Friday, October 8, 2010

Raw Powerlifting - Squatting

Squatting -

Ok so I'm totally not going into the mechanics of the squat or addressing your squat problems with this.  I wrote a multi-parter for that.  I'm going to assume you feel comfortable with your squat technique and just want to know how to setup a squat cycle to get ready for a meet.

Realistic Goals - 

This is going to be the dead horse that I constantly beat.  You have to set a realistic goal to hit at the meet, and you have to know what kind of time frame you will need to plan for to hit that goal.  If your goal is 50 pounds on your current squat and you are currently near peak strength, then set aside a realistic time frame to do that in.  That could be more than a year.  Who knows?  You know your body, how long you have been training, and how well you respond to certain stimulus.  

So I am going to use a fairly novice guy with a 300 squat for example and set him up a cycle for hitting 320 raw.

The first thing I'm going to do is use the 93% training rule.  Base the training max on 93% of what the real max or what you want to hit at the meet.  This keeps the cycle conservative so that you don't burn out too early, but move enough weight to get stronger, especially towards the end of the cycle where you want to be peaking in strength.

320 * 93% = 300 rounded down

300 = 100% of the training max

300 is also the weight we need to triple in order to be prepared for that 320 single.  The lifters current max. 

Week 1 - 80% x 1, 70%x2x5, Pause Squats - 60% 2x5
Week 2 - 85% x 1, 75%x2x5, Pause Squats - 65% 2x5
Week 3 - 90% x 1, 80%x2x5, Pause Squats - 70% 2x5
Week 4 - 93% x 1, 85%x2x3, Pause Squats - 75% 2x5
Week 5 - 95% x 1, 85%x2x5, Pause Squats - 75% 2x5
Week 6 - 98% x 1, 90%x2x3, Pause Squats - 80% 2x3
Week 7 - 100% x 3 
Week 8 - Deload - 70% x 5
Week 9 - Meet, 100% x 1, 110% x 1 - third attempt go nuts

This puts our meet lifter hitting 300 on his first attempt and roughly 320 on his second.  

This is one way you can set up a peaking cycle.  If you wanted to run it out longer, you could find more splits in the percentages like adding a week of 83% and 88%.  That would make it a 11 week cycle total.  You could also reduce some weeks and run 6, if you had already come off a meet or were already close to peak strength.  Just start at the meet and work your way back 6 weeks.  Some guys take a week off after a meet, and some guys go right back at it.  All up to you.

Notes - 

Don't peak too early.  This is where you hit PR's in the gym several weeks out before the meet.  No way you will hold it for that long.  In my opinion there is about a week gap on each side of the meet that you have where you are going to have a good shot at your goal.  So move easy weights the first few weeks, and don't miss anything in training.  If you are looking at weights you've never hit before by the time week 5 rolls around, you planned too high on your cycle.  

Assistance work - 

To me, pause squats beat everything else hands down for squat assistance work.  If you want to throw in some leg press or lunges after that, just be mindful of how it effects your squatting.  In other words, if your leg press is going up but your squat isn't moving, then you are leg pressing for nothing.  Remember the key is to find movements that will help the main lift.  That's what REAL weak point training is.  And at various times, various lifts are going to help the main lift.  So stick with 1 main movement after the big lift that you intend to really get after.  If after three weeks you haven't seen anything good happen, switch it out for something else.  If you don't want to do any assistance work, that's cool.  The squat is the one lift that most people agree moves itself just fine.

The pause squats should be explosive and fast for a few weeks.  Make sure you concentrate on staying tight in the hole and exploding out.  These should not be grinders.  They should get difficult in the last few weeks.  


  1. Paul, I've often heard you talk about pause squats as good assistance for raw squatters. I've also heard you talk about the importance of quads for the raw squatter. It seems to me that the quad-importance points to the front squat as effective assistance. The front squat is probably the best quad exercise, it's good for the "core", and is still a squat. So what are the thoughts on the front squat for powerlifters?

  2. I have a love/hate relationship with front squats. I think they are a really good movement but they feel very uncomfortable to me. Like in a bad way. MY hip flexors tend to get very irritated at front squats and I have shitty wrist flexibility.

    That said, I think fronts are a very solid assistance movement. My buddy Edward Koo loves fronts for his rep sets after squats. So if you feel like you get a lot of carryover with them do em.

  3. Really appreciate and enjoy your articles.

    my experience with front squats is that they feel a lot different with your heels elevated, like in an olympic shoe or with plates under your heels.


  4. Paul, I'm getting so much out of these articles - could you point me to a good description of how you like to do pause squats, or even a youtube clip ?
    My squats have gone to hell recently, so slow about mid-way. Deads and bench are doing well - help me with my squats.

  5. A quick question. Why you write down something like this:

    80% x 1, 70%x2x5, Pause Squats - 60% 2x5

    is dat 2 sets of 5 reps? or 5 sets of 2 reps?

    Thank you.

  6. Phil M -

    Anonymous - 2 sets of 5 reps.

  7. Another question Paul - you've mentioned going beltless in previous articles - is this something you continue to do and will you be beltless come competition time ?

  8. Phil - No belt for me ever. Not in training or competition.

  9. Paul,

    1. Is this a routine that you could use with Bench and Deadlift? Instead of pause squats use something like Incline for Bench and SLDL for Deads for 2x5?

    2. How much/what conditioning would you reccomend when using this routine and working out three days a week?

  10. Dave -

    1. I will have the bench article out soon.

    2. If prepping for a meet 1-2 days a week. 1 hard day and 1 steady state day.

  11. is this the same squat cycle you use?