TYLER HOBSON DISCUSSES SOME OF HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT BUILDING THE PENDULUM SQUAT PRO, WITH DR. KEN LEISTNER.
Tyler grew up outside Anchorage, Alaska where his father was in the oil business. He graduated from high school and went to work in the oil industry himself. He was transferred to Houston, laid off and enrolled at Sam Houston State. His experiences, education, and his participation in competitive powerlifting led him to become the inventor of Pendulum Strength. He now lives in Conroe Texas and continues to design the world's finest exercise machines.
Not only is Dr. Ken Leistner a prolific writer,"Physical Development","Ironman Magazine", "H.I.T. Newsletter", "HardTraining", "Powerlifting~USA" and his own, "The Steel Tip Newsletter", he also trains some of America's greatest lifters and athletes, all this while running his practice in East Rockaway, New York.
The Pendulum Power Squat, like any other tool, began out of the necessity to increase the effectiveness of work by maximizing the efficiency of effort. The squat is reputed to be the greatest exercise for developing strength and power. However, there are many who struggle with this movement for a variety of physiological reasons. In a free weight squat the idea seems simple enough: put the bar across the shoulders behind the neck, squat down until the hinge point of the hips is below the pivoting knee, then stand back up. Oh yeah, don’t round the back, keep your chest up, weight centered over hips, if your ankles lack flexibility, it can place too much stress on knees, keep abs flexed and tight or else.....
In more articles than I can recall, I’ve hailed the barbell squat or, as we term it in our facility in homage to the real oldtimers who mentored me, the barbell deep knee bend, as perhaps the most effective progressive resistance exercise one can do. It meets most of the requirements for effective exercise when done properly, works a lot of muscle tissue, is demanding upon the cardiorespiratory system if done hard and with significant weight, produces movement around more than one joint, and stimulates the metabolic system in a manner that stimulates overall body growth. The results have been there through the years, through the decades in fact, and are undeniable. The proviso, unfortunately, is that the exercise be done hard, heavily, and with “good” form if one is going to both benefit from it and survive it. Many cannot for numerous reasons that include poor leverages, previous injury, a lack of coordination or body control, and/or an absence of sufficient flexibility. In each case, if one cannot squat “well”, it is no longer an effective exercise and an alternative modality may be necessary to allow for productive and successful training.
Photo Courtesy of Kathy Leistner
I was a former powerlifter with an injured back, not the greatest squatter, but a pretty decent welder. I also had a truckload of steel tubing. If I was going to continue competing, I needed an exercise device that mimicked the free weight squatting movement. It had to be effective in strength gains so it would carry over to a powerlifting meet. I knew if I wanted to continue lifting I would have to build a device that allowed me to train hard yet not disrupt the structures of my skeletal system. I also thought if I built the machine correctly I could perfect my squat technique and strengthen the weak points in my lift. It would be my secret powerlifting weapon. I noticed an amazing diversity in the way athletes squat.
Many powerlifters, like my friend the “Great” Anthony Clark, load the back beyond what any normal human could. Anthony would fold slightly forward as he dropped into the hole. There were no machines that could mimic this path of movement so I got out my welding tools and went to work.
I created a padded shoulder yoke that would float back and forth with the torso movement of the athlete. This made the machine feel like a free weight movement by not forcing the athlete to follow a pre-determined mechanical pathway. Not only did it feel great ergonomically, but you had to stabilize the torso, activating what people are calling the “Core”. It felt like I was firing off thousands of hibernating muscle fibers. The machine literally left you “breathless,” a very unique barbell sensation only it felt more stressful to my system. I was once again squatting; and it was on a machine.
Photo Courtesy of Kathy Leistner
I began to look closely at the squat to solve other problems. Some lifters, myself included, really struggled when coming out of the hole. To counter this specific problem, I created a top loading position that had a strength curve that increased in resistance as you went down. This really loaded the hips and glutes hard. The strength curve dropped off towards the top keeping the quads fresh to help further assist the weak link in the chain. For those that lacked the power to finish strongly I created a bottom loading position that increased in resistance as you rose from the hole. This emphasized the quads more, allowing you to really load them up without putting so much weight on the back in the bottom. After hundreds of hours, I blended those two strength curves so that if you loaded the top and the bottom evenly, as one strength curve came on the other fell off, giving you a very even strength curve. It was a free weight squat. There was no doubt I had a machine that would take you to the edge and beyond. With the ability to manipulate your body into a more orthopedically sound position, you can put more tension on the thighs without having to balance and place the low back into a precarious position. Now, you truly can “MAX” Squat.
Let’s talk psychology, too. Most powerlifters relish competition, seek to push themselves to the limit, and, relative to many athletes, are on the high end of the aggressiveness scale. This also often--not always and not with every lifter, but often--makes for an athlete with an attitude, and that attitude is at times translated into, “If you ain’t squattin’ boy, you just ain’t lifting.” Uh, yeah, but let’s return to an earlier paragraph and first agree that among the exercises one can choose, the squat truly can be the greatest thing since sliced bread (first seen in the United States in 1928 if anyone is truly interested). However, as the earlier paragraph noted, it’s great only if one can make it a productive exercise.
If one needs a machine to allow for productive squatting and at this point in time, Pendulum is THE machine to go with, then that’s the antidote for non-productive squatting, no matter what “real lifters” believe. From personal experience and quite a bit of accompanying discomfort, and as an advocate for squatting if one possibly can, a change in the squatting culture may come slowly but its worth having it come if you utilize this machine to its full advantage.
Photo Courtesy of Kathy Leistner
With the help of some of my friends that were some of the nations top strength trainers, I began to adjust the machine to fit the monsters of football. We have added range limiters for safety, non-skid foot base, adjustable height, on board storage, and finally an adjustable shoulder yoke. Now one machine will fit athletes from 4’9” to over 7’ tall. Just to be on the safe side we have a loading capacity of 1600 lbs. to keep athletes growing for years to come.