Thursday, February 10, 2011

5 Squatting Programs That Work

So after the deadlift article someone asked about squats.

Well I thought later that although all I have ever done to increase the squat is the squat itself, I've used some pretty different methods to boost it.

Here are some I had good success with.

1.  10 sets of 10 method
This is NOT GVT.  This is one I used for about 6 months and it worked really well to help my groove.  It's brutal volume but it works great for size, and after you transition off of it to some singles work you should see a big bump in strength.
Basically you do 10 sets of 10 until you are at a place where you want to stop or that feels maximal.  However the jumps have to be smallish.  If you're not at 10 sets, do back down sets until you are at 10.  Here is how mine would usually go.

Plan on being sore as shit for the next 5 days or so.  Then get ready to do it again a few days later.

2.  The Elevator Method
This is with a fixed weight.  I recommend being conservative at first.  You're going to work up to a set of 10, then back down.  Staring at 1 rep.  I would usually pick 365,385, or 405.
1 rep
2 reps
3 reps
4 reps
5 reps
6 reps
7 reps
8 reps
9 reps
10 reps
9 reps
8 reps
.....all the way back down to 1.  Again, do not go heavy here.  The point is to hammer volume on these.  Expect more major soreness.

3.  3x1-5-10-15
This one has been my bread and butter for a while.  Three progressively heavier singles followed by a back off set.  You then have weight goals you want to hit for 5 reps, 10 reps, and 15 reps.  So it might look like so...
warm up sets,
3 progressively heavier singles
back off set shooting for 5 (let's pretend 500)

same as previous week but shooting for 10 on back off set with a lighter weight (say 475)

week 3
same as previous week but shooting for 15 (say 425)

I would pick weights that I wanted to hit and never waiver from them until I hit them.  Just bump the singles slightly so that the back offs become a smaller % of my 1 rep max, thus hopefully I am getting stronger and able to hit the rep goals more easily.

4.  5/4/3/2/1 - 1x8
Similar to the last one, but slightly different (duh).  After your warm ups, just go 5/4/3/2/1 progressively heavier, then the back off of 1x8.  I usually would use whatever I did for the set of 3 or 4 for the back off.  Just something to keep in mind.  This one is nice because it makes you think about every jump.

5.  20 rep squats
This is NOT breathing squats.  This is just good ol high rep squatting.  This shit works.  Period.  It will make your legs bigger and stronger, but I really only advise this for guys who have a decent level of squatting already.  Kind of a baseline I have in mind is that you should be able to hit 250x20 before you get serious about high reps carrying over.  I just don't see 150x20 being worth a shit to worry about.  You'd be better off using any of the programs above to get to a good foundation of squatting strength.

These are actual programs I have ran with success.  Not shit I made up and wrote on the net.  If you want to be fair to one, use it for 10-12 weeks and go hard after it.


  1. Nice article. I've recently started 20-rep squats. What kind of weight progression and training frequency would you recommend for them?

  2. Run em for 4-6 weeks and just have a goal in mind. So you shouldn't be grinding yourself in to the dirt until the final two weeks or so.

    Remember, get a flying start.

  3. Would love to see some bench programs that work as well...

  4. Everything works, nothing works forever.

  5. Whats your opinion on Smolov, either Jr/Base/Full.

  6. I did Smolov. It was the only thing in my entire life that made my knees hurt. Too much volume for me.

  7. or let me say, I programmed too high and in combination with the volume and frequency it was too much for me.

  8. Paul, in regards to The Elevator Method, you wrote:

    "This is with a fixed weight", and later "do not go heavy here [...] hammer volume on these."

    It's my understanding that a "fixed weight" means you use the same weight for the entire Elevator sequence. But if there's a point to which you "do not go heavy", I'm interpreting that as having a variable weight throughout the sequence.

    Have I misunderstood?

    Secondly, I didn't see any references to the amount of rest to take between sets. Is that left up to the trainee?

  9. Yes use the same weight throughout. What I mean by don't go heavy here is, pick a static weight that doesn't seem too tough otherwise you're gonna have a tough time making it up and down.

    Rest is up to the individual.

  10. Got it.

    Seems like a very powerful method to shake things up when you're getting stale. I'll try it out on pull-ups and clean and jerks as well. Got the feeling it'll be really intense, especially if I limit the rest periods to 30-45 seconds.

    Thanks for the idea.

  11. thanks for posting these routines, this is the true-to-life type stuff that makes your blog so informative.

  12. Thanks for posting this article Paul, really useful and practical info here.


  13. Great article. I'm gonna run the 5,4,3,2,1 and 1x8 for squats and deads. Is this a good idea or no? I only run it on heavy days though and go heavy on one per week like the light squat/heavy deads and heavy squat/light deads. Just tried it today on my heavy deadlift day and liked it a lot. Went real conservative though

  14. Paul,
    I am a raw lifter and just started back training. I am gonna run the 10x10 olympic squats to put some size on my quads. My question is what sets and reps would you recommend for deads for someone like me while doing this high of volume on squats (I squat mon and pull either Thurs or Fri) because I know my legs will be wrecked for a while like you said. Anyways any help would be appreciated and I love the site man, keep it up.

  15. I wouldn't do deads during this time. You're essentially specializing. If you want to throw in a heavy set of 5 of romanians after the 10x10 (if you feel like it) then that's fine. Otherwise just squat.

  16. I'm currently on Wendler's 5/3/1 but I'm feeling like I should be squatting more. I deadlifting quite a weight right now and thinking that my lower back could do with a breather. Would you recommend any your programmes here for a 4 day squat week or should I be looking at something different?

    1. You want to squat 4 days a week, or want to train 4 days a week but squat more often?

  17. Hi Paul I am an Olympic Weightlifter i have been lifting 2 years now i really want to play internationally i know my records aren't that good yet but i will work hard, in order to be strong i need your help my weakness is my legs they always make me down i did a lot of programs and i worked hard on it but they are for powerlifters i don't know how olympic lifter squat but i have faith that the 10x10 program will do can you suggest this for me or if you know other lift pls tell me my current record is :
    Snatch : 105 kg
    Clean and Jerk : 120kg
    Max Back Squat : 145kg
    Max Front Squat: 120kg
    Max Bench Press: 105kg
    Max Deadlift: 200kg
    its like a barrier i want to break it i need your help to break it i know this post is old but if you read this pls reply something thanks

    1. 10x10 one day a week then 10x10 with front squats the other day.

      Run it for 6 weeks.

  18. Looking for the best one of these to build strength.

  19. I am gonna do the 54321. Should I perform these 2 times a week or once? If I perform these once, what should I do the other day? What other exercises are good to do along with the program?