This is a story that Sean Toohey posted on the old Hardgainer forum. Sean was a big proponent of the 20 rep squat and was a wealth of information while he was there. He had a writing style similar to McCallum and his stories were fun to read. I thought you might enjoy reading this one...
By Sean Toohey
This morning, as usual, I was reading and answering email when this little question was posed:
"Where did you learn to squat? Did someone teach you or did you just learn from books?"
Ahhhhhh The Squat. All come pay your dues at the Squat Rack altar and benefit from the lessons! I actually learned to squat from years of squatting... styles I picked up from watching other people squat, reading about it, and practicing what I saw. Later in my lifting career I was coached by some excellent squatters, both in the powerlifting and Olympic lifting styles. That is how I learned to PERFORM a squat. The question never asked how I learned to perform a squat though.... It asked how I learned TO squat. Let me tell you a little story; I will do my very best to capture the essence of what it meant to me, and what I saw and felt. It was a truly magic moment in my life, and what I learned from it didn't really take root until years later. The following changed my life, once I realized what I saw...
I had been training (read: wasting time) at the community recreation center near my home with my boyhood amigo, at about 16 years old. Convinced that all I needed was time and more resolve, I pounded away on my last sets of triceps pressdowns and used the Arnold Mental Visualization Technique to see my arms as humongous mountains, bursting through the very walls of the workout room from their sheer size. Amidst the bantering about this technique or that technique, shared by all of us, and the occasional argument about who will win the Olympia, or whether Gunnar Rosbo actually DOES have the greatest arms, etc., in walked a man of about 65 years who was absolutely ENORMOUS.
Hardly a little old man, he stood just under six feet tall, and easily weighed in excess of 250 pounds. He wore a cut off sweatshirt and sweatpants, beat to hell sneakers and nothing else. His totally gray hair was matted and he was unshaven. He was the absolute antithesis to the pretty-boy image pushed in Muscle & Fitness, and he appeared to aggressively pursue that look. Unquestionably, however, he was a man who had spent YEARS involved with moving serious iron. Hanging out of his torn sweatshirt was a pair of the most massive arms I had ever seen, at least 19 inches, with a look that seemed as different as he did. Later I would learn that this difference was due to his strength. Although, being young and a slave to the mainstream muscle magazines, it took years before I absorbed what I was about to be taught.
The old guy introduced himself as Don. Just Don. No last name. He was exceptionally friendly, very open, and this was his first time in the rec center. He watched me finish up my pressdowns, on what must have been my 12th set, looked somewhat crookedly at me and struck up a conversation that summed up the essentials. It was the first time I ever heard, "If you want big arms, start squatting." He told me everything that the hardy souls of his generation knew about weight lifting: abbreviated workouts, plenty of good food, concentrate on the big exercises - particularly squats, and rest. I don't know what it is about youth, but I didn't listen. I finished my workout and I left for the day. In one ear and out the other...
The next few days came and went, naturally I didn't miss any of my 6 workouts per week, until one day I came in on the same day as Don. He looked intense and severe that day, so much so in fact that I simply stopped and watched. The image was quite a sight. This was a community rec center with bad lighting - which only added to the image I have of this monsterous old timer, with a deadly-serious expression, heading for the squat rack. Same clothes, same everything. Craig, my workout buddy, popped a tape of Jimi Hendrix into the boom box by the dumbbells and started to get ready for "chest day." I just watched the old guy. The bar was loaded to the hilt with heavy iron, his warmups were done, and Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" started thundering into the little room...
"Well, I stand up next to a mountain, and I chop it down with the edge of my hand!" Hendrix screamed...
The old guy dropped under the bar and stood... it was the first time I ever saw a human so powerful he could shoulder a load that made the bar oscillate.
"Well, I stand up next to a mountain, chop it down with the edge of my hand!"
Don sucked in so much air I thought he would rip out of his sweatshirt... it was an awesome sight. His first rep he went so deep into the hole I thought he was sitting on the floor. Here were my friends and I, real tough guys we thought, doing quarter squats, and this enormous old guy was showing what it meant to go deep.
"Well, I pick up the pieces and make an island, might even raise a little sand."
Every rep was picture perfect. Deep, powerful and smooth like a piston. His sweatpants stretched at the seams down the sides of his thighs, he breathed deeply and powerfully with every rep, and the big wheels lining each side of the bar rattled that distinctive throaty roar and echoed Jimi Hendrix ....
'Cause I'm a voodoo chile, Lord knows I'm a voodoo chile, baby!"
After his 8th or 9th rep I figured he was done. Not Don... he was just getting started. Each rep lasted about 10 full seconds on the way up. He was oblivious to anything other than his set, and like a man posessed, he showed no signs of letting up.
"I didn't mean to take up all your sweet time, I'll give it right back to you one of these days. I said I didn't mean to take up all your sweet time, I'll give it right back one of these days." Hendrix kept jamming, Don kept squatting, I kept gawking.
The gym stood still and watched this scene at the rarely used squat rack, and somewhere inside of each of us, we realized why he was who he was, and why we were still small.
"And if I don't meet you no more in this world, then I'll, I'll meet you in the next one and don't be late, don't be late."
Don finished the incredible set, dropped and did some pullovers, then stood and wobbled to the door to leave. 1 hard set... then on his way home.
"'Cause I'm a voodoo chile, voodoo chile, Lord knows I'm a voodoo chile, hey hey hey" Hendrix finished.
Don looked at me right before he left, winked as if to say, "here endeth the lesson."
And there it did end. Had I listened to him that day, I would have been productive in training long before I really learned the lessons. But that was where I learned to squat.
And here endeth the lesson.