Deadlift & Squat Secrets!

by Scott Carrell
ISMA Certified Personal Trainer
Member, IDEA-International Association of Fitness Professionals
1st Place, 1985 Knoxville Bodybuilding Championships (Open)
1st Place, 1982 Tennessee Mixed Pairs Championships (Open)

12613 Buttermilk Road, Knoxville, TN 37932
Copyright (c) 1994 by Scott Carrell

Deadlift & Squat Secrets!


Chapter 1: Squat: The #1 Exercise!

Chapter 2: The Incredible Deadlift!

Chapter 3: Stiff Legged Deadlifts (SLDL's)

Chapter 4: How Often? How Hard? How Many Sets, Reps?



If you've decided to read this article, you may have done so for one of several reasons. Perhaps you've heard of the wonderful benefits of squatting and deadlifting. Maybe you do them already but are experiencing sticking points. Whatever the case, these two exercises can form an incredible core to build a strength/mass routine around, if they're planned carefully and not overtrained.

NOTE: It is beyond the scope of this article to teach you how to become a champion powerlifter, since I am not myself one. Rather, the purpose is to teach you how to perform the exercises properly and safely and in such a way as to develop maximum leg, hip, and spinal erector power and muscle.

Chapter 1: Squat: The #1 Exercise!

This exercise is about as close to a miracle as anything I know. When done properly, it will build gigantic strength in your legs, rear-end, and lower back. And if you do it like I show you on the video, you'll relearn how to stoop down safely to lift things up. Ladies, the biggest benefit for you is that your thighs and buns will become more slim, well-shaped, and toned.


When you squat down and stand back up, you have one of two choices. You can stay flat on your feet, or you can do it on your toes. I'm going to teach you how to do it flat-footed. This will develop the upper thighs, lower back and gluteous (butt) muscles.

The "balance-on-your-toes" method will work your thighs (quadriceps), but will also grind your knees to dust. So why do people do it? I really don't know. As I said before, somehow our lifting techniques become corrupted just past the teenage years. Two other good knee-grinders are high-heel shoes and walking downstairs or hills.

Can squats hurt your lower back? Only if your hamstrings are too tight... because you can't squat down completely without your pelvis tucking in and your low back "hunching" forward. But then, tight hamstrings are gonna hurt your back anyway--whether you do squats or not. Solution: stretch your hamstrings every day. When you can sit on the floor with your legs straightened in front of you, ankles together, and you can put your forehead on your shins, you'll then be flexible enough.

Consider three groups of people who have very healthy knees and lower backs, yet they squat (and flat-footed, I might add) all the time: Olympic weightlifters; amateur powerlifters, and perhaps the best testimonial of all: little toddlers, who squat up and down constantly and never lift anything unless they can do it with leg power!

SIDE NOTE: Squats can be performed in many different ways, depending on what development you desire to emphasize. For years, I used the classic high-bar squat, with bar high on the traps, and feet fairly close. It focuses mostly on the frontal and lower (teardrop around the knees) quads. It also makes great demands on your spine.

After injuring and re-injuring my lower back years ago with sloppy deadlifts, I've finally dropped hi-bar squats. I now do squats patterned after the way infants do them (and interestingly, many successful powerlifters as well): medium stance (heels 15-18inches apart), knees thrust wide apart at the bottom, and a very deep descent. Also, I wear the bar lower now for additional spine safety (more about all these little details below). My current squats are excellent for balanced development of the quads, erectors, and glutes. No, they don't make my butt big. I honestly believe that "big butt" syndrome is largely genetic, or due to a little more bodyfat than we should be carrying. Barring a videotape, here's how I recommend squatting, with a few variations:


1. Stand erect with heels about as wide apart as your butt-cheeks; angle toes out maybe 30 degrees.

2. After placing bar on back, LEAN FORWARD AT WAIST. How far? Just a few degrees. Leaning isn't bad--it's rounding your back that causes problems. Keep back FLAT--better yet, ARCHED--and help this by looking forward or slightly up.

By the way, you have two options for bar placement: a.) on traps, for more lower quad development ("teardrop around knees"), but more stress on spine; or b.) on rear delts, for more power, emphasis on overall quads, glutes, and spinal erectors (but ironically, less stress on the spine!)--you'll automatically lean more forward this way, and that's okay.

3. Squat down, while poking your butt backwards, as if you're trying to sit down on a baby potty. At the bottom, your knees should be spread apart. If you can't stay flat on your heels (this is where all knee pain is generated; by being on your toes or even the balls of your feet), try going with step #2b above. You can even practice leaning completely over with ZERO weight, and squatting down. See how this forces you onto your heels? Now test how far back you can lean from there while staying flat-heeled. And KEEP YOU BACK ARCHED. Also, no blocks under heels; it's the same as squatting on your toes.

4. One other knee-killer. When you rise with the weight, keep your knees spread apart. If they buckle (I've been there too!) and you can't keep them pointing out, YOU MUST REDUCE THE WEIGHT. The muscles that keep your knees spread apart are the gluteous medius, on the sides of your hips/glutes. They're weaker, and must be strengthened with lighter squats so you can keep your knees apart, and pain-free. ALSO--you can make the load on your gluteous medius easier by stretching the antagonist muscle groups inside your thighs. Sit on floor and pull legs apart in a wide "V." Basically you're doing splits. Lean forward and hold. This hurts, but as you become more flexible, your knees will stay apart more easily.

If you have problems with balance, try moving your feet slightly more apart. For problems with buckling knees, try moving your feet in closer, while forcing your knees far apart at the bottom of the squat.

Chapter 2: The Incredible Deadlift!

The deadlift is a very productive exercise. One of two or three core exercises that a routine should be built around, rather than just an add-on. It's very demanding, and should only be every week or two.

I plan to outline the deadlift and a few other tricky exercises on video soon, and I'll let you know when I do. Teaching deads, squats, etc, are very tricky, even when working with you in person. However, I'll try answer your potential queries as well as possible with text:

If you're currently having trouble deadlifting, you might consider dropping your weight--a lot. Then decide whether to relearn deadlifts in regular or sumo form.I now use a modified sumo, with feet maybe 20 to 24 inches apart, hands grabbing bar just INSIDE ankles. Standard deadlifts (hands outside ankles) are used by many, and they really feel a little better to me, but they're just too demanding and risky when the weights are high. Sumo keeps the weight closer to your body instead of in FRONT of the body.

Here's where text descriptions maybe get fuzzy. After you grab the bar, either with sumo or standard, you need to know HOW FAR DOWN TO SQUAT. Here's how:

1. Grab bar

2. Look forward in mirror

3. Exert JUST ENOUGH pull on bar to keep arms under slight tension

4. THEN, while maintaining slight pull on bar, flatten ( I prefer to say "arch") your back from butt to neck. You MUST maintain the arch at all times!

5. MAGIC MOMENT: while maintaining #3 and #4, squat down until your forearms are touching the outside of your kneeCAPS (standard) or inside kneeCAPS (sumo). If knees jut forward past your forearms, you're squatting too low; power will be reduced, knees will be vulnerable. If knees are any distance BEHIND your forearms, the load on your low back will be greatly increased, and you run great risk of strain.

I suggest practicing with a broom at home, over and over and over. Then move up to the bar until you can do a clean 10 to 15 reps. Add more weight from there; it will progress rapidly.

How will you know if your ego's getting in the way? It's easy... if you can't maintain the flat, arched back during all reps, it's too heavy. When the arch gives way, your back works too much, your vertebrae collapse in on your spinal discs. With the arch maintained, your quads, glutes, and hams will beg for mercy, FAR SOONER than your spinal erectors, which will just be coasting along--as they really should be.

Chapter 3: Stiff Legged Deadlifts (SLDL's)

I've been having my clients use these for awhile, but to be honest, I never did them personally until recently. I just didn't need the erector or hamstring work that much. But I've found them to be much more stimulating than leg curls done on the very best machines.

The key, I've found, is to do them with both 1.) stiff knees (and be careful, this can hurt your knees if you're sloppy), and 2.) a tightly-arched back, from neck to tailbone.

If your back is tightly arched, you WON'T need to stand on a bench for "extra stretch." You can do them on the floor, even with high 45's on each end of the bar. The arched spine not only protects your back, but it allows the complete focus of the exercise to be the hamstrings.

Personally, my hams are very flexible. But I don't drop the bar any lower than mid-shin. Any deeper and my back arch would collapse. Also, I don't feel the hamstrings contracting to any great degree--just stretching. Later that night, though, they start cramping. And the next day, tying my shoes is very difficult!

A last tip: If your back is tightly arched, you can let the bar fall naturally about 6 to 8 inches away from your shins, or you can pull the bar close to the shins, which requires upper lat power. Either is okay, and neither will give you an edge in the hamstring department.

Chapter 4: How Often? How Hard? How Many Sets, Reps?

This is a tricky area. Your low back and spinal erectors can be easily overtrained. And your thighs, too. Many people hurt their backs because their thighs are exhausted from too much work and aerobics, so they coast a little bit while asking the erectors to pick up the slack. And when the erectors go, so goes the spinal disc.

If you've read my article SECRETS for Drug Free Muscle Gains you know I'm a big believer in "planned undertraining." This generally means each bodypart only once per week.

Personally, I believe anyone can handle either squats OR deadlifts once a week. I don't think both should be attempted, though. Stiff Leg deadlifts? If done properly, they'll probably be okay on a weekly basis. Personally, I squat weekly, and deadlift every other week, with SLDL's weekly also. ON deadlift week, I squat after, and in the same workout, but reduce the regular squat weight by ten pounds.

As far as how many sets, reps... Well, you'll get a lot of opinions here. Personally, I cycle all my lifts with phases of 15/12/10/8/6 reps over a 14 week period. EXCEPT squats and deads. These I start out with 12's and cycle down to 4's. Fifteen reps on those two moves are just too nauseating for me (sorry, I'm a little wimpy).

For more info on my opinions on periodization (cycling) and planned undertraining, look for the article I mentioned above.

That's it on deads and squats, folks. Be careful and conservative, and the two movements will serve you well. Happy training!

Very truly yours,

Scott Carrell
Fit&40 Personal Fitness
"The Online Personal Trainer"
>>1 Timothy 4:8<<


DO YOU NEED MORE HELP WITH YOUR SQUATS, DEADLIFTS, OR SLDL'S? Are you experiencing frustration with your training routine? It's probably not your fault!

Unfortunately, most training advice and techniques you find on the gym floor are just trickled down from muscle magazines. I've been reading these mags since I was 16, and it's my opinion that they aren't very honest with their loyal readers.

If you're training WITHOUT STEROIDS, believe me--you need all the help you can get. That's why I created "The ONLINE Personal Trainer", a service designed to help you eliminate training pitfalls and plateaus. Whether you're a steroid-free bodybuilder, body shaper, or strength trainer--man or woman--you can benefit from personalized feedback and counseling focused on solving YOUR unique problems.

Injuries? Sticking points? Re-vamping your routine? Whatever your challenge, I will concentrate all my abilities on helping you overcome it (and if I don't have the experience to solve it, I'll admit it).

How much is the service? I ask only $49.00 U.S. For this modest fee, I will answer your specific questions and/or problems, up to 20k in file size. I will also answer the inevitable "counter-questions" that you'll need to ask to clarify my advice. I will ALSO GUARANTEE your complete satisfaction! I can do this because I won't try to solve problems I don't have the answers to.

If $49 seems like a big deal to you, consider how many years you've been at this, and how many more years you will be (I started in 1979 and wasted 14 years wondering what was wrong with ME). Also consider how much you're spending on supplements that you may not need, because I'll help you discard the worthless ones. And lastly, remember the difference between paid and free advice: when you are paying me your hard-earned money, I'll be pouring myself 100% into solving your problems instead of just dashing off a quick, sloppy email at 2:00 a.m.

To learn more, just organize your problem/challenge and send them to me. Be as precise as you can, and prioritize your questions from most important to least. Thanks!

Scott Carrell

12613 Buttermilk Road, Knoxville, TN 37932
Copyright (c) 1994 by Scott Carrell

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