Can a drug-free man squat with over 1000 lbs?
If so, how does he do it? What are his training secrets?
This article is going to answer the above questions by telling you about a man by the name of James Pitt Bull Searcy. Big James is a 38 year old man standing 6 foot, 2 inches tall and weighing in at a massive 330 lbs. James has been training with weights for about 16 years and powerlifting for the past 11 years. He is the 6 time WNPF (World Natural Powerlifting Federation) World Champion as well as the winner of numerous other powerlifting titles and awards.
One of the things which makes James so unique is that he has accomplished so much without the aid of tissue building drugs (steroids etc.) and without the aid of powerlifting gear such as squat suits and bench shirts. In fact, it is only very recently that he has begun to use a squat suit.
James’ squatting prowess borders on the ludicrous! For example, he has squatted with over 900 lbs for reps in a workout using only 10 year old knee wraps and a belt! This kind of raw strength is very rarely seen even at the highest levels of powerlifting and the fact that he does it drug-free harkens back to the days of Paul Anderson (another man with prodigious leg power).
You might think James has some training secret which allows him to handle such incredible loads with relative ease. Powerlifting is rife these days with chains, bands, reverse bands, and various other specialty exercises and apparatus. It will most likely surprise you to know that James uses virtually none of these. James’ training is old-fashioned hard work mixed with some of the most basic exercises known to the lifting world. The following exercises encompass James’ entire regimen:
- Squat (2 varieties)
- Leg Press
- Stiff-Legged Deadlift
Basic and brutally heavy is the mantra for James!
James trains on a 12 week cycle between competitions or maximum lift attempts. His training follows an instinctive approach in that the weights and rep scheme he will use for a given workout are not set in stone. This flexibility in his training should not be misconstrued as haphazard. James follows set parameters but is smart enough to leave room for the variability that is inevitable with the human body and training with weights.
James trains his legs once per week on Sundays. He finds that this allows him maximum recovery between workouts. Depending on your personal recovery ability and level of experience you might find more frequent training better suited to your personal needs.
I am going to detail James’ exact workout he used as week one of his most recent 12 week cycle (started immediately after squatting with 1003 lbs rather easily!). I will then detail the basic parameters of how he plans to progress through the 12 week cycle until his next competition.
Leg Press (to warmup the thighs): James used 800 lbs for 2 sets of 20 repetitions. He is not using knee wraps for this exercise. A warmup for James, this might be a lifetime best for other mere mortal men!
Squats: After his thighs are primed with the leg presses he is ready for his squat routine.
- 135 x 2 sets x 10 reps
- 225 x 10 reps
- 315 x 5 reps
- 405 x 2 sets x 10 reps
His heaviest set was performed with 405 lbs for 2 sets of 10. These were performed with no knee wraps. You will note that works out to roughly 40% of his 1 repetition maximum (1RM) for 2 sets of 10.
Box Squats: This is a new exercise for James. It was recommended to him by Steve Goggins the record holding 275 lb powerlifter who has squatted over 1100 lbs himself!
- 225 x 2 sets x 10 reps
Leg Press: It is now back to the leg press for James and these sets are performed as working sets, not warm-ups.
- 1000 x 2 sets x 20 reps
Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: James performs these on a 3 inch box to increase his range of motion (ROM).
- 315 x 2 sets x 10 reps
That’s it. As you probably already noted James does not train to failure. He keeps within the limits of his power and only pushes himself all-out when competing.
James’ first session of his 12 week cycle involves what is very light (for him) squatting. This session lays the foundation for his progression over the following weeks. James will perform the exact exercises and total number of sets for each of his subsequent workouts. The variation will be in weights used and repetitions performed.
James graduates his heavy sets of squats by 50-100 lbs per week. On the leg press (not his warmup sets, he keeps those at 800 lbs throughout the 12 week cycle) he moves up by 100-200 lbs per week until he maxes out the apparatus at 1500 lbs. He then increases the reps weekly until he is doing 2 sets of 30 with 1500 lbs!
As James progresses in resistance on his standard squats he will gradually decrease the repetitions until he is performing 2 sets of 5 by week 7 or 8. On week 5 he will add knee wraps and on week 7 he will add his new pair of groove briefs. These are special elastic shorts which can be worn underneath a squat suit. By week 10 he will be doing doubles and triples in training and will have added his squat suit.
We can all take a very valuable lesson from James and his simple yet brutally effective routine. It isn’t the latest fad or crazy new training technique which builds the biggest and strongest men in the world; it is heavy, basic training which always gets the job done!
To further this point I will now refer back to Paul Anderson who was mentioned at the beginning of this article. Paul was considered to be the strongest man of his era and is still considered to be one of the strongest men of all time. Paul was a drug free (most of his lifting was done in the era prior to steroid use) athlete with absolutely awe-inspiring strength in the squat. Even to this day he is probably the greatest squatter of all-time. Paul is credited with a 1200 lb squat which although not a completely authenticated number provides some insight into his prodigious squat strength. He did his lifts with no knee wraps or other supportive equipment other than the occasional use of a belt. Paul trained in a fashion very similar to James in that his workouts revolved around the squat performed with varying repetitions and loads.
James Searcy is not yet done with his onslaught on the powerlifting world and the squat in particular. He is looking forward to setting the all-time squat record sometime in the next 6 months with a lift of 1150 lbs +
Once he does that he will have solidified his standing in the all-time ranks of great squatters and men of power.
You may never set the all-time squat record, but if you follow a routine similar to James’ you will be assured to set your own personal records and build your size and strength to their limits!
Written by Chris Mason
Discuss, comment or ask a question
If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Drug Free and Squatting 1003lbs discussion thread.