Last Monday I started on a mission to be better which relied heavily on increasing my leg strength. I have known this to be an issue for a long time but just recently some testing that I did really showed me how much I needed to improve my leg strength. Here are the numbers that got me really thinking:
#1 – Front Squat 1RM 270lbs in relation to Close Grip Flat Bench 1RM 270lbs
#2 – Clean 1RM 235lbs in relation to Push Press 1RM 225lbs
When people hear those numbers they usually say something like “How can you bench that?” or “How is your bench as much as your front squat?”. Sure maybe my upper body press is good but my answer to those questions: My legs are weak. There is no way that my arms should be able to push as much weight as my legs. There is more muscle and much bigger muscles in your legs than your arms so your legs should be able to push more weight. When doing a clean and jerk the hard part should be the clean. Well for me it’s different. I know that if I can get it to my shoulders…. I can get it over head. I knew that was kind of backwards but it wasn’t until I saw the actual numbers that I realized just how backwards it was.
So how did this happen you ask? To be honest, I don’t really know but I do have a theory. My theory has a lot to do with the fact that over the last several months I have been playing hockey once a week, ultimate frizbee twice a week, and flag football once a week, all while working out at the gym six days per week. That is a lot of running (and skating which is basically one in the same as running in my theory) which is a lot of volume and cardio type work for my legs. Cardio and strength are not always friends and usually do not play nice with one another. So my theory is that my legs were doing a lot of cardio which stunted the strength side of things (there were still some strength gains). Where as with my upper body I had just been doing strength work basically (1-15 reps rather than hundreds like there would be for my legs when running) so there was big gains in the strength department for my upper body because cardio didn’t get in the way.
Now I have no hard core proof that that is what happened but in my head it makes sense, as well as in the heads of a few other people I have ran the theory by. In seeing the numbers and thinking my theory has some truth to it I started looking for a way to improve my leg strength. I looked into 5/3/1 method a bit. I thought about not playing sports for 2 months and seeing what would happen (going insane would probably be what would happen, so that was crossed off the idea list pretty fast). I thought about doing CrossFit Football again (only this time there wouldn’t be as many sports so hopefully the strength gains would be better for my legs). And then I heard about this “squat every day” thing. I was immediately hooked, just the name flicked on the ‘leg strength” light in my head. I did some research, watched/listened to a few podcasts, read a few articles online, and applied some of my own creativity. The main influence behind squatting every day is Corey Gregory. I went through his program and figured out patterns for when he did deadlifts, lunges, and pause squats and then added in my own little twists here and there.
So one week in I have increased my front squat to 275lbs and my back squat to 320lbs (from 310). I have done front squats twice and backs squats five times. I did deadlifts on two days and lunges on three days. Every day was to a one rep max for the squats except for Sunday which was a 70% day and a day I looked forward to from about Thursday on.
I’m not 100% sure about the science behind the lunges but I think they are what saves you in this program. Using lunges as a warmup every day my legs feel pumped up, turned on and ready to do work, which when you are maxing out on squats is fairly important. Adding them in three times per week as a “cardio” gives my legs lots of reps under low impact and keeps the ligaments, tendons, and muscles strong and engaged.
All in all, week one went well. I increased both squats and made my legs do a lot of work without being very stiff and/or sore at all. I’m excited for week two which is much of the same but I am going to add in some gymnastics work as well. On days that I just squat I will add in a gymnastics workout. On days I do squats with lunges, or squats with deadlift I am going to add in some skill and accessory gymnastics. On the day I do squats, deadliest, and lunges I’ll probably just leave it at that.
We will see what happens as this is kind of an ongoing experiment.
Stay Positive, Be Better and Go Get It!