Squat Replacement and an Awesome Smoothie

In this week’s blog, I thought it was appropriate to answer a question from a reader since it covers two things that will probably interest you. – CW

Question: Mr. Waterbury, I bought your book, Huge in a Hurry. Holy shit, it works! But I have two questions. First, I can’t squat so what exercise should I do instead? Second, do you know a good smoothie I could drink before my workouts? Thanks, Patrick

CW: The barbell squat has been called “the king of all exercises” by many guys that are stronger than an ox on D-bol. For them, it’s a strength-builder that’s appropriate for their goals. But for many other people, the squat just doesn’t work.

Why? First of all, even though the “squat pattern” is a basic move that we all must master in order to sit on a chair or the bathroom throne, pulling off a perfect barbell back squat is another matter altogether. To perform a barbell back squat correctly, you must have sufficient mobility in the ankles, hips, T-spine and shoulders. Also, you must possess enough stability strength through your core to maintain the correct position.

blog bad squat

Those factors explain why the squat is a great exercise when you can do it correctly. However, most people lack in one or more of those areas and sometimes genetic factors such as long femurs and a short torso will always make the squat problematic.

If the squat isn’t ideal for your program due to structural, orthopedic or equipment limitations, there are two exercises you can do to replace it: hip thrust and stir the pot. The combination of those two exercises effectively challenge many of the same muscles as the squat, while also being user-friendly for almost everyone.

Hip thrust: perform with a barbell or a strong resistance band(s) as shown in the video below. Five sets of anywhere from 5-10 reps works well:

Pair the hip thrust with the Stir the Pot exercise that Prof. Stuart McGill made famous. Perform 5 sets of 6-10 alternating reps (3-5 in each direction):

Squat replacement
1A Hip thrust for 5-10 reps
Rest 30-45s
1B Stir the pot for 6-10 alternating reps
Rest 30-45s, and repeat 1A-1B for 5 rounds

Now, let’s get to everyone’s favorite blender concoction that doesn’t involve copious amounts of tequila: smoothies.

There’s definitely a plethora of smoothie recipes, books and blogs floating around the internet. Most of them consist of pretty straightforward ingredients such as fruit, protein powder and yogurt. That’s all fine, but there’s one simple smoothie I’ve used for years that might seem, well, odd on paper. But it’s packed with nutrients and it tastes awesome.

If you’re like 99% of my clients, you’ll eat up this unique combination of ingredients. Drink it 30-60 minutes before your workout to reduce inflammation and fuel your efforts. (Thanks to Dr. John Berardi since I initially learned a similar version of this smoothie from him):

Mix in a blender:
Around 20 ounces of water (more/less based on your taste preference)
2 fistfuls of fresh spinach
1 fistful of frozen raspberries
1 palmful of cashews
2 scoops of high-quality whey protein

Stay Focused,
CW

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Add Strength to Your Program

blog franco deadlift Most of us want to get bigger and stronger at the same time. But most guys or gals that follow a bodybuilding-style program aren’t building much strength.

So today I’m going to outline a workout you can put in your current bodybuilding program that will fill in the much-needed gaps.

That’s important because if you increase your full-body strength you’ll be able to lift heavier loads in your bodybuilding workouts. This, in turn, will make it easier to build muscle in your other workouts.

Maximal Strength

There are many types of strength, so when I talk about strength-training I always make it clear to my audience what type of strength I’m talking about. In most cases, I’m referring to maximal strength: your ability to lift the heaviest load possible for 1-3 reps.

The master of maximal strength, Pavel Tsatsouline, and I have had many discussions on the best way to build it. Russian weightlifters – known as Olympic lifters to us in the states – spend most of their training cycle in the 80-85% of one-rep max (1RM) training zone. That fact will be surprising to many since it’s typically best to train with heavier loads than 85% of 1RM if you’re far from your maximal strength potential.

For example, if you can’t deadlift twice your body weight without lifting gear you’re pretty far from what your body is capable of pulling. In other words, I would define a guy that can do a raw, double-body weight deadlift with an unmixed grip as a solid, intermediate lifter. For him, training in the Russian’s 80-85% of 1RM zone might be sufficient.

But I doubt it.

Why? Because those Russian weightlifters train with a very high frequency (they typically bench press six times per week – yikes)! Furthermore, lifting is their job. Indeed, they’ve spent decades building up to that training frequency, their nutrition and recovery modalities are spot on, and they have little else to worry about.

Most of us don’t have the time and energy to do what the Russian weightlifters do. Therefore, the other option that’s been battle-tested for eons is to cycle loads that around 90% of 1RM into your program.

The following protocol is for people that have been primarily training with sub maximal loads (85% of 1RM or less) and want to quickly boost their maximal strength while still maintaining their current training program.

How to Make it Work: do the following the workout one day per week in place of one of your bodybuilding-style workouts.

Duration: 12 weeks (you can go longer if you feel the need).

Workout Circuit: I favor full-body circuits for maximal strength training because they allow for more rest before repeating an exercise while still staying efficient with your time. There’s no need to sit around for 3-5 minutes between sets when you could be working another body part.

Here’s the structure of the workout you’ll do once per week (remove one full-body bodybuilding workout from your current program):

1A Upper body pull
Rest 1 minute
1B Upper body push
Rest 1 minute
1C Stir the pot for 6 alternating reps, or Swiss ball side plank for 20 seconds each side
Rest 30 seconds
1D Deadlift, squat or lunge variation
Rest 90 seconds, repeat 1A-1D for 3 rounds

Workout Explanation: there are hundreds of different exercises you can use to fill in the above circuit, and that’s a good thing because you must manage fatigue. Lifting 90% of 1RM for the same exercise – even if it’s only once per week – can beat you up pretty fast.

Therefore, every two weeks choose a new exercise for each category. For example, weeks 1-2 you might do a one-arm dumbbell row for your upper body pull; then weeks 3-4 you’ll do a pull-up. Or you might use the Romanian deadlift for your “lower” body exercise during weeks 1-2 and then switch to a reverse lunge for weeks 3-4. You get the idea.

Training Parameters: each workout will start the same way. First, you’ll go through the entire circuit 2-3 times with loads that rate as 5-6 on a scale of 1-10. This will turn on your nervous system and prepare your joints. Then you’ll perform three rounds (work sets) of either 3, 2 or 1 reps per set, based on the week, with the heaviest loads you can manage that day.

Don’t worry about getting the loads perfect for the work sets. It’ll probably take you one round of the work set after the warm-up sets to get a feel for your strength that day. Try to ramp up your training loads for the two rounds that follow.

Here are the set/rep guidelines for the 12-week phase:

Weeks 1-2: 3 sets of 3 reps (except side plank if you use it)
Weeks 3-4: 3 sets of 2 reps
Weeks 5-6: 3 sets of 1 rep
Weeks 7-8: 3 sets of 3 reps
Weeks 9-10: 3 sets of 2 reps
Weeks 11-12: 3 sets of 1 rep

Again, you’ll do this workout once per week in addition to your other sub maximal training workouts. The point is to develop full-body strength while still keeping your current bodybuilding-style program in place.

How to Boost Your Squat, Deadlift or Lunge

You’ll notice in the circuit listed earlier that before you do any squat, deadlift or lunge variation you’ll always do the stir the pot or side plank with a leg lift exercise. The reason is because those are two of the best core exercises to increase spinal stability: an important element for boosting your full-body strength while protecting your spine.

The following video shows the stir the pot exercise. You’ll do 6 slow reps, alternating the direction with each rep, making the biggest circles possible:

This video shows the Swiss Ball side plank. The instability from the ball makes this exercise more challenging and effective:

Now you have a simple way to add strength to any bodybuilding program!

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Stay Focused,
CW