Thursday, December 29, 2016

Peary Rader on the 20-rep Squat and John McCallum (1967)

From this issue.
Big thanks to Jarrett Hulse for spotting it! 

Iron Man, March ’67, Peary Rader:

The other day John McCallum, a barbell man from Canada stopped in our office while on his vacation. We enjoyed this visit with him and his wife here, and we talked at length of the days past, and he told us how he got started in the game.

It seems that as a youth he had long been interested in developing himself from a very skinny condition, but after years of struggle wi8th first one course and then another, he found himself weighing only 140 lbs. This is not much weight for a fellow of about 6’ or more.

Then some friend gave him some old copies of Iron Man Magazine and he read in there about the squat and dead lift as great growth stimulators, especially when used for 20 or more repetitions. John learned to squat, Squat, SQUAT. He really worked at it and followed the full diet we recommended in Iron Man.

Suddenly, after years of no gains a miracle happened. He started gaining like mad, at the rate of a pound a day, and quickly went up to a fabulous 305 lbs. bodyweight at a 6’2” height and tremendous measurements. He developed an enormous chest and it is still huge. It was an unbelievable 54.5 inches. The chest cage or rib box is tremendous and this came from squats and pullovers and chest pulls.

McCallum performed all kinds of squats but finally settled on the style he liked best with a belt around the waist which held the weights between the legs. We will tell you more about this squatting belt in the next issue, but this issue we want to talk to you about the squat itself and what it can do for you when you perform 20 repetitions of it.

This may seem like a repetition of what we have said before, but we find modern lifters and bodybuilders shy away from the squat partly because it is hard work and partly because they are afraid they will get big legs and hips. We don’t have the space here to argue about the values of big legs and hips but will pause long enough to mention that in the last few days we have received many calls and letters about certain bodybuilders who might have become among the greatest of all time except for the neglect of their legs, and I might say hips since these two are closely related.

Don’t let anyone kid you about the legs – you must have them if you want the best physique. You must have them if you want to be the strongest. We can name you many great weightlifters who only became great after they started squats.

The two men whom most people consider the greatest bodybuilders or physique men of our time, Reg Park and Bill Pearl, both have tremendous legs and both are capable of 600 or more in the squat and both know the great value of the squat as an exercise. Neither has any great fear of its effects on his physique. Both have found it of tremendous value, especially in their early training when they were trying to bulk up.

The other day, the man who really gave the deep knee bend the big start by his experiments about 30 years ago, J.C. Hise who had been inspired by Mark Berry to take up the squat, stopped in at our office while on his way back to Homer, Illinois, from several years in the uranium mines in Colorado.

Hise, still weighing about 260, and over 60 years of age now, looks about 35 except for some gray hair. Even yet he occasionally goes on a heavy squat program and says he works up to 20 reps with 500 with the magic circle. He carries his magic circle and a lot of weights with him in his pickup wherever he goes.

Hise had worked with barbells for some time and while weighing about 180, was not satisfied, and at the insistence of Mark Berry, then editor of “Strength Magazine” and later “Physical Training Notes,” Hise decided to try it.

He started doing nothing but the squat and the press behind neck and drinking a gallon of milk per day along with his regular foods. After a long time with no gains, he suddenly gained 29 pounds in one month. This progress continued until he finally weighed nearly 300 pounds. He became quite strong and, I believe Andy Jackson reported seeing Joe dead lift 700 in his basement gym one day.

This started the squat craze. Inspired by Hise and his gains, I myself, after 12 years training and a steady herculean bodyweight of 128 lbs. at 5’10” height, which no system seemed to change, suddenly began gaining, and added nearly 100 lbs. in one year, and from that time on for nearly eight years was Midwestern heavyweight champion.

It was shortly after this that we began publishing Iron Man, the magazine that McCallum was given, and which started his squatting spree. We might even say that the squat success was responsible for Iron Man, as at that time the old Strength magazine had discontinued, and Iron Man was the only method for telling the world about the squat program, as the only other magazine then being published fought the squat like it was poison.   

McCallum, who has now trimmed down to a well-proportioned 240, tells of his training with the squat – how the chest ached from the super deep breathing which this work forced on him and how his legs ached and cramped after a squat workout. You may have read articles from this man’s pen in “Strength & Health.”

Bodybuilders of today are not aware that the great John Grimek once made terrifically fast gains on a squat program while under the influence of Mark Berry’s training. However, Grimek was always a fine gainer and developed the ability to vary his weight 30 lbs. or so in a couple of weeks or so, either up or down, and at one time went up to around 240 lbs. His measurements were tremendous at that bodyweight.

Many men shot up at 300 lbs. bodyweight almost overnight about this time. At a later date Roger Eells came along with his body weight squats (that is, using no more than the amount you weighed on the bar) and lots of deep breathing. He had great success with this.

Well, we don’t have to tell you much more about these men who gained so much though we would like to tell you the full story of Norman Fay and his unbelievably fast gains, then his equally fast reduction in bodyweight quickly and easily. It is a fascinating and instructive story in exercise and nutrition and we will bring it to you soon.

Right now you must be interested in finding out how to use the squat for these great gains. You know, the squats, and the squats alone, are mostly responsible for the enormous power and physique of Paul Anderson. He went from 180 to nearly 380 in bodyweight. Now I know that few of you will want to weight that much and it probably wouldn’t be possible, but you can use the squat to weigh what you wish. Paul did nothing but squats for a long time, even though he disliked the exercise very much; he knew it was the secret to the size and power he wanted. A 1200 lb. squat certainly shows that he obtained the power he wanted.

We might mention that those people who use the squat develop an eventual ability to go up in bodyweight or down, as they wish, very rapidly.

I also want to point out that the success is not due to the squat only, but to a combination of the squat and proper and increased feeding and nutrition. Every one of these fellows used heavy diet of one type or other, with most of them relying on lots of milk. They would drink milk after their meals, with their meals, between meals and before bed time. I never used more than two quarts daily myself, but some of the fellows went up to a gallon or even six quarts. Some added vitamins and minerals to their diets, though this was later, as not much was known about the value of vitamin and mineral supplements for bodybuilders 30 years ago (1935). I recall that Hise once tried salt pork because it would make him drink more water and milk. It put weight on, but I’m not sure what kind. Still, we must realize that the body is about 75% water, so we must supply lots of moisture if we expect to gain fast. I can recall when Hise came to our house for a visit, my mother would place a quart bottle of water at his plate and had to fill it once or twice in addition. She also brought out all the food, for Hise was a tremendous eater.

Many of the fellows drank water during their workouts, and some drank milk at this time. I well recall walking into the home gym of another great gainer and weightlifter in Denver by the name of Ed Shepperd. There he was, resting after a set of squats and drinking milk from a quart bottle. Many fancy concoctions of foods were worked up and many of them seemed to do the job, but milk seemed to be the universal food they all liked to use.

Today bodybuilders feel they have to do a lot of sets and pump up the muscles a lot in order to make gains. In those days we did one set and that was it We worked so hard that we couldn’t do another set if we had wanted to, and anyhow we didn’t know about multiple sets then. Sometimes someone would do sets but he didn’t really work them with a purpose or understand what he was doing. There was no pump because we only performed one set. Also, because we practiced what we later called the rest pause in the squat, though we did it for a different purpose then; we unconsciously used what we are now pushing as the PHA system, though it certainly was in a crude form.

You see, this is the way we performed the squat. We would put on all the weight we thought we could use for 10 repetitions, then we would get under the bar and back off and perform 20 reps. Between repetitions we would take 3 to 6 breaths, depending on how tired we were, and often by the time we reached 20 repetitions we were breathing so hard it took 10 breaths to get ready for the next rep. Anyhow, those pauses permitted the blood to circulate in our legs and enabled us to reach the full 20 count.

It has been years since I have seen anyone work as hard on squats as we worked in those days. You can’t believe what hard, heavy breathing we did, and after we replaced the bar on the racks it would be 5 or 10 minutes before we could breathe anywhere near normal again or were even able to stand up and walk. Talk about tired legs! Many a man has gone down to the pavement when he tried to walk downstairs after doing his 20 squats because his legs wouldn’t hold him up.

I recall Chris Dinkelaker of Columbus, Ohio, who was a skinny lifter whom Harry Paschall had talked into doing squats to gain weight. He then went out to the races, and on his way out his legs gave out and he tumbled to the bottom of the stairs and some dear old lady came over and was so solicitous because she thought he was suffering from a fit.

I was not kidding when I said that we loaded the bar to what we thought we could use for 10 reps, then did 20 reps. Nearly every workout I felt that the 10th rep was the last, but I would breathe a while and get my mind set to it (this was very important – without mental control you will never make it), and do another one. I would continue this until I had 20 reps, with every rep over 10 a real fight. It’s hard to get back to the squat racks, but you make it and replace the bar and try to walk away but your legs feel like rags. You pant for a long time and as soon as you’re able you grasp a 20 lb. bar and do about 20 or 30 breathing pullovers. By the time you have finished these you are breathing about normal again, but your legs still don’t feel like they want any more.

When working the squat in a routine, we always performed it last for a very obvious reason. We didn’t have anything left for other exercises. Most of the fellows squatted to parallel, not because of any rules as we now have, but because they seemed best for maximum results. A few insisted on going to the bottom but this was considered too dangerous for the sacroiliac area.

Nearly everyone squatted flat footed, with very few using a block under the heels. All squatted with the feet well apart and toes pointed well outward. Most of them used a cambered or bent bar. This kept the bar from rolling up on the neck if they came up hips first. This did not bother me as I squatted almost vertically. Most used some padding on the bar though some got tough enough to stand it without padding.

The biggest problem was with the arms going to sleep from their long cramped position holding the bar, but you get used to this in time and just ignore it.

If we got stuck at the bottom we just pushed against the thigh with on hand and came up. We might get stuck on the 10th rep, but we went on and finished the full 20 repetitions. Getting stuck early was no indication we were through. We always seemed to be able to fight it through to the full 20 reps.

We always took that workout even if we didn’t feel like it. Nothing interfered with it.

I did squats twice per week, but most fellows worked them three times per week; also most fellows did something else with the squats but few of them used a large program.

I used the chin and press behind neck, nothing else. Hise used the press behind neck and the squat. Some used four or five other exercises but no one had a big program. All seemed to gain all over, including arms and shoulders.

You can get some sore muscle from this type of work. I tried to increase the squat poundage by 5 or 10 lbs. each workout even though it seemed I couldn’t make it.

Starting with about 135 lbs. I gradually went up to 20 reps with 340 in a year or so. Some went higher than this. Even though we were doing high reps, it was amazing how our strength went up so rapidly. You are usually a little tired the next day after a workout, but you were ready for the next workout when the time came.

I have told you about men who went up to 300 or so pounds in bodyweight. I tell you this only to show what can be done, and do not recommend that you go that high, as it is not necessary or desirable. I stopped at about 220 and feel this was plenty heavy enough for me.

Many fellows have gone quite high and then found they didn’t care to be so heavy, and have trimmed down to a fine physique. You can stop anywhere you desire. In fact, you will find it hard work all the way, but you will not make it without hard work. Because it is very hard work you will also require a great amount of sleep and rest. If you neglect your rest you are not going to be happy with the results you get.

This article has been a recital of what has been done, with details given so that you can do likewise if you desire. If you go on a squat program, remember that the squat is the main exercise. Anything else you decide to do will be in the nature of accessory exercise. You will probably do only one set of about 10 reps on them.

Don’t forget that nutrition is the real secret of gaining or reduction, but you must also have exercise with it.

One thing this program will do is put you into condition. Most of us used 20 reps in the squat, but Hise experimented with as high as 30 and 40 reps, but found 20 to 30 best.

I can very well remember how easy it was to run around over mountains like a goat after being on this intensive program for a while. It was hard then for me to understand why other people got tired and winded while climbing. I can understand it now after being off 20 rep squat for a few years.

Good luck with your squatting, and let us know how you get along. Incidentally, you don’t jump into this full force all at once. Start with light poundages that seem easy, and then add 5 or 10 lbs. each workout.


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