Zach is training to break the 242 class All Time Squat World Record of 827lbs (375kg) without knee wraps. He is currently preparing for the USPA Philadelphia Fit Expo on April 28th, 2018. In only his second meet, Zach Squatted 843lbs with wraps in November of 2017. This training log is being kept to share ideas, interact, and offer insight into the training and mindset of someone that I believe will become one of the greatest squatters to ever put a bar on their back.
For one month before this training cycle, Zach completed a high-volume, preparatory phase. The main goals of this phase were to increase muscle size, build work capacity and give his body and mind a break from near maximal loads. This phase consisted of multiple sets of 10-20 on compound and single joint movements with short rest breaks, slow tempos, intra-set pauses and specialty bars. Zach’s legs respond to this type of training very quickly. After only one month, he could no longer fit into any of his pants. Zach’s genetics are not the best for fitting into khakis, but a necessity for world records.
Once the meet cycle begins, we shift our focus back to our concurrent system that has taken Zach’s squat from 525×8 to 843lbs in eleven months. Zach’s training will consist of three emphases that are rotated throughout the entire cycle.
High Intensity Days
•Almost always the competition lift.
•Highest Intensity and Lowest Volume
•Serves as a day to build, but also a day to gauge progress.
High Volume Days
•Always a less demanding, supplemental lift.
•Purposely addresses individual weaknesses.
•Highest Volume and Moderate Intensity
•A day to build.
Dynamic Effort/Recovery Days
•Will use a barbell roughly 50% of training days.
•The stronger the lifter is, the more this day leans towards recovery.
•Used as a “setup” day to enhance the H.I. day to follow.
•The only day that is not programmed, but done by feel.
Throughout the entire training cycle, this rotation of days is kept constant. The order of days is very important. The highest intensity work is done first, then the highest volume work, and finally the Dynamic Effort/Recovery Day. Training the Squat and Deadlift on Fridays and Mondays, the first Friday will be High Intensity, the following Monday will be High Volume and then the next Friday will be Dynamic Effort/Recovery. The next High Intensity Day will fall on the following Monday and the rotation will continue. This is what we have determined is best for our recovery. Whenever we have switched the order, our progress has either slowed or completely stopped.
As we rotate the training emphasis, we also rotate the lift emphasis. We train the squat and deadlift on the same days, but emphasize one lift over another for three workouts before switching to the other lift. For example, the deadlift is the primary lift for one High Intensity Day, One High Volume Day and one Dynamic Effort/Recovery Day (See image A).During this time, we still train the squat, but it is a secondary emphasis. We never perform a powerlifting squat on these days, but rather use exercises to address weaknesses and limit the amount of weight and mental energy used. This cycle, these exercises will include Anderson Squats and Belt Squats for a secondary emphasis.
When the squat is prioritized for three workouts, the deadlift becomes the secondary emphasis. We never use deadlifts as a secondary exercise during a meet cycle. We have found that it makes recovery very difficult and in some cases impossible. This cycle, we will be using a 45 Degree Back Raises with the Jack Stands and SSB Goodmornings with Chains.
Even though we use a concurrent program, it still has a very linear foundation (See image B). We only return to workouts once every three weeks, and when we do, there is a slow increase of intensity and reduction of volume that is present throughout the entire cycle. There are multiple benefits of only returning to a workout once every three weeks during a training cycle.
•First, we are always excited to return to a competition lift. High Intensity days in our gym are very intense, focused and fun. We feel fresh on these days and after three weeks of waiting, we can’t wait to train.
•Secondly, the lack of repetitive movements helps limit the wear and tear that is very common from barbell training.
•In addition, this three-week period of time allows us to assess the progression of our training. If three weeks goes by and there is no progress, we must begin to reassess our programming and lifestyle decisions. If progress is moving as planned, we know to stay on course.
The success of this training cycle will not be determined by theory. It will be determined by daily actions and the meet results on 4/28/18. We encourage all readers to comment, question and offer insight as Zach prepares to break his first All Time World Record. We look forward to sharing and learning as time goes on.
1/15/18 Dynamic Effort Lower II: Squat Emphasis
A) Speed Squat + Chains: 8 x 2 (~50% of top set from ME day)
Sets 1-8: 375 + 60lbs chain
As mentioned in the general training cycle outline, whether we squat or not on this day is entirely determined by feel. Further, when we do decide to squat, it will normally be to a box to save our hips and knees. However, after not squatting with a straight bar since the weeks leading up to my meet in early December, I wanted to take an extra day to free squat to better acclimate myself to the straight bar. Even though the weight was effortless here, I didn’t really feel locked in until my third or fourth set. Down the road, I doubt we will even squat this day as weights on the ME and RE day get heavier. Still, after missing the ME day earlier in the week and feeling funky on pause squats the other day, I felt this day would be a perfect opportunity to refine technique with a light load.
B) Standing Box Jump: 8 x 3
On our dynamic lower days, we like to use jumps as a low-stress way to purely train power. Since this week is dedicated to the squat, we went with a vertical jump variation. To be smart, we’re very conservative with box height by keeping it at 30 inches. We likely won’t progress much with box height, but may add a set in the coming weeks based on feel. As long as we’re jumping with maximal intent, we feel box height doesn’t make or break the exercise.
C1) Bodyweight Meadows’ Split Squat: 3 x 20
C2) Banded BW Good Morning: 3 x 20
D) Hanging Leg Raise: 4 x 10-15
To finish up, we just wanted to get some blood in our lower body and accelerate recovery for heavy pulls on Friday, so I’ll spare any sort of elaboration for these. On a side note, my abs were screaming after only 10 reps of a leg raise, which is pretty alarming. That’s a huge sign I need to throw in some regular direct core work on these days.
1/12/18 High Volume Lower II: Squat Emphasis
A) 3-Count Pause Squat + Black Monster Mini: 6 x 5
Sets 1-6: 555 + Band
The past two training cycles, we’ve programmed pause chain squats with good results on our high volume squat day. However, after doing these once every three weeks for almost a year, we thought it would be a good idea to switch variations while still implementing an exercise that takes the stretch reflex out of play. After tweaking my knee warming up on our high intensity day earlier in the week, we figured it’d be a good idea to take it slow and see how I felt today. Fortunately, I had no pain and felt good to go after an extended warm-up. The stricter pause, knee sleeves, and not squatting with a straight bar for a couple weeks really made me uncomfortable the first couple sets, but I felt more and more locked in as the sets progressed. I hope to get well into the 600s on these towards the end of the cycle.
B) 45 degree Back Raise w/ Cambered Bar + Jack Stands: 4 x 8
Set 1: 185
Set 2: 185
Set 3: 175
Set 4: 175
These have been a go-to for us as a main assistance after our repetition squats. Since we’re going into a ME deadlift day in 7 days, hammering a DL variation as assistance probably wouldn’t be the best idea. In lieu of that, these provide a very challenging traction-based exercise to help build our posterior. Since I lag in my low-back and my hamstrings, these are especially difficult for me. The goal here is to get a good one second pause followed by a controlled eccentric each rep. However, my low-back pump was so debilitating following the squats, I got pretty sloppy on these. Moving forward, I want to keep these 4 sets strict before I progress in weight.
C) Seated SSB Thoracic/Cervical Extensions: 3×25
Sets 1-3: 335
As mentioned multiple times, when deciding on what exercises to pick as assistance work, we want to target specific weaknesses in the bench, squat, and deadlift. My torso positioning on the squat has been my limiting factor – not leg strength. These have helped my upper/mid back tremendously in keeping a vertical torso as weight on the bar has increased. I highly recommend these to anyone who may lose tightness in their upper back on heavy squats. We plan on keeping these in every 3 weeks on this day with pretty aggressice jumps in weight each workout
D) Banded Dimel DL on PR Platform: 3×15
Sets 1-3: 185 + Orange Short Bands on 3rd Peg
When I first started training with Mike after I graduated college, I had a really bad problem with my right knee caving in due to a hip shift while squatting. To alleviate this issue, Mike suggested doing these regularly with fairly light weight and a lot of volume to build up my glutes. After committing to these for a few months early last year, my hip shift become more and more of a rarity. I’ve gotten away from these and had a really bad knee shift at 705 on our ME day that sidelined me the rest of the workout. I’m going to start adding these in on a weekly basis on both the deadlift and squat days to help out. As far as progression goes, I’m going to keep it linear, adding 15-20 pounds per week, and keeping reps in the 40-60 range.
1/4/18 Dynamic Effort I: Deadlift Emphasis
A) Contrast Platform 3-Second Isometric into Speed DL: 10 x 1 (~60% of 1RM)
Sets 1-10: 415
On our dynamic effort days in the past, we’ve utilized Mike’s contrast platform in a variety of ways. These range from eccentrics, quick release doubles and triples, and—like today – isometrics. However, when doing isometrics on these in the past, we’ve been liberal when counting. This time around, we decided to keep it strict and pull for a full 3 seconds before getting the bar moving. As Mike and the general laws of physics would say, it takes time to generate force. With the long isometric, we have time to generate as much force as possible and build our deadlift while limiting weight on the bar.
In my opinion, these feel completely different with the longer pause. I really feel the back of my legs carrying the majority of the load. I was still kind of beat up from RDLs on New Years Day, which made getting into a good starting position difficult. Still, I’m really excited to see the kind of carryover these have; especially dedicating the other two deadlift days on lock-out. As Mike said as we were finishing up our sets: our deadlift training is like a puzzle. I’m excited to see what the final product looks like on the platform once we put the two emphases together.
B) Band Resisted Broad Jump: 4×6
C) Reverse Hyper: 3×15
Sets 1-3: 440
D) Bodyweight Meadows Split Squat: 2×20
I’ll spare individual explanations for these. As mentioned multiple times in the log outline, the purpose of these low intensity days is to ensure we feel good going into our next high intensity day on Monday. We added the jumps to add another speed element into the day, while the hypers and split squats were just to get some blood in our lower extremities and accelerate recovery for the heavy squats coming up. In the course of an 18-week training cycle, we’ve found these days are imperative to ensure we don’t get physically and emotionally burned out, especially as the weights on the bar increase.
1/1/18 High Volume Lower I: Deadlift Emphasis
A) 3-Count Paused Russian DL on PR Platform + Green Mini Band: 5×6
Sets 1-5: 415
Being less than 72 hours removed from a high intensity deadlift session, it took some thought in programming our main assistance exercise for the deadlift. We felt it would be a good idea to pick a variation that limited the weight we could perform while still being fairly challenging. Implementing the Russian attachment on the PR platform gives a good guiding point on keeping a vertical shin angle to keep the majority of the load on the hamstrings. We added the green band in to help with my lockout and the squat bar to eliminate any slack and the weights from touching the ground between reps. It is unbelievable how much of a game changer pausing for three seconds off the ground without resting the bar is. After each set, we both were ready to pass out. After a night out celebrating the new year, I wasn’t sure how these would go, but managed to get through them without too much anguish (during the set at least). After doing these for 5×10 10 in our 3 weeks of GPP leading up to the cycle, 6s almost feel like nothing. I’m thinking of jumping to 445 next time around and hope to get into the low 500s by the end of the cycle.
B) Belt Squat: 1×10/1xF
Set 1: 330×10
Set 2: 330×20
Since we always want to keep a variation of the squat second on these days, we decided to program some belt squats in before we get to our single-leg work. These not only act as a warm-up for the quads leading up to the split squats, but a good opportunity to get some high-rep squat work that we wouldn’t normally get. Being smoked from New Years Eve and the RDLS, I decided to be conservative and got through these pretty effortlessly. I’ll likely make some pretty aggressive jumps when these come around next.
C) Meadows Split Squat: 3 x 10 (e)
Sets 1-3: 85 lbs
When initially programming today, we planned to put SSB Split squats here, but with the state I was in, I’d probably pass out mid set. We stuck with our unilateral variation from our GPP block with these split squats. I really like these because the single DB allows you to get a good ROM and almost acts as a mobility exercise along with hypertrophy work. Moving forward, we’ll stick with the SSB squats here, but there was no chance of these happening with any sort of real weight today. After these, we just finished up with some ab rollouts and band leg curls.
12/29/17 High Intensity Lower I: Deadlift Emphasis
I’m open to suggestions as to how I set this training log up. If anyone has any input on how to make this easier to understand or improve, I’m all ears!
A) PR Platform Deadlift + Grey Band: 3 ascending waves x3,x2,x1
Wave 1: 455×3, 475×2, 495×1
Wave 2: 475×3, 495×2 (straps from here out), 515×1
Wave 3: 495×2, 505×1, 525×1
Over the past 2 training cycles, we’ve done some wave loading on our heavy deadlift days. This was programmed in an effort to simulate a fatigued competition deadlift after squatting and benching. We added the bands to help with lockout issues I’ve had. With the power in my legs, my deadlifts 90% and above have a tendency to fly off the ground but hit a wall slightly above the knees. These grey bands REALLY overload the top and are very tough for me. Once I hit set 5, I had a callous tear and decided to strap up. I ended up missing reps on my third wave. Once we hit these again in three weeks, I’ll probably just bump up 10 lbs per set and try to get through them all. After 3 workouts here, I can’t wait to take the bands off and see how my lockout has improved.
B) Anderson Squat: 4×3
Set 1: 555×3
Set 2: 575×3
Set 3: 575×3
Set 4: 595×1
Leading up to my first meet, these for 6- 10 singles were a staple in our training after ME deadlifts. We decided to add them back in the mix for triples. I feel these can have a real carryover to my squat by eliminating the eccentric portion of the lift and mitigating the stretch reflex out of the hole. During our first training cycle, I did these just off the bottom of the spud straps which put me a good 3-4 inches above parallel. This time around, Mike and I thought it would be a good idea to stand on 45 lbs. plates to change it up. I didn’t know where I would be with these with the change in positioning, so I started out at 555 planning to work up based on feel. I was fairly physically and emotionally spent after deadlifts, but the weight moved pretty easy for the first 3 sets. After almost being double platted by Mike on our top set of pulls, I decided to be ambitious on the 4th set to make up the difference between us. However, I got out of position on 595 and only managed a single. We’ve found that getting into a good position with the bar over the midfoot to be the hardest part about this exercise. After watching the video, I noticed I had some internal hip rotation which caused my right knee to cave in a bit, which is an old habit of mine. I may program so banded dimel deadlifts at the end of some of these lower days to help out my glutes and keep some tightness in my posterior. Planning to get through all sets at 595 next time around.
C) DB Hex Hold: 3 x As Long As Possible
My grip really sucks
Since most of you probably just know me as the kid on Bartos’ Instagram that squats, I figured I’d start this training log with a brief introduction. My name is Zach Machuga, I’m a 23 year-old “powerlifter” (I really hate referring to myself as that, but whatever) from Youngstown, Ohio. I first met Mike going into my sophomore year of college football through a teammate of mine. Over the next few months, Mike introduced some general principles of strength training to me and I saw the light after almost a decade of training. In just two months of training with him, I put an average of 50 lbs on my bench, squat, and deadlift and put on about 15 pounds of muscle. After that summer, I had the best football season of my mediocre playing career, but couldn’t have been more excited for the season to end to get back to training.
After finishing up graduate school and my last year of football, I moved back home eager to focus my training solely on pounds on the bar. Mike and his wife suggested training for a meet together with the goal of hitting an 800 lbs squat. After just hitting a top set of 525 for 8, I felt that was overly ambitious, but knew Mike was not a pie-in-the-sky thinker. In the 4 years of training with Mike, not only has he taught me all I know about training and powerlifting, but the also importance of mindset, effort, and intensity in and out of the gym. Through a careful selection of exercises that addressed my individual weaknesses over the next 20 weeks, I hit an 804 squat in June. However, my enjoyment wasn’t in the results of that meet. What made training fun was coming into the gym 4 times a week, working towards a goal, and busting my ass with two of the best training partners, friends, and mentors I could ask for. I couldn’t wait to keep progressing and seeing what I was ultimately capable of.
To me, this training log isn’t about a hopeful world-record or my final total on April 28th. It’s about seeing the development of my body, my lifts, and my mindset in the next 18 weeks. What I hope the readers get out of this log is the importance of individually planning and completely dedicating themselves to whatever their training goals are. I couldn’t be more thankful to Mike for the opportunity to do this. I hope all of the readers can learn at least one thing that helps their training.