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Saturday, 29 July 2017

No Squat Rack? No Problem

Do you know what is the common link between all the ill-equipped gyms I have been to during travelling? Apart from absence of a sufficient heavy weight plates and kettlebells, it is often the squat rack. Worse than this is the fact that most gyms opt for replacing the squat rack with a smith machine. Now for those of you who do not already know of it, a Smith machine only delivers movement capability in a linear vector, which is not how your body moves in the real world. A bad deal.

So, anyway, the real deal is that we mostly end up without the equipment we believe is almost indispensable to developing a physique that has the lifting capacity of a Caterpillar P-5000 Work Loader:

The goal is to make training develop an exoskeleton around you

Like many, I was disheartened too by growing up among gymnasiums which had less than necessary back squatting hardware. In fact, during my childhood, the availability of a power rack in a gym was a distant possibility to say the least. I only got to train on my first power rack when I was 21 years old and moved to an entirely different city.

But eventually, the presence of sturdy squat hoist stands or power rack apparatus kept getting shadowed by presence of more and more benches and treadmills and other flashy pieces to impress the hunky dory gym princesses wrapped in spandex in whichever gyms I went to.

It was all a quest for a workable substitute to heavy squatting until I pondered upon the information contained in the manual called Power to the People, written by Pavel Tsatsouline. Contained in there, among several other gems of knowledge and experience was a minimalist hypertrophy program called The Russian Bear, which seemed too deceptively ill equipped at first, but has been a staple in my programming since I first tried it last year, in 2015. Why, you might ask? Because it worked like a deadly weapon. It seemed to be just the answer to the question, what to do when confronted with no squat racks around.

Without a speck of doubt, no amount of 'alternative' training can replace heavy squats. The kind of magnification that squatting heavy for reps gives me is phenomenal and irreplaceable. As a corollary, heavy deadlifts themselves have an anabolic coefficient unparalleled in the annals of exercise science.

There you have it: deadlifts. Coming back to the program at hand, the Russian Bear is a combination of high - tension deadlifts and presses done in multiple intensity repetition brackets: Heavy, intermediate and relatively light(well, almost, again it depends on what you choose to call light. On some days, 60 percent of my 1 rep max seemed like lifting a Buick).

The Approach

All you do is do the following exercises:

1. Deadlifts
2. Overhead Presses

in the following pattern:
 Pick a weight heavy enough to do 6 - 8 repetitions in good form. Then
Set 1: Perform a set of five repetitions with that weight
Set 2: Use 90 percent of the weight lifted in previous set and perform five repetitions with that weight
Set 3 Onwards: Pick 80 percent of the weight lifted in set 1 and perform as many sets of 5 as you can until you cannot complete a set with good technique. That would be your last set of that exercise for the day. These sets are referred to as the 'Back - Off ' sets.

The Deadlift: Your partner in strength that won't make you miss those Squats

The number of sets done with the 80 percent weight can range anywhere from 4 or 5 on your less-recovered days to all the way up till 20. The program does call for going as high as 25 sets, but looking at the crunched up timelines we are all running along, that kind of volume might require a duration of up to one and a half to two hours which becomes a big no-no for many of the office-bound deskies that are among us. I personally limit my back-off sets to a maximum of 20 on both the exercises which kind of strikes a deal between an effective volume hit and time-efficiency. That said, do go about with this program keeping in your time-wallet, enough 90 minute sessions since that is a minimum that I have found might be needed by trainees of different capabilities on this program. Those 90 minutes would however be some of the most physically rewarding ones that you have spent in your exercise career till date.


By Pressing Overhead, she is engaging the core and the entire assembly of pressing muscles in her body excellently

The principle behind the effectiveness of such a simple, high volume program is the efficient way it increases the time spend under tension managing fatigue easily. The program also calls for not increasing the rest period between sets overly, thus inciting a turbulent human growth hormone response pattern. I occasionally rest under 60 seconds on my back - off sets.

The results from such a program are terrific due to the fact that there is a continuous feed of nutrients flushing into the muscle cells and the way it builds a tremendous state of capillarity. Due to these increased pathways of nutrition, the muscle cells respond by growing alarmingly faster than most methods. These are the kind of wonders that a high volume approach can build.

So, there you have it: a barbell, sufficient heavy weight plates and two exercises, the deadlift and the overhead press. How difficult could it be to screw a program with as less moving parts as this? In my dictionary, I find this program to be fool-proof. At least as long as you keep making progress on this program.

Many gym-rats wearing the 'Squats are the King of exercises' T-Shirts might argue here about the leg-development merits of a high volume deadlift approach. My time pulling the bar from the floor has shown me enough moments of surprise when my leg development witnessed phenomenal progress and it was rather hard for me to believe that I wasn't squatting AT ALL during these times. Again, the magic of high volume and high tonnage at work .

If you belong to the community that swear by their Bench Press numbers and cannot just let go of your Bench Numbers, no matter what, this might bring a smile to your face. You can very conveniently opt for a Bench Press instead of the overhead press. Really, the Gods of hypertrophy will still bless you with equal candour. But the underlying principle remains the same. You train with two exercises and you employ these different weight classes and the volume. And life will be an ever - progressing approaching.

Now, let go of your squat-woes and get on to doing some hard work in the gym.

The sweet smile of victory might remain on your face once you reap the golden benefits of high volume, high tension training.