9 Steadfast Principles of Elite Performance Raw Powerlifting: Part 1

by Jordan Syatt January 18, 2015

Q: Free squats or box squats?

Q: Oly shoes or chuck taylors?

Q: Train to failure or leave a couple in the tank?

These are all highly debated questions in the world of Raw Powerlifting so today I’m going to discuss each of them with you to end the confusion once and for all.

1) Free Squats > Box Squats

free squatGreat for geared lifters and an effective teaching tool for beginners, the box squat is a waste of time for intermediate & advanced raw lifters. When used for extended periods of time, box squats will de-train the stretch reflex. While geared lifters don’t need to worry about this (their equipment acts as an artificial stretch shortening cycle), raw lifters depend on the stretch reflex to rebound safely and effectively out of the hole. Through sitting on a box you negate the need for a stretch reflex as the movement becomes static overcome by dynamic rather than elastic in nature. Of equal importance, squatting to a box often causes the lifter to [subconsciously] alter their lifting mechanics. However slight these alterations may be, when performed with a high frequency they can negatively impact free squat mechanics resulting in a weaker squat.  Your takeaway: If you want to squat heavy then stick to free squat variations. By all means squat to a box every once in a while but the majority of your training should be spent free squatting.

2) Oly Shoes or Chuck Taylors?

work bootsIt doesn’t matter. Seriously. It doesn’t matter. Some lifters like Oly shoes and others prefer Chuck Taylors. Personally, I prefer Chucks but that’s just because I’m used to wearing them – not because they’re better.  Truth be told, sometimes when I’m feeling lazy I won’t even bother to put my Chucks on and I’ll just squat in whatever I’m wearing…including my pair of Timberland work boots. http://youtu.be/B8NKuTdUzLg?list=UUZk-b1KyEL9rovh7zdfw_lg

That was 2.6x my bodyweight for 3-reps. 

In jeans and work boots.

I show you this, not to brag, but to clarify that lifting shoes will not make you strong(er).

Regardless of whether you wear Oly shoes, Chuck Taylors, New Balance Minimus, Timberland work boots, or go barefoot…it doesn’t matter!

The ONLY way you’ll get strong(er) is by getting in the gym on a regular basis and lifting some damn weight.

And that’s exactly why I wrote Raw Strength for Powerlifting: Your 12-Week Peaking Program

Raw Strength Book CoverTried and tested on countless high level lifters, my Raw Strength Program gives you the absolute best 12-week training program designed to increase your squat, bench press, and deadlift by up to 100lbs in 90-days. 

This week it’s also on sale at a very low introductory price so grab your discounted copy now before it goes back up to standard pricing on Friday, January 23rd.

Your Takeaway: Quit worrying about buying the “perfect” shoes and start worrying about following a well-designed training program on a consistent basis.

3) Quit Training to Failure 

FailureSeriously. Stop it. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about bodybuilding-type/isolation training focused on working a single muscle group with sub-maximal weight. Training to failure in that sense has entirely different effects on the body and nervous system and, used appropriately, is extremely effective at improving muscle hypertrophy.

I’m talking about MAXIMAL STRENGTH training

Specifically, regularly training to failure while using near maximal loads (85%+ 1RM) is not only dangerous but counterproductive and will keep you from getting stronger. Why? A variety of reasons including everything from physiological and emotional to psychological stress. Believe it or not, the psychological stress associated with training to failure is, in my opinion, the most detrimental. Think of it from a self efficacy (confidence) perspective. Let’s say your current max deadlift is 390lbs. You want to hit 405lbs (4 plates on each side) so freakin’ bad, so you continuously go for it session after session after session. But you fail. And you fail. And you fail again. Without knowing it…you’ve now created a mental block. Instead of training intelligently for 12-weeks, never going to failure, and working to improve upon your individual weaknesses, you’ve relentlessly tried (and failed) to lift 405lbs. Big mistake. Now every time you step up to a bar loaded with 405lbs, you’re going to be thinking about all of your failures. You’ll be running through each and every one in your head, nervous about the coming attempt, and unsure as to whether or not you’re going to hit it.

That’s a surefire way to sabotage your strength

Take me, for example: I can count on 1-hand how many times I’ve failed on a deadlift in the past 4-years. 4-years. That’s why I was recently able to deadlift an all-time personal record (PR) of 535lbs at a bodyweight of 143lbs without a second thought. http://youtu.be/NRfva5_jDj4 I wasn’t nervous. I never second guessed myself. And, most importantly, I had never failed trying to lift that weight before.  This confidence in myself (self efficacy) facilitated my ability to succeed and lift an all-time personal record with relative ease.  Your Takeaway: Quit training to failure. Instead, follow a well-designed training program that challenges you to get stronger, both mentally and physically, without pushing you to the point of failure. 

What’s the Best Training Program?

My clients and I use Raw Strength for Powerlifting. Raw Strength Book CoverIt’s the only 12-week peaking program that can add up to 100lbs or more to your squat, bench press, and deadlift in 90-days.  It’s also on sale for this week only at a ridiculously low introductory price so don’t forget to grab your discounted copy before Friday, January 23rd.






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