Squat Every DayThoughts on Overtraining and Recovery in
by Matt Perryman
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Squat Every Day: Thoughts on Overtraining and Recovery in Strength Training.
Copyright 2013 by Matt Perryman. Some rights reserved. This work is released under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. This licensepermits non-profit sharing, downloading, and reproduction of this book as an unbrokenunit, provided that attribution is properly assigned.
To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
First Edition: May 2013
PrefaceDoing It All Wrong
PART ONE: Disturbing the Status Quo
1. The Case for More2. The Overtraining Myth
PART TWO: Recovery Matters
3. How You Feel is a Lie4. Hardgainers and Responders5. Nerves of Steel
PART THREE: How to Squat Every Day
6. Practice, Not Pain7. The Longtails Strategy8. Squatting Every Day9. Reality Checks10. The Empty Life
This book started as an experiment I did on myself. Long-time readers of my blog atMyosynthesis.com will know that I started tinkering with daily squatting back in early2010. I hadnt intended to do anything but try it out for awhile, just to see what wouldhappen. I honestly expected a crash-and-burn inside a few weeks.
But it never came. In fact, it started to feel like the exact opposite. The squat numberskept going up as long as I kept turning up. I expected more injuries, but those nevermaterialized either. Instead, my long-aching joints and sore spots, some of which Idthought were career-enders, started to feel better.
I started taking notes, sifting through research papers, and trying to gure out whythis was happening. Based on everything I thought I knew at the time, my body shouldhave been stressed to the breaking point and it just wasnt. I blogged about what wasgoing on, and I was content to leave it at that.
I didnt have any intention of writing a book about it. After all, its one thing for atop-caliber athlete to train every day, multiple times at that. They have the skill, thebodies, and the incentive. It didnt seem like there would be any appeal for programmingthat specialized, requiring that much of a time commitment and dedication, for therecreational lifters and bodybuilders that I write for. Im far from a top-tier athlete, andwhile I like to tinker with strategies that Id never ofcially recommend, it didnt occurto me that thered be anything of real interest here, beyond the novelty of it.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that what Id stumbled uponwasnt just about squatting to a max every day. There was more here, potentially muchmore, hidden away in the assumptions we all make about our bodies, about our training,and how it all hangs together behind the scenes. At the time, Id been following JohnBrozs lifters, reading his thoughts on the Bulgarian system he used, and watching theprogress videos on YouTube. I was following Jamie Lewiss Chaos & Pain blog, readinghis exploits in the land of extreme training. There was a pattern at play here a patternthat transcended the usual excuses of genetics and steroids and I wanted to gure outwhat it was.
It was about a year later when I was convinced to write a book about the topic. By thatpoint Id put in my own time with the system, come up with some good reasons to supportit, and frankly I was sold. Not as a program or even a workout system, but as a differentway of looking at fitness, at strength-building, and the process of recovery.
So here we are.Those of you familiar with my older work will notice that I have made a sharp
departure from my usual scientic approach. In the last few years, my views on science,especially sciences role in establishing truth in tness and nutrition, have changed somuch that it qualifies as a complete break.
The internet has developed whole communities who believe that tness and strengthcan be reduced to numbers and captured in micro-level facts about biochemicals andcellular biology. The conclusions drawn are Truth given by the authority of Science. Themore oblique references listed, the more scientific. Lets call this Pubmed Science.
It sounds good, but this style of truth-seeking is as mythical as the gym-rumors itaims to counter. Combing abstracts for biochemical information or the hormonalresponses of athletes or some such trivia removes you from the realities of actually liftinga weight. It strips away all the context and creates mock-quote facts in a vacuum. In theabsence of any grounding, its easy to construct a whole reality out of those facts, onewhich has little to do with the world we live in.
Pubmed Science is more like telling a story, crafting a beautiful narrative out ofscientic factoids. It gives you that story we all need to tell ourselves, that we know whatis going on and, more to the point, that we have control over it. Im all for the safetyblankets of illusions, but not when the illusion is held up as a superior, objective, non-biased account of reality.
My strategy here is not so novel, and will probably seem like common sense to manyof you. What Im doing here is shifting the priority away from the abstract theoreticalsand instead grounding my ideas in the practical.
Any practitioner, whether were talking the line technician who keeps the phonelines working or the MD who keeps you healthy, has more knowledge than is immediatelyevident from their educational background and formal training. There is an unspoken and unspeakable element in the Doing. The term for this is tacit knowledge.
Dealing with the contingencies and uncertainties of Reality means that we just cantwrite down every last detail, or even a formal list of rules and good ideas. Some things aregoing to remain fuzzy, and youll have to make judgment calls based on necessarilyincomplete information.
Pubmed Scientists see this as a problem, expecting that all questions about livingbodies will have distinct, objective, true answers. I dont believe that either is the case.Biological systems largely wont have concrete answers of the sort youd nd in physics orchemistry but, well, so what? I believe its wrong-headed to expect those answers inthe rst place, and on the other hand, the fuzziness works in our favor because we dontneed concrete answers at all. Our judgment about what next? is oftentimes better thanany scientific reply.
In this book, I start with the assumption that Doing takes precedence over theabstract theorizing of Pubmed Science. In strength training, it is getting in the gym,paying attention to your body, and keeping records that forms our starting point. I startwith the premise that not having a precise answer is no problem at all. The idea is to usethat knowledge you amass while Doing and learn how to deal with uncertainty.
With that grounding of personal knowledge to start with, then and only then welook to the research to give that knowledge context. Formal research is wonderful forexplaining why some observations might be happening, and that is the methodology I
have used. The science here is in the service of what I saw happening in the gym, not theother way around.
While this is, ofcially, a book on strength training and tness, these themes of tacitknowledge, acceptance of uncertainty, and rejection of reductionist Pubmed Science liebeneath everything youre about to read, and I would suggest that you read it with that inmind.
Finally, besides the usual disclaimers about getting medical clearance beforebeginning any such program and such, I would add that nothing written herein isintended as the last word on any subject. This is a record of an experiment I conducted onmyself and with the input of acquaintances who decided to throw in and see what wouldhappen.
Consider this the starting point of a dialogue rather than the an authoritative nalword on the matter.
Doing It All Wrong
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows.
It was on March 5th, 1949 when a wiry farmer stunned the crowd in Johnson City,Tennessee with a deadlift of 725 and one-half pounds. An impressive number in its ownright, this feat was all the more amazing for the size of the man hoisting the barbell. Ourfarmer weighed all of 180 pounds, and that 725 pound deadlift set a record which stoodfor over 20 years.
Bob Peoples was one of the most gifted lifters of the 20th century and one of thestrongest men to ever touch a barbell. No stranger to hard work, Peoples spent his days inthe local textile mill and on his farm, sometimes training as late as 2am after a long day,sometimes missing months of training due to work and other obligations.
What might surprise you even more than a 700-plus pound deadlift by an 180 poundman with a double overhand grip, no less is how he arrived at that kind of strength.
In a 1952 article written for Peary Raders Iron Man magazine, Peoples summarizedthe nuts and bolts of his training. His methods were simple, if diverse, and he alwayscame back to the old standby which had served him best: that is, daily training with a fewexercises and working up to limit poundages and 3 to 5 reps.1
Although its clear from his writings that he tried many different systems andmethods over his career, Peoples always came back to heavy, low-rep training done everyday of the week. Work schedule or not, when Bob Peoples trained, he trained. Deadlifts inexcess of 600 lbs and squats over 400 lbs for sets of 3-5 reps eac