The Quest for 405 coincided with finding the Squat Nemesis program.
4 big wheels per side. To me that meant I had reached a significant amount of strength and would stand out from the common bro at my gym.
Now you may or may not think 405 is anything exceptional but let me explain a bit why it meant so much to me.
First off, squatting with a bar on my back has never felt comfortable. I know squatting shouldn't feel comfortable, man up, yadda yadda male bravado stick your chest out and pound on it.
What I mean is I'm 6'2” with long femurs and to squat to depth I have to lean over a bit while sitting back into the squat or let my knees travel forward past my toes to stay more upright.
I've struggled for every 10 lbs. I've added to my squat. 405 was a number I had in my mind that meant I achieved something meaningful. To me.
You want goals that are significant to you. What anyone else thinks is none of your business. I had to constantly remind myself of that over the years in the gym.
Not a Squat Technique Post
This post is not about squatting mechanics and if knees over toes or leaning is dangerous. My reason for this post is to share why it's imperative to try crazy things sometimes.
Squatting every time you step into the gym sounds nuts. Right?
It sure did to me.
I was scared. Would I get injured? How long could I sustain it? What if I gave up after two weeks and felt like a failure?
These thoughts are healthy. I realized I was on to something when I was getting butterflies in my stomach at the beginning of this “program”. It's not really a program so much as a challenge.
Beyond the fact that I am tall and squatting with a bar on my back never felt comfortable, I also had the lingering concerns about an old low back injury.
A few years back I hurt my low back to the point where I couldn't squat the empty bar or pick up an empty barbell without excruciating pain. It had been a long process getting to the point where I could squat and deadlift pain-free.
I had found an ideal amount of frequency and volume for each of the powerlifts that would keep any low back tweaks at bay. High-frequency squatting made me nervous about this.
Also on my mind was my shoulder issue that just wouldn't go away. Squats (primarily low-bar) would irritate this problem and every time I thought it was healed up I would tweak it again. A cycle that I was concerned about but not enough to stop me.
One other consideration is when you tell someone you area going to squat heavy 4-5 days a week you will get all kinds of negative feedback.
I learned to just shrug this off and focus on the task at hand. Go in and squat and make sure to eat and sleep.
Your belief in yourself will make a huge difference in this, and any other challenge or program.
That covers the 'why' for attempting this challenge and the worries I had about it.
How to Squat 4- 7 Days Per Week
Let's get into 'how' I went about squatting daily and improved my high bar from 305-355 and my low bar from 315-385.
I came across the squat nemesis program after reading Matt Perryman's “Squat Everyday” book and yearning for more information on this topic. There isn't a whole lot out there but I found Nick Horton's website and “Squat Nemesis”.
It sounded nuts. But there were plenty of people my age and older (35 at the time) making some awesome gains with their squat. I had to try it.
Real quick breakdown of nemesis. You squat everyday. You can do back squats, front squats or a combination. Everyday means at least 4 days a week, up to 7 or more. You read that correct. 7 OR more! Crazy I know. Stick with me here.
So each day you go into the gym you squat up to a heavy single. This should be as much as you can handle that day. Some days you may fail. That's ok. It's part of the process.
After you work up to that heavy single you will do backoff sets. This where things get interesting. There are a ton of variations for backoff work, many are given funky names like “
That's about it. Squats will be your life for awhile. Working in all different intensity and rep ranges. You will get better at squatting. You will get sore. It will test your mind and your body. At times you will want to stop.
There were many many days that I took up my gym bag and wondered how am I going to squat again today? I hurt all over. I'm stiff. This is nuts! Maybe I should just do some arms today..
Nemesis is not for everyone. If you're a bit crazy and want to challenge yourself like never before AND you have no injuries. Go after it!
This goes beyond just squatting. Sometimes you need big goals. Goals that require laser-like focus.
A program like this will stretch you beyond where you think you can go. One of the best lessons I learned from this 14 month experience was I need to push myself beyond my comfort zone. I am capable of much more than I realized.
So are you.
Yes, I increased my squat numbers and dramatically improved my technique.
Even more important is the mental strength I developed from believing I could do this challenge and committing to it.
Classic Nemesis and Cool Names for Volume Work
I started by doing the basic workout outlined by Nick Horton. Work up to a daily max, drop down the weight about 25-30 % and start working back up doing triples until I got to a max triple. Then drop the weight to do 2 explosive sets of 5 to finish it off.
I did this for a month or so and then started trying some different “intensifiers” which are backoff sets.
This is where you get in a ton of volume. These sets will get you sore. Learn to love it. Eventually the soreness will go away and you will squat for a 5th straight day and wonder how you did it.
People will look at you like you're nuts. “He's going to squat AGAIN?”
When people stop to ask you what program you are doing and how is it possible to squat every day? They go on to say that their back, knees, brain, spine, toes would crumble and they'd melt into lava.
My advice is to smile and say “it's not for everyone”.
On average I squatted 4 days per week. 3 days would be back squat and 1 day would be front squats. In the beginning I used no supportive equipment. No belt, no sleeves, no wraps.
Eventually I got a pair of knee sleeves as my knees were starting to bother me. Around this time I switched from high-bar to a low-bar squat.
Very rarely did I use a belt. This kept my maxes a bit lower but when you are squatting this frequently having a lower max can be a good thing.
I only used a belt when I went for new maxes and my low back was feeling fatigued.
In Matt Perryman's book he talks about the everyday squat max as something you don't get fired up about. You don't sniff ammonia, crank death metal music and scream and grind out the slowest max of your life each and every day.
It's about the heaviest weight you can lift that day without any pre-workout supplements, without gear etc.
After a few months I dropped the light explosive 2 sets of 5 because I didn't think they were necessary. I'm sure you can find a reason to include them or not. I don't think it makes much of a difference in the big picture.
One of the reasons I stopped doing them is because I had tweaked a nerve in my upper back/neck and when I did these light explosive squats, the bar would fly up off my back at lockout and it was irritating the injury.
They are part of the classic nemesis program so you decide.
What About Benching and Curls and Stuff?
When you pick one area to focus on, everything else will take a back seat. Naturally. Your body only has so much recovery ability from the training.
I did next to no additional leg work during this time. I did some deadlifts, mainly sumo pulls once a week for weights that were mostly in the 60-80% range of 1 rep max. Not much volume here.
My legs grew at the beginning but after I finished the challenge I realized I needed much more variety in my leg training if I wanted to build muscle mass, especially in my quads. (My goal wasn't muscle mass during this time so I didn't care.)
For upper body work I had one day where I did some form of bench pressing and the other day would be mostly upper back work and maybe some overhead presses or push presses.
There were many days that I did no upper body work and all I did was squat, do a few high rep sets of back raises and ab work and call it a day.
Squatting this often takes a lot out of you. Go figure.
We all know that we should sleep more, eat enough to fuel our lifting and get massage or foam roll, stretch etc.
I realized that I was not doing nearly enough. Not enough sleep and not enough self-myofascial release. These elements are huge components of making a challenge like this work. No matter your age and background. They make a big difference.
What Would I Do Differently?
I would do more bodybuilding work. Not an extra 5 movements per body part that would induce soreness and impede recovery ability. Just enough to target the supporting muscles that were neglected by focusing on just squats.
Nick Horton calls this stuff “ninja training”. Stuff like push-ups, pullups, “core” work, single-leg movements, mobility.
This program taught me to never overlook the small stuff because it all adds up. If you don't do it, you will pay for it. I paid for it with cranky shoulders, knees and hips.
Programs that are this hard will tax your body immensely, no doubt about it. But you can help prevent injury and stagnation by paying attention to the foundational stuff that you know you should be doing.
Get a tennis ball, lacrosse ball and golf ball. Roll your upper back with the tennis ball, your feet with the golf ball and your glutes and pecs with the lacrosse ball.
Do this daily. Whenever I put in the time with this extra work I feel so much better all over. Those little kinks don't turn into nagging aches.
Life After Nemesis
After I squatted 385 for a new PR, I failed 405. I was burned out. It didn't seem like I would be getting 405 anytime soon.
I decided to deload and then work my way back up to get the 405. My hip was bothering me, my shoulder hurt and my knee was cranky.
After a few weeks working with lighter weights I attempted 405. Nope. I hit my sticking point just above parallel .
At that point I decided it was time to stop what I was doing. It had been over a year squatting with high frequency and I needed a break.
During this period of high frequency squatting I never thought I'd get to a point where I needed a change. Mentally and physically.
My body was telling me to shift gears. I had ignored the signs for months in pursuit of my goal but I finally realized it was time to listen. I was sick of feeling like my shoulder pain was not going to get better.
For the next few months I switched my programming to include everything I had left out for the past year. Single-leg exercises, dumbbell work, isolation movements, more walking and self-myofascial release. (ninja work)
My focus shifted to building muscle in my shoulders, traps and quads. I started feeling better. My shoulder was slowly healing, my hip pain dissolved and my knee started coming around too.
Squatting 405 is still a goal of mine. I will get there. Like highways in the summer, there will be roadwork and there will be detours. When I get back to squatting I will be a new man, stronger and better equipped to crush my goal and then-some.
If there's an “action step” from this long post (thank you if you've made it this far!) it's that sometimes you have to try crazy things.
It's ok to fail. Get back up, learn from it and keep pressing on towards the goal.
Don't let anyone else's opinion determine your reality.
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