Kinda cool article about competition squat setup.
SQUAT SET UP
by Doug Daniels
The competitive squat requires, by far, the most expense of energy and concentration of the 3 powerlifts. Just like our national energy conservation efforts in our daily lives, a powerlifter should be looking for ways to save as much energy as possible for their max contest squat. Most lifters devote the vast majority of their attention to the up and down execution of the squat itself, but other aspects of the squat are also critical and errors on any of those can have a negative impact on your lifts. A competition squat can be divided into several parts: bar height and rack setting, squat suit and knee wrapping, walkout with bar into squatting position, the actual execution of the squat itself, and re-racking the bar after the attempt. Let’s examine a case study on how we can help insure optimal execution of these less dealt-with parts of the squat and change their impact to the positive side.
In this case study, let’s follow a fictional novice lifter’s squat attempt. “Doug” is in the hole, but has already been belt-tightened and knee-wrapped since the previous 2 lifter’s attempts. Two attempts later it’s Doug’s turn to squat. Doug steps onto the platform and gets under the bar. He finds that the squat rack height was set a little too high which requires him to tip toe the squat bar up and over the racks in order to get it out. Having succeeded with great effort in getting the bar out of the rack; Doug proceeds in precariously plodding 4 steps backwards with the heavy bar on his back. Finally coming to a halt, Doug fidgets both his feet for about 30 seconds until he is happy with his foot position. After all that, the referee finally gives the squat signal. As Doug descends; he drops like a rock to the bottom. Luckily the spotters narrowly save him from being buried under the bar. The spotters have to carry the bar back to the rack as Doug has no strength or energy left to do it himself or even help the spotters. Fortunately for the spotters, Doug’s opener was a massive 100 kilos.
What went wrong? Before the meet, Doug tweeted to all that care that he hit a new PR squat in the gym using the new high-tech titanium chain-added resistance method and Kevlar triple layer squat suit with matching knee wraps fortified with rebar. The trouble was by the time Doug got the ‘squat’ signal; he had already spent a great deal of physical and mental energy, leaving almost nothing for the actual squat itself. This unfortunate miss could have been a success with greater attention to the nuances of the squat set up.
It all starts at the weigh-ins. At the weigh-in, lifters get measured for bar height and choose their preference to have the racks in or out. Having the racks ‘in’ means the lifter places his hands outside the racks near the inside of the collars. Larger lifters chose racks ‘in’ because they cannot get their arms in close to the body due to their size and lack of flexibility. Smaller lifters tend to set the racks ‘out,’ meaning the lifter’s hands go inside the rack, away from the collars, closer to the shoulders. Some lifters have their helpers set their bar height for them. I strongly suggest each lifter personally get measured for the most accurate measurement. A valuable tip to remember is a tight squat suit may ‘shorten’ you a bit. With that in mind, set your bar height one notch below where you measure without a squat suit on. If after your first contest attempt you find it is set too high or too low, have the spotters or announcer’s table adjust your bar height for your next attempts. In general, I would say lifters set the bar too high. This requires them to tip toe with the bar on their back to get it out of the racks and into starting position. Obviously, this can be very strenuous as well as dangerous with maximum weights. On the other hand, if the rack height is set too low, the lifter needs to perform a quarter-squat to get the bar up and out of the rack. Both scenarios waste a lot of energy and increase your anxiety level, which is another sapper of energy. Setting the bar height properly at weigh-in saves a lot of energy and stress for squatting on the platform and increases your chances of success.
The next challenge for the squatter is in the ‘on-deck’ and ‘in-the-hole’ circle. Being organized and staying in touch with how the meet is progressing is key. When you are called to be in-the-hole, (which means you are third in line to squat) proceed to the on deck area with your squat suit on and shoulder straps down. When the lifter on the platform takes the weight out of the rack; start wrapping your knees. Remember, in addition to the time it takes the lifter to take the lift and the spotters take to get the bar back into the rack, there may be a weight change involved. Combining this with the customary one minute between lifts; should provide you with ample time to get into full squat gear. It is important to not begin the wrapping process too soon, as having all that confining gear on for even seconds too long can sap energy.
After your knees are wrapped you should be second in line to squat or on-deck. Have your helper get you up from your chair and have him get the shoulder straps of your squat suit up. If you use your wrist wraps, put those on next. Follow this with getting your lifting belt cinched on. It’s best for your helper to cinch the belt on tightly, again saving your energy. Have your helper spread chalk on your back where the bar will rest to reduce the chance of the bar slipping during the squat. Lastly, chalk your hands for a better grip and you’re ready for your attempt. As you can see, your helpers are extremely important here, in addition to their responsibilities to keep tabs of when you are due to lift.
With the pre-lifting stuff done, let’s move on to positioning yourself to squat. Your goal in setting up is to get into the ready-to-squat position quickly and safely and with as little expense of energy possible. Having that energy available later during the squat attempt can mean the difference between success and failure. Too many lifters waste extreme amounts of energy backing out of the rack, they compound this by shuffling the position of their feet, searching for that perfect stance. Some lifters take numerous steps back setting up, taking the spotters on the trek with them. Never mind that they have to walk all the way back to the rack with the weight after the attempt.
Optimally, the squatter should take only one step back with each leg, getting into starting position and ready for the head judge’s ‘squat’ signal. This can only be accomplished with dedicated, repetitive practice during training. Back out of the rack and into position with one step on every set you do in training, from you first warm-up to your max lifts. Practicing in this manner will make efficient setting up automatic. If you find you need more than one step back to clear the rack, re-look at your squatting style. You do not need as much room between you and the rack as you may think. This is very similar to how far a major league catcher is behind the batter. He knows to position himself just far enough away to not get hit by the swinging bat.
By positioning yourself one step away from the rack, the trip to re-rack the bar will be short and above all safe for both you and the spotters. This also saves energy for any succeeding squats as well as for the other powerlifts to follow. Also, the trip to re-rack the bar after a miss is always a lot longer than after a good lift.
Spotters can also have an impact in squat set-up. Here your meet helpers can assist. Before your attempt, have them verify that the bar is loaded correctly or at least evenly on both sides and that the racks are set to the correct in or out position. If they notice a problem they can call it to the attention of the spotters and loaders. Over the course of the meet, the lifting platform gets covered with chalk and powder residue. If there is a lot of residue, ask your helpers to request the spotters clean it up before you take the platform. Get this all done before you are set to lift. Waiting for the spotters to reset the rack or clean off the platform while tightly wrapped and belted can really sap your precious energy.
Lots of hard work and expense goes into your contest preparation. That can all go up in smoke if you waste too much energy setting up for the squat. Discipline yourself to practice setting up efficiently for the squat on every set and rep in training. This type of focus is the only way to help insure you have the best chance to get maximum results on contest day. That could be worth tweeting about.
Similar Bodybuilding Threads: