Poliquin Squat Holds @ 200% max

Thoughts on this article by Charles Poliquin…

Q: I love squatting, but when I go heavy (5 RM or less), I get freaked out, and I think this fear is somehow inhibiting my success in the movement. Any ideas as to how I can get around it?

A: You can overcome this problem by using the technique called “Heavy Supports.” Chuck Sipes, a Mr. America known for his amazing strength, developed it. He claimed it built tendon strength, but the truth of the matter is that it helps heighten the shutdown threshold of the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO), which is a tension/stretch receptor located in the tendon. The GTO inhibitory effect can be seen when two people of unequal strength arm wrestle. As the weaker person loses, it looks like he’s suddenly quitting and gets his wrist slammed to the top of the table. What’s really happening is that the GTO perceives a rapid rate of stretch during the eccentric contraction, at which point it yells to the brain, “Shut down, or this pimply-faced goon is going to rip the biceps apart!” The brain then sends a rapid signal to inhibit the contraction in order to prevent a muscle tear.

The same thing is true of your legs when you do squats. However, you can raise the GTO threshold by interspersing 8-second heavy isometric holds, aka supports, in between regular sets. So a squat routine may look like this:

Set 1: Full squats 5 RM at 85% of max (rest for three minutes after each set).

Set 2: A heavy support of 8 seconds at 200 % of max. Basically, it’s 1/16th of a squat. You just unrack the weight and hold an upright position with your knees just short of lock-out. The weight should be heavy enough that your knees will look like they are suffering from a Parkinson’s attack, or how TC’s knees quiver when he finds a new 8-track Barry Manilow tape.

Set 3: Full squats 5 RM at 85% of max.

Set 4: Heavy support 8 seconds at 210 % of max.

Set 5: Full squats 5 RM at 85% of max.

Set 6: Heavy support 8 seconds at 220 % of max.

Don’t be surprised if your heavy support loads climb up dramatically. Don’t be shy to use even greater percentages for the heavy supports than the ones suggested. As a result of doing these, you’ll gain greater confidence and greater control over heavy squat poundages. And, consequently, your rate of development will go up.

So if I squat 350 I should be unracking over 700 pounds and standing there with slightly bent knees?
This seems pretty rediculous. I’d love to hear others thoughts.

Just imagine how cool some of my buddies and athletes will look standing there with 900 pounds on their shoulders.

First of all I’m not saying do this (personally i think it is pretty dangerous) but has anyone tried this?

Although I can’t remember reading this anwywhere scientific I was once told by a doctor that there is a spinal reflex that inhibits muscle contraction when the body senses that the weight trying to be lifted is far too heavy for the body to handle (don’t know if he was refering to the golgi tendon organ or not). This is supposed to prevent you from trying to catch a falling tree and instead force you to try and move out of the way.

From personal experience I believe there is some logic to this - as I have experienced this with the bench press. I guess holding a heavy weight would reset this reflex to higher levels but 220% seems a little high.

If this reflex does exist then i would be careful about trying to lift 220% perhaps it might trigger it off if you bend your legs too far?

If someone is crazy enough to try this let me know.


I havn’t tried super heavy isometrics, 200% seems to risky for me but i have read of people walking heavy weights of the rack, up to around 150%1RM. I personally have had good results from using single rep eccentrics 100-120%1RM uninhibit the golgi tendon. I remember DavidW used these succesfully with his lifters too.


What I find interesting here is the coupling of very different characteristic of the stimuli : full range,sub maximal,dynamic,and: very partial range, maximal,static.I guess the large differential allows for a very potent general stimulus,and I would say it should be treated as such when incorporated in a training program for sports other than powerlifting or bodybuilding.

If the exercise is meant to heighten the Golgi Tendon Organs of the legs, why not do single leg 1/16 squat and keep the weight (or even reduce it considering the extra burden of your body weight). Seems much more practical than to use up two sets of squat equipment or to load & unload 100-200 kg between every set…

Actually I do not think a 200 % 1/16 squat will stimulate the Golgi Tendon Organs of the legs. If you can unrack the weight, i.e. lift it concentrically, you are probably not overloading the muscles enough. Just because the external force/load is high, it does not follow that the internal force of the muscle - i.e. the force that the Golgi Tendon Organ register - is high. This is of course because, the external force works through a much shorter lever arm during a 1/16 squat.

The Golgi Tendon Organ is known to play a role in the landing phase of jump. The external forces are then much higher that 2x body weight (albeit during a very short time) and consequently the muscles are forced to eccentric contraction. We are thus talking about a true supra-maximal load.

The 200% squat method may help but it is then probably by stimulation of the Golgi Tendon Organs of the back muscles (which possibly(?) could be forced to an eccentrically movement - simultaneously as the leg muscles contract concentrically - when the weight is unracked). However, I suspect it is a “CNS thing”. The whole body is somehow being better prepared for high loads.

I’ve had success with this idea of heavy supports. I used to use them quite often in squats, but instead of 200%, I would load up 120–140% of max and do walk outs–and if I were feeling really good, I would try to do partial (1/8) squats with that weight. If you can, go to ironmind.com or do a google search for articles by Steve Justa–he is the man when it comes to this stuff and he has some excellent training articles and ideas.

“There ain’t nothin’ more humiliating than being left all alone out in the middle of a country road.”

200 % seems ridiculous and i sure wouldn’t want to be the first to try something like this. i have done walk-outs with 110-120 % and even that felt boarderline unsafe. i couldnt imagine double my max on my back. no thanks !!

Bud Jeffries has come close to this, only with 1000lbs and 1850lbs. :eek: http://strongerman.com/lifts.html

“The Golgi Tendon Organ is known to play a role in the landing phase of jump. The external forces are then much higher that 2x body weight (albeit during a very short time) and consequently the muscles are forced to eccentric contraction. We are thus talking about a true supra-maximal load.”

This puts the piece together for me on why OL are probably better for ya athletically than just high pulls & MB throws

“catching the bar retrains GTO threshold”?

Bud Jeffries has come close to this, only with 1000lbs and 1850lbs.

I’ve read about some of his strength exploits. A 1000 pound squat is freakish, but 1850 lbs. of any sort of lift is just flat out stone-cold crazy!

Although I am no expert on physiology so can you explain why catching the bar would do this and not the double knee bend stretch shortening cycle (during the second pull)?

I would think that would hit it also!