All the Way Down

by Tom Swift

The guy working in the rack next to mine the other day was back-squatting. He had more weight on the bar than I did. He was younger than I am. What he wasn’t doing was getting as low I do. He wasn’t going through the full range of motion. He wasn’t even going through close to the full range of motion.

When he brought his butt back, he did not get low enough to sit in the proverbial chair. Not really close to sitting the proverbial chair.

My goal always — and I can confirm it was achieved in all five reps of all five sets in my squat workout this morning — is to go below parallel. There is a sweet spot down there, from which you seemingly “bounce” back up. Bounce even with three-plus plates on each side.

It takes trust to go so low.,There is a chance you won’t come back up. Such is life — nothing is a given, certainly not when you’ve got more than your body weight on your back.

Possibly this young lifter was injured or recovering from injury. Or maybe he plays a sport — like basketball– where there is value in the half-squat. There was no visible sign of injury and he didn’t look like basketball player. But I did not know him; I did not talk to him; I cannot say anything about him for certain. While I watched him I felt a tinge of arrogance — as though I know, he doesn’t, I am smart, puff-puff-puff, haughty me, oh my.

You know, it was one of those moments we use to secretly inflate our self-importance so as to build up our egos falsely, possibly to compensate for something we don’t like about ourselves.

Yet I do not find this nameless lifter in my thoughts days later so as further put him down but rather to remind myself what I do know: that how much weight you put on a bar is not the only factor in on how strong you get.

Form and tempo also play a part. I think it’s fair to say that they play a larger part. Especially the former, form. The body doesn’t know how much weight you have on the bar. Seriously, it doesn’t. What the body does know — what it responds to — is how much resistance you place against it.

The parallel to the rest of life is obvious.

Do somwthing well, do it right. Don’t worry what number you have on your back or what amount you can write in your log.

How you do something matters so much.