The squat is another classic event that has been showcased since the very beginning of WSM. As with the deadlift, the squat has undergone a number of transformations since it was first seen in 1977, all of which have pushed the competitors to their limit. In 1977, stars such as Lou Ferrigno and Ken Patera had to move weight which was provided by suspending a woman in a giant ‘birdcage’, with one cage strapped to each end of the bar. The objective here was not repetitions, but maximum effort for a single lift. In the simplest of terms, who could lift the greatest weight? In 1981, the equipment had changed a little, so that rather than having women in cages on each end of the bar, it was cement blocks loaded onto a platform above the competitors’ heads which had to be lifted. It was the WSM legend, and triple champion, Bill Kazmaier who triumphed in ’81, with a winning lift of 969lbs. Kazmaier declared immediately that ‘these legs, right here, are the strongest legs’, as a response to rival Dave Waddington who had been making similar claims as to his own squatting prowess. It was a very similar set-up which was used subsequently. In 1995, for example, the Icelandic great Magnus Ver Magnusson produced a winning lift on this occasion of 437.5kgs (965lbs). Though this squat apparatus was used again, by the turn of the Century it gave way to some differing pieces of equipment. This was accompanied by a move away from a maximum, single effort, with the focus switching to how many lifts could be completed within a time limit.
Accompanying the move away from maximum weight lifts, the squat equipment also underwent changes. In 2001, the weight of the squat was around 330kgs, and in keeping with the Zambian location, the object to be lifted as many times as possible in sixty seconds was a jeep used to give tours around a local game reserve ! To give an idea of the difficulty that this presented, four of the finalists could not manage one repetition. However, at the top of the table was ‘Viking Power’ Svend Karlsen, winning the squat with 10 successful lifts, moving him closer to his overall WSM victory that year. One year later in Kuala Lumpur, the jeep had been replaced by six enormous tyres, but that made no difference to Karlsen, with the Norwegian repeating his win of twelve months previously, this time recording 14 repetitions.
Moving into 2003 and the contest returned to Zambia, and in the heats it was the barrel or keg squat which was used, and this equipment has been in fairly frequent use since then. Operating on the same principle as the keg deadlift, competitors attempt to lift six additional barrels which are added to the basket, in the quickest time possible. The weight of the basket for the initial lift, before the addition of the six barrels, was 245 kgs and then as each keg was added it rose to 260kgs, then 280kgs, and upwards until the sixth barrel dropped, giving a maximum weight to be squatted of 345 kgs. Five men were able to complete all seven lifts; twice WSM winner Zydrunas Savickas, Rene Minkwitz, Glenn Ross, Vidas Blekaitis and Hugo Girard. In fact, Savickas actually completed eight lifts, having had to lift the 245 kgs barrels twice due to starting his second lift before any additional barrels had been added. In spite of that, his time of 30.9 seconds was still the quickest of all the heats. One year later in The Bahamas, it was ‘Big Z who triumphed again in the squat during the final, completing his seven lifts remarkably comfortably in 33.13 seconds , the only man able to achieve this feat.
Throughout the second half of the decade, the squat continued to feature in its keg/barrel format with notable performances by Mariusz Pudzianowski in the 2006 final, and from 2008 onwards, the Englishman Laurence Shahlaei. Shahlaei has built a reputation for himself as one of the strongest squatters competing today. On his WSM debut in 2008 he posted the fastest time during the heats, completing seven lifts in 25.67 seconds. One year later in Malta and with the weights increased by from twelve months previously in Charleston, WV (now ranging from an initial lift of 280kgs up to 370kgs), Shahlaei was the only man able to squat the top weight.
Sun City in 2010 saw another change made to the squat. Whilst it remained an event for maximum repetitions within a given time (75 seconds), the barrels gave way to rocks. Crucially though, unlike in the keg squat, the weight remained static as no more rocks were added. The weight in question? 345kgs. Regardless of the alteration to the event, the men who were to the fore were Zydrunas Savickas and Laurence Shahlaei, tying for first place in their group with 11 repetitions each. However, the American Jason Bergmann went one lift better in his heat, with an outstanding 12 repetitions.
Whether it is barrels, tyres, vehicles or even rocks, the challenge remains higher than ever for all who find themselves faced with the squat.
July 4, 2011 | by WSM