Squat Every Day by Matt Perryman – A Book Review

Matt Perryman’s Squat Every Day, isn’t a typical training book.

There are no sample workouts as one has come to expect from strength and fitness-related resources.

This doesn’t take away from the book, but in fact strengthens it’s overall messages including the value to high frequency training, the overtraining fallacy, the perception of fatigue and the need to treat the body as organic and volatile, rather than rigid and robotic.

If you’re after a practical guide on how to commence squat every day training, implementation strategies are sprinkled throughout the text. By the end of the book, although a 12-week program wasn’t explicity presented, I walked away with an understanding of how to experiment with high frequency squatting.

High frequency training – What is it good for?

One notion Matt regularly makes reference to is the value of high frequency squatting. That is, squatting multiple times a week, from 5 to 14 times a week for those Bulgarian’s out there!

What benefits can this training yield?

  • Reduces the psychological wind-up – The experience of knowing you have to squat heavy is draining. The physical action, sure, but also consider the lead-up where the mind wanders to what it has to do later in the day. Perryman suggests that, by squatting heavy on the regular, the action becomes nonchalant, like brushing your teeth. Maybe not quite, but you get the point!
  • Practice, practice, practice – The snatch and clean & jerk are considered ‘skills’, why why don’t we think the same way about squatting, or any lift for that matter? Perryman argues that squatting proficiency comes from practice, but the practice has to be relevant. Squatting 60kg is completely different to squatting 160kg. The body moves differently. This is why squatting ‘light’ for higher reps may not be as effective as regularly squatting a heavier load as it’s not reminiscent of the same pattern.
  • Train the nervous system, not the muscles – Muscles size correlates with strength, though how do you explain the likes of Richard Hawthorne, who can haul considerable ass at a light weight? Neurological adaptation is a larger driver of strength gains than muscular changes.

The influence of Arnold

Overtraining is another big point of discussion in Squat Every Day. Perryman uses historical references to pinpoint changes in training styles and regards Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise as the key driver of modern training methods.

Old-school bodybuilding was based on high-volume training. A body part, say the legs, would be assaulted once a week, then allowed a week or more to recover, due to the DOMS which resulted.

This training style is muscle-centric, where muscular recovery is central to progression. Since the ’70’s, Schwarzenegger’s style has influenced nearly all forms of resistance training, which is not necessarily a good thing, particularly if strength the goal.

If you look back before this era, strongmen and bodybuilder’s trained very similarly, with an emphasis on regular heavy lifting. Though this was overshadowed by the Arnold and Co.

Is fatigue an emotive state?

Physical activity and fatigue go hand in hand. When you’re feeling tired or a little overworked, maybe it’s time for a rest to allow the body to recover.

Or maybe not.

Perryman argues that our own mental estimations, i.e. how we think we should feel, play a huge role in how we do feel and therefore perform. If we think we should feel fatigued towards the end of a training cycle we will feel fatigued.

By the same thought, what if we changed our perception of fatigue. Can we talk ourselves out of feeling tired and beat down?

Perryman says this introspection needs to be finely balanced. Ask yourself, is this fatigue response warranted or is my brain being cautious? There is no doubt overtraining exists. When we’re near this point, we need to pay attention and back-off. Though, most of the time, Perryman believes, this is not the case.

Motivation, for example, trumps fatigue. Powerlifting competitions provide a good example of this. Take the final deadlift which is the ninth recorded lift of the day. Up to that point, the lifter has produced 8 near maximal lifts plus countless warm-ups. Though, after a slap on the back coupled with a raucous crowd, the lifter’s able to pull her heaviest load of the day (in some cases).

Also, think back to times where you’ve trained feeling pretty sloppy and beat up only to finish your session having knocked out a PR.

Physiologically, the fatigue markers don’t line up either. Studies have shown that, despite stress markers indicating fatigue, performance doesn’t necessarily drop off.

Perryman has forced me to rethink fatigue, and in particular the strength of our thoughts on how we feel.

Implementation

Has Squat Every Day piqued your interest? Here’s my take on how to implement this practice…

  1. Set a daily minimum weight – Perryman admits that it may take a week or two to develop an understanding of your minimum. The weight should be something you can do right now, with relative comfort. If you’re familiar with RPE’s, the weight would register as an 8 or 9 – heavy, but with something left in the tank. This daily minimum forms your base.
  2. Work up to your daily minimum – Each day, work up to the aforementioned minimum. You can do this by incrementally adding plates and warming-up slowly, which might be advisable when first commencing the program. Once in a regular routine, large jumps in weight become comfortable. The second method helps to reduce volume before your ‘big’ set.
  3. Reach your daily minimum then re-assess – There are three scenarios which can evolve from each session…
    1. The daily minimum is about right for the day, in which case you move to step 4 and add volume
    2. The daily minimum is a little light, in which case you can add weight or better yet try your hand at a PR, before moving on to volume training
    3. The daily minimum is too heavy which provides an opportunity to rest and deload
  4. Just add volume – Implementing back-off sets adds load which creates an adequate training stimulus. Perryman suggest taking 15-30kg off the bar. With the lighter weight, perform 3-5 sets of triples, doubles or singles while keeping the RPE at a manageable 8-9

Perryman offers thoughts on how the rest of the training sessions should flow, such as structuring in deadlifts and upper body work, though the outline above is how to squat every day in a nutshell.

Considerations

Squat Every Day is a thoughtful book offering unconventional insights into how to go about one’s training.

Perryman uses the analogy that training needs to be viewed as tending a garden. You guide and direct the cultivation process. Pluck a few weeds here, plant some new seedlings there and learn where the best spots for growth are for different shrubs. It’s a flexible approach.

He points out that modern methods apply a factory-like approach to training that is almost militant in nature. This style views the human body as a predictable computer, with programming being extremely regimented.

The body is in fact organic and ever-changing. It thrives on volatility and intuition. Remember this when you miss your next lift, or suddenly make rapid progress.

What are your thoughts on the concepts brought up in this post? Leave you comments below, I’d love to discuss!

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