienced lifters (experience is vital), who make poor decisions and decide to take on crazy challenges such as this one.
I asked for 12 and found 11. From here it whittled down to 6 (not including myself) by the time the challenge was ready to begin due to various reasons. Out of the 6, five managed to see the challenge through to the end. Unfortunately one of the participants had a previous knee problem that didn’t react well to the sheer volume of squatting and therefore stopped after the end of week 2. And these are the results:
Regardless of what I hit on the first testing day I was going to say I reached 170kg (374lbs) as I wanted to be able to say in 20 years’ time that at one point in my life I managed to increase my squat by 30 kilos in 31 days. Come the final test I managed a scrappy two half reps of 200kg (440lbs) (checkout the social media profiles for the vid). By my very own rules of this programme, this DOES NOT count. The previous week I hit three full reps of 195kg (429lbs), so this was my final result. An increase of 25kg which is a 14.7% increase on my PB in 31 days!!!!!!!
Summary of the group:
One of the group was training for the Cross-fit open, so was undertaking both this programme, as well as her own competition prep (which is flipping crazy!!! Don’t try this!!). Due to this, she couldn’t commit to the full five days of squatting, but managed to come out with a 6.5% increase on her max, which had stood for close to a year.
In terms of everyone else and their percentage increase, I actually came out on the bottom of the pile. The next closest to me was a 15.4 % increase. A friend of mine is a disabled athlete and managed an increase of a massive 20% on his single leg squat! Then came the two big results of 22.2% and 25%!
Even the athlete who managed two weeks then pulled out, managed to increase her squat by a huge 9.5% in the first 14 days! From a solid first two weeks, had she carried on, who knows what she could have achieved?
So; out of those that could fully commit to the five days a week programme and lasted right until the end, the groups’ improvement on their squats ranged from 14.7% to 25%! IN ONE MONTH!!!!! Which I think can be deemed a success!
Personal feelings towards programme
I went in to this programme incredibly motivated and ready to finally hit that magical 200 mark I’d been looking at for so long. I know it’s not an incredible and mammoth weight compared to some, but I’m not a powerlifter, strongman or Oly lifter, I’ve pretty much exclusively trained for bodybuilding ever since I stepped foot into a gym….. so the 200 mark seemed pretty good for me!
The overriding issue/feeling towards this programme is that coming in to the final two weeks I just didn’t feel athletic any more. Not in the slightest! I’ve spent my whole life training for sport or competition, or have at least kept some kind of athleticism involved in some way. Yet with this programme I was so focused on achieving this weight that I disregarded all other forms of exercise to ensure I could be as strong as I could possibly be. I felt strong, but sluggish, which is a foreign feeling for me.
But saying that, it was still incredibly inspiring, uplifting, motivating and fun to be constantly hitting personal bests! And you’ll hit an awful lot of those over the course of the month.
Issues with the design of the programme
As mentioned, I set up the programme due to my physical condition at the time as well as forever having wanted to have a better squat. I researched the subject a lot and from this research as well as the knowledge I have of lifting, I managed to structure out a programme that actually worked out pretty well. There were however two tweaks that had to be made to the programme once it had begun:
- Due to having had three shoulder operations, my shoulder flexibility is not and never will be that great (partly due to a certain metal screw). But after two weeks my shoulders had taken a battering! So some resistance band work was added in to the warm up to aid in shoulder mobility/flexibility, as gripping a bar in the squat position so frequently hurts just a tad.
- Leading in to the test week there are three days of rest/recovery before the final test. This in actual fact was far too long for two reasons:
- Your body is phenomenal at adapting to unfamiliar situations, so when you start pounding your body for five days a week squatting, it begins to become used to this….. and so does your mind. So to have three days off, completely threw me off my game. I went in to the final test day feeling as if I’d had a week off, my legs just didn’t feel ready for it and the confidence just wasn’t there.
- After training so frequently and only ever having a maximum of one rest day before the next vigorous bout of squats, I started to become really restless, agitated and antsy, especially with this surplus of carbs in my system.
So as soon as the programme was finished, it was altered to add in a ‘loosener’ session two days before the final test.
Throughout our whole lives, everyone always preaches to us about setting goals. Teachers at school, bosses at work and even in books, but they all say about making them realistic and smart. I personally went for a ridiculously ambitious goal of improving my squat (to which I’d plateaued at for a whole year) by thirty kilograms.
I missed out on a technicality, but I can point to the fact that I was only 5kg away and in actual fact on the day, had things gone a little better (I psyched myself out of one attempt to where I approached the bar and bottled it, my rest periods were too long so the session lasted too long and therefore my energy stores were depleted come the big one, missed my food delivery that day so my nutrition was inconsistent) I may have achieved it. But in my head, everything just went wrong from the moment I woke up until I squatted. This DOES NOT help! I was using so many excuses that when I physically went to do it, the weight just didn’t move how I wanted it to.
One thing that this programme proved to me, is that if you want something bad enough and if you are determined and motivated to do it, then absolutely anything is possible. I know it doesn’t quite apply to all aspects of life, but it taught me more than anything to ALWAYS aim high! What’s the worst that could happen? You come up 5 kilos short…… But in actual fact you’re still 25 kilograms better off than when you started!
Furthermore; I was very fortunate to find 6 other individuals that were really determined to join me on this journey and I will be forever grateful to them. Because to give up a whole month to this kind of physical abuse, all in the aid of research is a massive thing to do, especially with there being no guarantee that it would pay off. Fortunately it did! And I’m so happy, thankful and proud of the group for what has been achieved!
Now to get myself fighting fit again and lose some of this excess body fat obtained from the surplus of calories that were horked down to aid in making me the hulk.
The 5 week countdown until the fitness retreat in IBIZA has now begun!!!!!
Yours in health