Powerlifting

Transitioning from Gear to Raw-The Squat


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I remember sitting at a tikki bar with my best friend in the Summer of ’08 having a conversation about lifting. He said, “do you think you could beat Jon Cole if he were still competing?” Without a second thought I said, “absolutely, the best geared lifters would be the best raw lifters, we just choose not to do it.” The funny thing is I actually believed it.

Greg squatting 1050 at 242 in Multi Ply…

A few years later I had retired from geared lifting and was looking for something new and so raw lifting seemed like a great way to show these raw assholes how strong multi ply lifters really were. I rolled up to Achieve Fitness like I was storming Normandy, my plan all mapped out and ready. I had figured I would hit 5’s until 600, then 3’s until 700, then singles until 800. I figured 800 would be a good start, right? I unracked 500 and couldn’t even get near parallel. Ok, no prob, I’ll bring my feet in. I unracked 500 and it felt like someone dropped a small SUV on my back.

Bodybuilding seemed like a pretty good new sport, or maybe MMA, or even sailing? I figured out shortly after that Im too fat, too slow, and can’t navigate out of my driveway and so I needed to figure this raw squat thing out. The first thing I had to do was come to terms with being a weak, high squatter. The first step is admitting you have a problem. I had gone from a 1060 geared squatter to missing weights a high school Tackle can hit. It’s a hard realization because the weights feel incredibly light on your back, but there is a dark, horrible place, that is only whispered about in multi ply circles. This place is called the hole and it isn’t something one has to think about in a suit.

That one inch below parallel is where all my problems existed. I needed to change my training and my technique to address this. The first thing I had to do was ditch all the sweet tools I had used as a geared lifters. Bands and boxes are awesome implements when you have a squat suit pushing you out of the hole. However, they don’t fix any problems associated with raw squatting. I needed to address a major problem any geared lifter will find when ditching the suit.

Quads were a muscle that I hadn’t touched in years and was completely underdeveloped. I went back to leg presses, hack squats, and leg extensions. My lower back/abs could handle the weights I was using easily, but my legs and brain could not. It felt like I was hitting the floor when I was one inch high. I started doing ultra low pause squats to completely eliminate any fear in the hole. It was like swimming with sharks at first, but eventually I couldn’t squat high anymore. I decided to keep speed work as a tool to work a quick rebound out of the hole and work on dropping faster. Suits had made me used to an ultra slow descent and I needed a more fluid bounce out of the hole.

My technique needed a little bit of changing as well. I had to learn how not to sit way back. I push my hips back to start the lift, then try to sit straight down. I brought my feet in about 2 inches and this allowed me to still use my hips and easily break parallel. I made sure EVERY rep was low. There is no need for a raw lifter to ever cut warm ups high. In fact, my warm ups are lower than my actual work sets. I used the same basic back and stomach set up I used in gear and keep pushing my knees out the entire lift. I also brought the bar lower than I did during my multi ply career. Being tight is even more important as I don’t have a suit to do this for me anymore, plus I like to feel comfortable during lifts. I want nothing else moving except for the squat muscles and a lower bar locks me in super tight.

Greg totaling 2000 raw at 242…

All of this training has given me a 750 contest squat which is good, but not great by my standards. Look at these jerks on my team! Lillebridge, Green and Chad are all amazing examples of raw squatters and its great to watch and learn from these guys. I just want to say that unless you compete in multi ply and raw, keep your mouth shut! You have no idea how hard the other one is and you’re not going to step into either and be the best. I challenge any raw lifter to put gear on and every geared lifter to take it off. I think you will be surprised.

Greg Panora is a certified legend in the sport of Powerlifting. The former World Record Holder (and current American Record Holder) with a 2630 total (Multiply) in the 242 weight class, Panora now has his sights set on breaking the 242 raw total world record and is off to a strong start already having recorded a 500 raw bench and 750 raw deadlift. Greg coaches powerlifting at Crossfit Casco Bay in Portland, Maine.
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