My Best Squat Program
I’ve received this question dozens if not 100’s of times since Instagram recently debuted their “questions” feature.
“What is the best way to get my squat up?”
I’m of the mind that power is the number one physical characteristic that an athlete and a weightlifter must chase, but strength isn’t too far behind. However, developing a bigger engine to create power can be a game changer, strength is that engine.
For a weightlifter a bigger squat means that they are able to pull faster off the floor and stand up easier out of a clean or snatch, and still have the legs for a jerk
For an athlete a bigger squat means better force production in jumping, sprinting etc. For most athletes and weightlifters the transferability of squatting more weight can last all the way until truly elite status.
So there is importance in squatting more weight and this simple program is the single best program I’ve ever used at improving my squat.
Unfortunately the desire for a bigger squat leads people to do stupid things. Things like squatting everyday, things like Russian squat cycles, things like low bar squats 🙁 The problem with these things are that they all come at the expense of the remainder of your training.
Weightlifters must not only be strong.
Weightlifters must possess speed, power and most importantly technique, and the development of all those things cannot be done under a constant state of fatigue.
Two years ago I decided to come up with this program because I was short on time and needed to get my legs ready for the Master’s National Championships. From the time I started it until 12 weeks later, my front squat went from 150kg x3 to 175kg x3 and 185kg x 1, my back squat from 170kg x 5 to 200kg x 5. The second time I ran it in preparations for the American Open in 2017 my front squat went from 165×3 to 180 x3 and my back squat from 200kg x 1 to 215kg x 1. (In each case you can see that I took real, and accurate maxes at the time of beginning the program, so make sure you are getting these numbers figured out accurately.)
The premise is simple. Do front and back squats on the same day 2x per week, that’s it.
We know that doing something, in this case squatting, only 1x per week will simply maintain it. Training a movement 2x per week will allow it to improve, but by doing them both on the same day you can truly make huge improvements.
Day 1: Back Squat 5×5, Front Squat 3RM
Day 2: Front Squat 6×3, Back Squat 3RM
The volume squats (5×5 and 6×3) have no true percentage, but were done each week above a “threshold” and always done to achieve more total volume.
Here’s an example of my progression in the front squat volume training over several weeks beginning this program. Keep in mind that beginning the program I had hit a “grindy” 150/3 front squat, so the 140 number is about 90% of my best 3RM.
Week 1: 140/3 x 6 ( Total volume: 2520kg)
Week 2: 140/3 x 2 145/3 x 2, 140/3 x2 (Total volume: 2550kg)
Week 3: 145/3, 150/3 x2 140/3 x 3 (Total volume 2640kg)
And so on, Each week either doing a higher peak set or pushing the threshold number up slightly.
By week 6 you will likely take a down week and get less volume. My week 6 was 155/3 x 2 sets
On the intensity squats, the RM after the 5×5 or 6×3, don’t spend much time on them and don’t chase weights. Have a number in mind, build to it as quickly as you can warm-up the change in movement, hit it and get out. Since your legs are already warm, you will not need to do a full complement of repetitions before hitting the top set.
For weeks 10, 11, and 12 the program changes slightly as we build to a squat max out or a peak in weightlifting.
Day 1: Back Squat 5RM
Day 2: Front Squat 3RM
There are multiple variations on this program (pauses, tempo squats, and multiple rep maxes), but this is the basic premise. Volume squats, followed by a rep max. It’s simple and effective.