- 3 Jun 2011
The Breathing Squat for Fast Gains
by George Coates
Before I delve fully into the breathing squat and its effects, I would like to bring to your attention the fact that many older readers may notice the similarity between my views regarding this exercise and those of Peary Rader. Many of you may have been reading IronMan magazine around 1949 and you may recall a series of articles written by Mr. Rader devoted to chest development through vigorous leg work. These same articles I have used, with Peary's kind permission, as a reference for this article.
There are two completely different schools of thought on the subject of breathing squats. The first, which I will call the Eells method, involves the use of LIGHT poundages, and the second which I would like to call the Rader method, involves HEAVY poundages in the breathing squat. I personally have tried both methods and one thing is certain - THEY BOTH WORK.
Before I discuss the application of these methods, let me give you some words of advice. Gaining weight using the breathing squat as a vehicle often results in a person becoming possessed by an insatiable desire for carrying bulk to extremes. I feel obliged to ask you not to get carried away by the ease with which you can gain overall bodyweight on these programs. One reason is that it is so easy to become a walking beef trust and believe me, big arms don't look all that great when accompanied by a 46 inch waist. Another reason is that a weight gain that is too rapid can leave you with some bad stretch marks you may never be able to rid yourself of.
How to Use the Breathing Squat
(a) The Eells Method
This method was developed by Mr. Roger Eells, who it is believed, actually originated the breathing squat. In this method you use a light weight (a poundage below your own bodyweight was the suggested resistance), and perform one set of 20 reps. Between reps you took a minimum of 5 breaths and took up to 12 deep breaths if you were able. The emphasis on the breathing technique cannot be stressed enough, as it is the main principle behind this method of squatting for weight gains. You must do the breathing HIGH in the chest, lifting the shoulders and chest with each deep breath. Keep your abdomen held in at all time during this exercise period. When you breathe out, attempt to expel ALL the air from your lungs. When inhaling, suck in as much air as you are able to through the OPEN mouth. A set of straight arm pullovers should be performed immediately after your squats while you are still huffing and puffing like a steam engine. The breathing squat is the key to bodyweight control along with correct diet and nutrition. One is no good without the other.
The main drawback to this Eells system seems to be that the gains in bodyweight are not hard muscular gains as will be obtained from the Rader method using heavy resistance. Also, you will not achieve the all-round strength that the heavy system will give you. I understand, however, that due to injuries or other such reasons, some men are unable to squat with heavy weights. If this be the case, I would definitely suggest that you gain your extra bodyweight through the practice of light breathing squats and pullovers as I've just described.
(B) The Rader Method
The breathing squat with heavy weights will result in a weight gain which will consist of firm and very powerful muscles. You will develop the power to squat with very heavy poundages over time and, consequently, you shouldn't be surprised to find all your other lifts have gone up even though you may not have practiced them. You will most definitely gain endurance and your physical and athletic ability will show rapid improvement. It is recommended, however, while on this heavy breathing squat program, that you cut out all the running, jumping and even walking as much as you possibly can. In other words, try to conserve ALL of your energy for your workout. You will undoubtedly find that the speed with which you will perogress is determined by your willingness to expend the greatest amount of effort you possibly can when performing these squats.
This type of squatting should not be attempted by the absolute beginner. Get at least six months of all-round training using the regular squat before you try this heavy breathing squat method. Even the intermediate and advanced man should start out with ONE set of 20 reps for a month or so until broken in on this type of routine.
Before I get involved in describing the full program, I would like to say that even the most advanced man will add to his chest size while following the principles which follow. We all know that the rib cage is a flexible box formed by the ribs that are joined to the vertebrae at the back. What we will doing is forcing expansion of the rib cage through the deep breathing used in conjunction with our heavy squats. The entire lower portion of the rib cage is made up of cartilage which will distend to allow maximum expansion of the lungs. Perfect squatting style, of course, is of vital importance and you should always endeavor to squat in good style. You must never round your back on this program, as your whole breathing style will be altered and maximum results will not be possible. If you are rather long-legged and find that the flat footed squatting style hampers your ability to use heavy poundages, place a board under your feet or use shoes with a raised heel.
When doing this heavy version of the breathing squat, you should use a weight that makes the last five reps nearly impossible to perform. By taking rest pauses in the standing position and breathing deeply, you can continue on and complete the set. The biggest barrier to heavy, high rep squatting is mental, so you must approach this exercise with a serious determination. Tell yourself it's only a lump of steel on your back and you are its master. YOU ARE GOING TO DO ALL 20 REPS! They are going to be the hardest squats you've ever done in your life up to now and they are going to happen each and every session. The set you are doing is the springboard for the foundation of the build and power you've wanted since your hands first touched a barbell. I know you probably think I'm getting a little carried away here in my approach to a set of squats, but believe me this is the kind of determination that enables some men to succeed while others fail. By the time you reach the tenth rep of your first set of heavy breathing squats you are going to wish you had never laid eyes on a pair of squat stands. That will be your moment of decision. Give up now and you are lost. Grit your teeth and keep moving forward to the end and you will have begun the program that will change your entire physique. You will be hooked in a good way and will never look back.
Regarding the breathing, please take careful note. Between each rep take NOT LESS than three huge gulping breaths. Fill the lungs to the brim and completely empty them again. Lift the weight with your chest, shoulders and traps as you breathe. THAT'S how hard you have to breathe to make this work. As the set progresses, the number of breaths you have to take between each rep may go as high as six or even more, but never make it less than three. Whenever you take the final breath before each squat, hold it only on the way DOWN. Expel the air forcibly as you come up while making maximum effort.
If we hold the breath too long during heavy exercise. a pressure is created in the thoracic and abdominal cavities that literally blocks the blood flow returning to the heart. This reduces the output of the heart a great deal causing premature exhaustion to set in. I could explain this in more detail but feel it's not necessary. Just remember, the breath should never be held too long when performing any heavy exercise, otherwise oxygen debt can cause the exhaustion I explained earlier. The golden rule is - exhale as you come up when doing breathing squats.
Go NO LOWER than the parallel position and don't forget to breathe through the mouth. fight your way through the full 20 reps. Don't give up, not even at the 19th rep. If you can, get a few training partners to try this plan with you. Give each other encouragement when the going gets tough. Have them assist by 'finger-pushing' the bar if you look like you're not going to make it. Add weight whenever you are able. You've got to push, Push, PUSH those poundages up!
It has been found that most men gain fast doing sets of 20 reps, although some have used as many as 30. In my opinion, 20 is enough. One set per workout is enough for the first four weeks two for the second month and finally to three sets to make it a full three month program. After each set you'll find your legs wobbling like jelly and your might feel about to burst, but get across to a flat bench and do a set of 20 straight-arm barbell pullovers with no more than 30 pounds, concentrating on deep breathing. You will find as you progress in poundage that more rest time will be needed between sets of squats. At least 5 minutes, and 15 minutes is not uncommon.
The rest of the program should be made up of the standard upper body movements, so your layout will finish up looking something like this:
1. Warmup Squat - 1 or 2 sets of 10 reps.
2. Heavy Breathing Squat - 1 x 20.
3. Straight Arm Pullover - 1 x 20.
4. Press Behind Neck - 2 x 8.
5. Bentover Rowing - 2 x 10.
6. Bench Press - 2 x 8.
7. Barbell Curl - 2 x 10.
1. Warmup Squat - 1 or 2 sets of 10 reps.
2. Heavy Breathing Squat - 2 x 20, alternated with:
3. Straight Arm Pullover - 2 x 20.
4. Overhead Press - 3 x 8.
5. Chins - 3 x 10.
6. Incline Bench Press - 3 x 8.
7. Seated Dumbbell Curl - 3 x 10.
1. Warmup Squat - 1 to 2 sets of 10 reps.
2. Heavy Breathing Squat - 3 x 20, alternated with:
3. Straight Arm Pullover - 3 x 20.
4. Standing Dumbbell Press - 4 x 6-8.
5. Chins - 4 x 6-8.
6. Dumbbell Bench Press - 4 x 6-8.
7. Incline Dumbbell Curl - 4 x 6-8.
Stock up on groceries and go on a high protein, high carbohydrate diet until you gain the bodyweight you desire, then cut back on the carbohydrate intake somewhat. A full diet is absolutely essential while on this program, otherwise you'll be knocking yourself out for nothing.
Three workouts a week are the recommended number, but some men gain just as well on two. If you find yourself tired all the time during the third month, try doing three workouts one week and two the next week. As you continue to increase the poundages on your squat some leg soreness might result. Don't make this an excuse to miss a workout, even if the soreness still exists. It will disappear just as soon as you get going.
Best of luck!