Can Lolo Jones Really Squat 462 Pounds?
Back in September, I had a chance to ask Team USA bobsledder Lolo Jones a few questions. Turns out, the question I most wanted to ask led to the answer that most surprised me.
“How much can you squat?” I asked.
Lolo’s reply: 210 kilograms.
Whoah! So I had to ask a followup: “Did you mean pounds?” No, she said, she meant kilograms.
I’ll do the conversion for you: That’s 462 pounds. I mean: That’s 462 pounds!
I followed by asking the former Olympic sprinter, current Olympic bobsledder, and cover girl how much she weighs. (That’s the first time I’ve ever asked a woman that.) She said 158 pounds—although she was trying to get to 160. That made the weight on the bar nearly 3 times her bodyweight.
The reason I was so stumped by Lolo’s answer: I had asked alpine skier Ted Ligety the exact same question just 24 hours before. He told me that his single repetition of 480 pounds is the most of anyone on the US Men’s Ski Team. He’s also 30 pounds heavier than Lolo.
What’s more, the heaviest female squat ever recorded in Lolo’s weight class is a single 470-pound rep, according to musclemorphosis.com.
Just to make sure I hadn’t misheard Lolo, I followed up with her representative. She confirmed that Lolo squats five repetitions in the mid-400s. That’s serious weight. Then again, she’s a serious athlete, right?
I wanted someone to explain how Lolo is able to perform such a feat, so I called Brad Schoenfeld. Brad has a Ph.D. in applied exercise science, is the assistant editor-in-chief of the Strength and Conditioning Journal, and has published over 40 peer-reviewed studies on fitness. In short, there are few people more qualified to answer questions about human potential.
“I’d have to see her squat,” he says, pointing out that what people consider a squat is different. “A regulation powerlifting squat is where the hip crease dips below the knee line. I’d say that would be almost impossible for her to be doing those with that much weight,” he says. “But could she be doing squats that aren’t as deep, such as quarter squats or squats to 90-degees? I could potentially see that happening.”
He explains that bobsledders train for a specific purpose—to push a 400-pound sled a few meters down a track of ice. “She’s basically looking for sprint transfer,” says Schoenfeld. “A bobsledder might conceivably benefit from shallower squats because the athletes never go below about a half-squat depth when pushing the sled. Then again, new research shows that deeper squats actually make you more powerful in all squatting positions.”
It could be that Lolo’s coaches believe she would be more prepared to do that by having her squat heavier loads with less range of motion. And remember, most athletes don’t carry around a handbook that designates what constitutes a full squat, half squat, and quarter squat—they’d likely refer to a squat of any kind as a squat.
If she is performing five regulation squats with a barbell that weighs 462 pounds on her back, well, then, she’s placed herself in another dimension of human potential. And in the record books.
Maybe another gold medal—in a sport other than sprinting—is indeed in her future.