One of the really cool things about my gym is that it has become a drop in center for some of the worlds greatest athletes and coaches whenever they happen to be in Toronto. We have had Olympic medalists and national champions in a variety of sports, professional athletes from a variety of sports and some of the greatest strength and conditioning coaches in the world just pop by for a chat or to grab a free workout when they are passing through town. The free workout part is actually a bit of a trick….because I don’t charge them an admission fee but I never let them leave without stealing at least one cool new tip or trick and more often than not, I make them get in the trenches and share their knowledge with some of my athletes.
This week, powerlifting great Ralph Celio stopped by. Ralph is built kinda like a squat rack with hands and feet. He is about 5 feet tall, 5 feet wide and 5 feet thick and has squatted over 800lbs. So needless to say he commands some attention in the gym. We happened to be doing a lower body Max Effort day which is Ralphs specialty. Not content just to sit back and watch while weights were being thrown around the gym, Ralph gave the boys a treat geared up and got in there and showed them how it is done.
I think his presence alone elevated the performances of the guy, but he also provided some great technical points and cues. I think that the most beneficial coaching he offered was with the players who were performing back squats that day. Most of the hockey players I have worked with over the years really struggle to use their glutes to their full potential as the powerful hip extensors they are. Ralph really hammered home the concepts of
- sitting back into the descent
- flaring the knees out
- driving up out of the hole, leading with the head
The topic of the back squat is a VERY controversial topic amongst strength coaches….the other 99.99% of the world could care less, including the vast majority of athletes. I have yet to chime in officially on the subject despite several requests but will do so in an upcoming article. If you have not figured it out by now, I am not an ANTI-SQUAT guy. As a former college football layer, shot-put thrower and competitive powerlifter, I have done more squats then I would care to remember. Heavy back squats were the foundation of my training throughout my athletic career and many of the very successful professional athletes that I have trained (Olympic Gold Medalists, Super Bowl Champions, Stanley Cup Champions) made squatting a regular part of their programs. I think that the squat is a great exercise but it is just an exercise and like any other exercise it needs to be properly prescribed. I would estimate that less than half of my clients will ever do a heavy back squat in my presence. Some of these athletes don’t have the right biomechanics to take full advantage of the benefits of the exercise, some are just so challenged from a postural or technical standpoint that it is not a smart investment of our time together and we are able to reap more benefit from other exercises in a shorter amount of time. That being said….what was coolest to me that day was that several of my athletes broke or matched existing personal records in the back squat, despite the fact that I have not had an athlete do anything close to a true 1 rep max squat in my gym in years!!! That is just further proof that all of the modified lifts and assistance exercises along with the RFD work we do (“Tendo” monitored lifts, plyos, etc) is having a definite carry-over!!
A special shout out to Mike Cammalleri for coming in as the strongest guy in the group that day pound for pound squatting 2.23 x his bodyweight for reps and to Daniel Lisi for crushing his previous personal best and squatting over double his bodyweight for a single!