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Squatting Power Part 2: Building Your Reactive Strength

Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Training Articles | Feb 21, 2007

To some, my training approach is scandalous — a bold, yes renegade, assault on commonly accepted notions of the iron games status quo. And yet, to an open mind, its obvious organic simplicity offers both a pathway to training success and relentless motivation.

For those who embark upon the training protocols of Renegade systems, one very apparent observation can be made — success is inevitable with a bulldog determination. And so, juxtaposed with the simple and incredibly effective approach of the Renegade Concepts is the often contradictory and highly over-complex notions found in today's strength game. In fact, the entire modern training ethos seems to have wrapped itself around the notion that training is complicated and requires unique (if not inexplicable) training protocols. Nothing, as we have learned, is farther from the truth.

While redundant to note, resistance training is extraordinarily simple. We are basically either pushing, pulling or squatting a weight with proper form, enabling proper projection of the weight. Ultimately form, functionality, strength and health are bled together. Without question, the rationale to train can vary from individual to individual, whether it be for athletic purposes or more esthetic desires within the broad bodybuilding culture. In our continuing series, we will first look towards our topic from the vantage of athletic development and pursuits.

As we analyze the sporting functions, we can look at many complex notions and ideas. But in its simplest of terms, it can be summarized as the conflict with another opposing force. Physical attributes, skill development, motivation and strategic planning are all determinants of success. As Nietzsche has said, "No victor believes in chance." Physical performance is often determined by the reaction to rapidly changing, unpredictable situations. The paradox being that the only thing certain in sport is that chaotic events are in fact certain to occur and nothing goes as it was planned. Yet with all the "scientific" research and the hollow banter of testosterone-rich bravado in the strength-training community, few address the simple fact that reaction to imperfect conditions and reactive strength and abilities is the key to being prepared for winning performance. And winning performance is what we do at Renegade, where collecting championship banners is a tradition.

As we first give thought to "strength" from a physiological perspective, we must first consider that it is a very broad term made up of different types. "Strength" can be categorized in many forms such as absolute strength, relative strength, starting strength, explosive strength, strength endurance and reactive strength. That being said, as we consider athletic needs our greatest need and typically the greatest deficit in most training measures is reactive strength. Reactive strength is best considered as switching from an eccentric, yielding action to a concentric, overcoming one. This occurs during the "SSC" (stretch shortening cycle) of movement, metaphorically akin to an elastic band. Stretched during the eccentric phase, kinetic energy is stored and then immediately released in the rebound-like feel of the concentric portion. Greater reactive strength will shorten the coupling time (period between eccentric and concentric) and result in greater force and power.

Why it is often overlooked is a matter for debate, but I tend to think it is because of the relatively obtuse measures needed to train it properly, most notably the generation of extraordinary bar speed and speed of eccentric action — both problematic to coach. In the first stages of this 2-3 week training program (see below) we are going to make use of the basic Squat with some interesting variations, the Hi-Box Step-Up and an unexpected twist with the Box Squat. Additionally we are going to make use of the following four basic supplemental exercises for mind-blowing leg development:
1. Natural Glute Ham Raise
2. Snatch Grip Deadlift
3. Good Morning Squat
4. Russian Split Jump
These lifts are performed as such:

Natural Glute Ham Raise.

Set up for this exercise is easy. With significant padding on the floor, kneel and have pressure exerted on your heels (heels only!) by training partner. Body is completely upright; hips forward and hands are either on hips or very relaxed at sides. Lower your body toward the floor, keeping your hips forward and your feet firmly planted. Release yourself down to crouch, hands in front of you, akin to a pushup position, and then explode upward using hamstrings. Given the insane intensity of the exercise, sets of 1-3 reps are considered cruel and insane punishment.

Snatch Grip Deadlift.
Using the basic deadlift but with the wide snatch grip positioning, this movement places even greater demand upon the entire posterior chain. To begin, align your feet flat beneath the bar and squat down to a neutral back position (i.e., 45 to 60 degrees), as you grip the bar with the wide snatch grip. Sink your hips, and butt back. Pull the bar up and by fully extending your hips and knees forward with your rear delts pinched back.

Good Morning-Squat.
With shoulder width stance, initiate the movement by pushing the back to neutral back position, then drop to low squat position and back up. A powerhouse movement that obliterates the posterior chain.

Russian Split Jump.

This lift can be performed with either dumbbells, barbells or (my favorite) the simple wearing of an Xvest. Drop into deep (no, deeper than that) lunge position and now simply jump as high as possible, reversing order of feet and repeat as fast as possible. Not complicated at all but brutally taxing. As noted we are going to make use of Squat with two subtle and thoroughly diabolical variations: the "Pause Squat" and the "DeadStop Squat" (DS). To perform these lifts follow the following guidelines to the letter.

Pause Squat.
In performing this lift, the eccentric drop is lightning fast, as if the bar is weightless, as you drop to parallel position and hold for a 1-2 second count and extraordinary bar-speed back up. Speed--put the brakes on and rev it up again. Simple, right?

Dead-Start Squat.
A tremendous strength builder, as it eliminates the SSC cycle from the lift by starting from the lowest part of the lift and pure starting strength if performed correctly. The key to this lift is getting under the bar, having perfect torso angle and driving through the floor and up with your legs. Set the power racks at the lowest level of parallel, dig in underneath and feel like you are driving your legs through the ground as you explode the bar up FAST. It bears repeating that in each of these styles, bar-speed is emphasized.

While in the accompanying workout you will notice lighter loads used, this is not to be confused with "easy". The bar should be moving alarmingly fast and the sets should be extremely fatiguing.

You will also note the workout table is divided into your "Focus Lift" and "Supplemental Lifts" as well as an optional training session on off-days. In the event you do perform the optional session, please note it is simply a light session. It will take very little time but enhance recovery in a simple and straight-ahead manner. Finally retain this table for your records because over the next few months we will add considerable work to it.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
"Focus Lift" Squat (pause)
Hi-Box Step-Up
Squat (DS)
sets 4
reps 6
intensity level 40-65%

intensity level 40-65%

"Supplemental Lifts" Snatch Grip Deadlift
Natural Glute Ham Raise
Good Morning Squat
sets 3
reps 5
intensity level 80-85%

Good Morning Squat
Russian Split Jumps
Snatch Grip Deadlifts
sets 3
reps 5
intensity level 80-85%
Box Squat* (optional)
Box Squat* (optional)


intensity level

* Height of box will depend upon individuals hip flexibility and could vary from 10-16 inches. Progress should be at a controlled pace and at no time should form be compromised. DO NOT allow torso angle to falter and turn this into a type of "back lift". Use proper form at all times!

At this stage of an article I search for a closing line, a delicate twist to have the reader think about what they have read and hopefully go apply it. But this time I will dispense with this, for there is no reason to do so for an athlete who truly wants success. Hunger is a brilliant ally for an athlete. It burns inside us, reminds us of why we push and strive to better ourselves and our teammates. Instead I will simply tell you this -- cultivate your hunger and you will unleash an unstoppable force that will last a lifetime.

There are no great motivating speeches here; it is simply time - time to bring it -- go train!

Read Squat Power Part III

Missed Part I of this series? Read it here.
Editors Note
Training Renegade Style is the most demanding style of training available but it produces a common theme -- champions. Champions who stand above the rest and are ready to take on all challengers. Are you ready for greatness or do you just want to be a part of the pack? Find out about the ultra-secret, yet simple diet and supplement plan that Renegade athletes make use of: Simplicity: PART ONE
John Davies, Founder Renegade Training Chat Live with Coach Davies in the Renegade Training forums!


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