The Greatest Barbell Squat Set of All Time Captain Kirk Karwoski 800 x 5 Raw article by Marty Gallagher

The Greatest Barbell Squat Set of All Time: "Captain" Kirk Karwoski 800 x 5 Raw

Kirk Karwoski's Historic 800 x 5 Barbell Squat

God bless J.P. Brice and for taking the time and trouble to excerpt from Kirk Karwoski’s "Cadet to Captain" video of his historic 800 lbs. for 5 rep barbell squat set done on May 8th, 1995. I have long thought that this was the greatest squatting ever done by the greatest squatter in powerlifting history. Most experts point to Kirk’s 1,000 pound squat for a double done 12-weeks later in the same competitive "cycle" as his best work. I disagree: the 1,000-pound double was done wearing a squat suit and knee wraps. Being a power purist, the no-gear/weightlifting belt only 800 for 5 is a purer expression of squat power. Plus Kirk weighed 263 when he did the 800x5 and he weighed a full 275 when he dunked the 1000-pound double. My contention is had he continued the rest of this magical cycle wearing only a powerlifting belt; he would have squatted (below parallel) 925 weighing 275.

As you watch the it through my coaches eye...

  • The entire set, from the time he broke the 800-pound barbell from the squat rack uprights until he finished the 5th and final rep lasts for 38 seconds.
  • His walkout, from the time he broke the Olympic barbell from the power rack, walked backwards, stopped, took his four small adjustment steps, settled in and broke his knees, commencing the first squat rep takes 9 seconds.
  • His first rep with 800 takes 3 seconds to complete
  • As was his habit, before each squat rep he takes two short breaths and inhaled a third big breath "as if trying to suck all the air out of the room."
  • He takes 3 seconds to breath between each rep – there is no lengthening or variance as the set progresses.
  • Every single rep with 800 takes 3 seconds to complete.
  • There is no extra time needed, no extra breaths required as the set proceeds

On every single squat rep he takes three breaths between reps taking three seconds; on every single rep he powers erect in three seconds. On every single repetition he dips down to an identical depth point 3-inches below parallel, as is required lifting in the IPF. Kirk squatted one time per week working up to one all out top set. No five sets of five, no light squat days, no assistance legwork – no nothing. "Make the goddamned predetermined poundage each week, every week for sixteen straight weeks and all is right with the world!"

Special thanks to "Captain" Kirk Karwoski for sending us his DVD "Cadet to Captain"

About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.