Posted by Tony Montgomery under Weight Lifting  Training  on Mar 31 2015

Whenever I am trying to build my own squat up or a clients, I start by watching them squat with anywhere from 90% to 100% of their one rep max. This will show me where speed starts to break down and where the lifter may have a weak point throughout the lift. Once I find exactly where or what the weak point is, I run through my mental checklist of trying to figure what special exercises or variations of the squat will help fix it. So for example:

Weak out of the hole (Without wraps)- Whenever this is a lifters weak point, my first go to move will be to have them perform pause squats without a belt. I like having the pauses be anywhere from 2-5 full seconds, and without the use of a belt forces them to use their core to keep them upright and from getting rounded over as they start to fatigue. I will either have the lifter do very heavy low reps with these (2-4 reps), or one single set for as many reps as possible, but always 1 shy of failure.

Weak 1-2 Inches above parallel (With or without wraps)- This weak point is usually wherever actual strength will have to take over after the lifter gets their initial rebound out of the hole from the knee wraps or just rebounding from a faster descent without wraps. Once that momentum stops it’s all on the lifter at that point to finish the lift. To fix this my favorite exercise is a dead-squat. I only ever do this one particular way, and that is with a safety squat bar and doubled mini bands looped underneath the squat rack, and setting the starting position 1-2 inches above parallel (right at or slightly below the sticking point). From this position it forces you to break the bar from the rack with zero rebound that you would normally get performing a standard squat, and the doubled bands force you to break the bar off even faster than normal to be able to finish the lift when the full band tension kicks in. I always perform these for 6-8 singles with only 60-90 seconds of rest time, and performed as a secondary movement after performing my regular squats for that day.

Shaking on the descent or poor stability- This could obviously vary from lifter to lifter, but I have been able to pin this down to having weak quads and weak calves. Your calves are what stabilize you and are able to keep you planted firmly into the ground. If for some reason you get pitched forward during a squat and get put onto your toes, you are going to want strong enough calves for you to be able to correct that mistake mid squat or at least be able to finish the lift without falling forward. So an obvious fix for this would be weighted standing calf raises, or to kill 2 birds with one stone, sled dragging with build both the quads and calves as well as improving your conditioning. Some other options are squatting with chains attached to the bar, BUT having them fully suspended off of the floor, and attached using bands versus smaller feeder chains. This makes the chains bounce around and swing all sorts of ways which really forces you to stay tight and control the shaking. Kettlebells will also work but I prefer chains because they swing much more, kettlebells just seem to bounce up and down.

Poor Unrack in Monolift- I really believe that this comes from poor upper back strength or just not having the experience and repetitive motion of unracking heavy weights. If I am feeling unconfident about unracking weights, I first add in reverse band squats. This way I can still get actual squat work in and mentally be aware that even if it feels heavy on my back that I am going to have to attempt to squat it. I set the reverse bands up using red or black mini bands, and doubled them up in the middle of the monolift, so when you stand up with the bar the bands are completely hanging off of the bar, so 100% of the weight is on your back. If you are someone that walks out all of their squats I recommend walking out a weight over your max without a belt and just standing there for a full 15 seconds and walking it back into the rack. Doing it beltless will force you to tighten your abs and teach to you stabilize everything, so when you add the belt back on it will feel easier.

Poor Bar Speed (with or without wraps)- Sometimes people just do not move very fast or don’t know how to. I have seen people make every lift from the bar to their max weight for the day look exactly the same speed. To me this isn’t good because then it becomes very hard to judge what a lifter “has left in the tank” for further sets or attempts at a meet. I always go about increasing my speed by doing jumps, box jumps, or explosive pause squats. For jumps I love doing kneeling jumps with a broomstick on my back and doing them for distance, and for box jumps I love sitting on a below parallel box and jumping to a 45+ inch box without using any arm swing. I do singles with these but wait 15-20 seconds between jumps. The point here is to increase speed, not do a crossfit workout. For explosive pause squats, I will either take straight weight, or a weight with equal part bar weight and equal part chain weight. I descend at a slower speed than usual and focus on getting tighter and tighter the more I go down, and once I hit parallel I pause for a 2-3 count and literally stand up as fast as I possibly can. These should not be heavy at all, but you should feel yourself having to work more as the sets go on. Doing these beltless for 4-5 sets of 2-3 reps is ideal for me. Adding all of these accessory movements over time can really help build you squat up from all points. I personally find it very important and useful to always record my lifts each week so I can go back and review them to see if I am developing any of these weak points as mentioned, and just to watch my form overall. Hopefully these help a few people out!

Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  on Mar 25 2015

After serving four years in the Marine Corps and one tour in Iraq, I was finally done. I had served my country valiantly and fought for my freedom. I said to myself, “It’s time to let loose.” So I did exactly that. Five months and thirty pounds of fat later, I was a mess. I became another statistic, another face in the crowd. I was one of the sixty plus percent of overweight people in this world.
 This was something that I thought would never happen to me. I was raised to stand out from the crowd and excel in life. I let myself, my family, and more specifically, my wife and kids down. I took a good, long look in the mirror on August 12, 2008, and knew it was time for a change. On that day, I took my life in my hands and decided to make numerous changes.
The first step was to set a goal and pick a date to do this. I enlisted the help of EliteFTS’s own Shelby Starnes and expressed to him my concerns and disappointments. I told him my goal was to get down to single digit body fat within three months. It was a long, grueling process, but I knew it had to be done. I had to take myself out of the majority column and put myself into the minority one. Three months later, I reached my goals. Man, did it empower me to achieve more!
Still, after all this, there was something inside me that said do more, be the best. I decided again that this wasn’t good enough for me. I needed something bigger, something more fulfilling. So I set my sights on a Strongman contest sometime in July of 2009. This gave me eight months to transform myself into a Strongman competitor. I knew this would give me enough time to prepare mentally and physically. I set up my template to focus on my weak points while continuing to improve my strong ones.
My template was pretty basic because I didn’t know what to expect at a competition.
Max effort overhead press, 1–5RM
Heavy triceps, 3–5 sets, 6–10 reps
Back, 3–5 sets, 10–15 reps
Triceps finisher, 3 sets, 25–50 reps
Circuit abs, 3 sets, 10–15 reps
Max effort deadlifts, 1–5 RM
Squat variation, 5–7 sets, 6–10 reps
Grip, 5 sets of random exercises
Traps, 5 sets, 10–20 reps
Upper body plyometrics, 10 sets, 3 reps
Back, 4–6 sets, 3–10 reps
Triceps, 3–4 sets, 8–12 reps
Biceps, 3–4 sets, 8–12 reps
Heavy abs, 5 sets, 8–10 reps
Strongman training
(All I had for equipment was a 700-lb tire, Farmer’s walk, and a sled. I just did medleys.)
I continued to do carb rotation and managed the micros and macros myself. On training days, I consumed a healthy 3600 calories, and on the low days, I consumed 2800 calories. I monitored my weight and made adjustments as I continued to progress. I wasn’t worried about putting on 30 lbs of muscle and increasing my deadlift by 100 lbs. That is impossible to do in the short amount of time provided to obtain my goal. I knew if I stuck to my plan and made small improvements I would be fine.
Day in and day out I was in a zone. All I could focus on was getting in the gym, setting PRs, and crushing the competition. Slowly but surely I was putting on some good size and strength. I couldn’t be deterred from my goal, and I wouldn’t let anything or anyone get in my way. Finals week in school wasn’t a problem. Neighbors complained about the noise, but I didn’t care. They were the statistic that I once was and would never be again.
I was obsessed with being the best. I read any and all books related to strength and performance to hone my skills. I had to learn from the best so I took a trip up to New Jersey to train at DeFranco’s. I was there for one week learning from the best and training with his NFL crew. That was an experience that will affect the way I do things for the rest of my life. I loved the feeling of being a rare breed, and I wanted more. I continued to set goals and plan my life around the steel. I opened my own gym and continued working on my degree in exercise science all while pounding the weights to achieve my goal.
The day finally came—July 18, 2009, the 3rd Annual SW Florida Strongman Show. I competed in the novice division with ten other Strongmen. I knew I had my work cut out for me. I was undersized in an open weight class, and these guys were on the same path that I was.
First up was the log press—215 for reps in 60 seconds. I pushed out 12 reps and thought maybe I should have tried this before the contest. The second event was the axle deadlift—405 lbs for reps in 60 seconds. I knew this would be my event. I blasted out 13 reps and then my grip gave out. The third event was an 18-lb crucifix hold in each hand. I held it for one minute and seven seconds. Going into the atlas stones, I was in second place and had to set the time to beat. Just before the judge said go, all I could think about was becoming one of the elite and separating myself from the pack.
The first stone was 200 lbs and it went up like a pillow while the second, third, fourth, and fifth did the same. This was the first time I had ever touched stones, and I lifted 200, 220, 240, 260, and 280 lbs like they were my 33-lb, three-year-old daughter. I finished in 15 seconds and waited patiently as the guy in first place went. He struggled with them, and I knew that right then and there it was mine for the taking. It was time to fulfill the life I was born to live. I was separating myself from society, from the pack. The scores were in. As they called out my name and everybody cheered for me—the guy who took first place—I knew my life would never be the same.
I was amazed at the feeling I got when they called my name. That was the validation I needed. That was the separation I desired. That fed me for about two minutes and then I wanted more. Now, I’m on a journey to turn professional, and I won’t stop until I get it.

Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  on Mar 15 2015

Outside of anything and everything related to lifting, what are your goals in life? My response to that was a simple one it was to enjoy it, sounds simple enough right? But it got me thinking about a lot of things, like what in my mind is enjoyment, how do I go about doing it (goals), and do I have to accomplish anything to enjoy it? There’s a lot of things that bring enjoyment to my life such as lifting, learning, helping others, meeting new people, seeing new things, and experiencing life changing events, but to do that on a daily basis is a large task to take on, so how can I do it?
Simplify it…. that’s it I need to make my life as simple as possible, take out all the negativity and distractions and than build from there. Take life one step at a time, now I’m not saying don’t have a plan I’m just saying follow your passion and simplify your life. If you wake up everyday and you dread the rest of it than why wake up at all? You have one life enjoy it, live it, and follow your passion!!
All goals are possible as long as you know the WHY behind them and if you have a map to get there. The why is your passion, that thing deep down inside you that makes you wake up with a smile on your face ready to attack the day, its the thing you think about every second of the day and it makes you happy so why not follow it with everything you have if you fail at least you got to life and say you tried and gave it everything you had. No regrets, can it actually be done, of course why not!!
My ultimate goal is to teach, to share my passion, and to pass on what I’ve learned and what I’ve been taught by the people I look up to. The best platform for me to do that is to get my PhD and teach and research the thing I love which is performance and nutrition, that’s my goal, now I will lay the road work down to get there, finish up my B.S. and find a place to get my PhD, in the mean time I might as well keep teaching and passing, as long as I can do that than I will enjoy my life.
What do you need to do to enjoy yours? What are your goals? Do you have them? If not it might be time to start figuring them out!!