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18 May 2017

Building your best squat


What you need to know:

  • This program is for those who have already built a solid foundation
  • Mastering a lift requires practice; squat more to squat more!
  • Weed out the weakness and smash new personal records

 

This program has been used with many lifters, tried and tested among powerlifters, athletes and gym regulars with consistent results. 

 

Check out 3 ways to instantly improve your squat

 

Principles 

Identify weakness and kill it

A great training program will be based around what you need to do to improve rather than just what you’re good at!  We all have things we’d prefer not to do in the gym (because you suck at them) but it’s often these exercises that can get us the quickest results.

Practice the skill

The key to increasing strength is lifting heavy enough that you have to squat properly and with intensity but keeping it sub maximal to allow great form and good recovery with less chance of injury.

Frequency

Studies have shown with the same weekly volume better strength increases have been gleaned though more frequent work rather than once or twice a week at high intensity.   This is never more true than for squats! 

Look after yourself

Spend time on mobility, keep your joints moving well.  Tightness can kill your squat and lead to injury.

 

The program

This program is for intermediate to advanced lifters, you will already have good range of movement though the hips and ankles and also have good lumbar stability. 

 

The RAW method

R - Ramping 

Use ramping sets to build up to heavy reps ensuring movement is smooth and form spot on.

For example: 

60% 5 reps

65% 4 reps

70% 3 reps

75% 2 reps

80% 1 rep

85% 1 rep

 

So the point of ramping? To maximise activation but minimising fatigue, optimising performance for the working sets.  You should feel awesome and your form should be smoother than Swiss Tony. 

You’ll still get a training effect from the ramping sets as long as you lift with the intent to go fast, this will also wake up the nervous system.

 

A - auto regulation 

Life sometimes doesn’t go to plan!  Sometimes it just plain gets in the way.  Auto regulation is about getting the most out of the sessions you do, the good ones AND and bad ones.

RPE (rated perceived exertion) is an accurate way of judging your training state and how hard you can push.  You may feel stressed and fatigued going into a session but emotions don’t always accurately reflect your readiness to train.  Instead go by how the sets feel when you have to get down and put some work in. 

Don’t use this as an excuse not to work out though!  Use a range of 5% either way depending on RPE target as set out in the program.

 

W - work load

Putting the majority of the volume done on a variation that works your weakest point of the lift. Then manipulate the work load and intensity to peak bringing up your weak point to create a new PR.

In this program this intensity and volume will increase in a linear fashion over each 3 block with a drop of volume at the beginning of each block ready to be pushed up again.  You’ll be feeling the fatigue by the end of week 3 ready for the blissful relief that is deload.

 

Choosing your weak point lift and assistance exercises

First identify your sticking point on your squat.  This is best done when testing a 1RM or 3RM, see where you fail the lift with good form.

If you don’t know you rep max on the variation then use RPE to find the about the right weight on week one.  The intensity on this lift starts low to allow weak points to be built up, it will be made progressively heavier over the program.

 

  • Mid way up - hip extension is weak:

This is the typical sticking point for squats. Work needs to be done to strength hips extensors.  Use band squats to put more load on the top half of the squat without missing out on work at depth. Alternatively if you have no bands, Anderson squats done at the sticking point will also cross over nicely.

Assistance work: good mornings or glute bridges.

 

  • Stuck in the hole - this may be as much about mobility as it is about weakness:

Either way spend more time at the bottom to strengthen the position and open the hips up.  Paused squats are your friend here.

Assistance work: front leg raised lunge or Bulgarian split squats

 

  • Hips and knees go backward on the effort - your quads are weak:

Front squats will work the quads hard and carry over to better form in your back squat.

Assistance work: leg press or loaded walking lunges

 

  • Spine folds forward - weak core:

Front squat again will bring your core up to scratch with maximum cross over to your back squat.

Assistance work: good mornings or seated good mornings 

 

Assistance work

The aim of assistance work is to target weaker muscle and bring them up in size and strength to balance the main lift.  

This will be done after your heavy singles on a Monday.  Progression can be fast so do what you can while staying a rep away from failure each set.  You’ll aim for 40-50 reps over 3-5 sets.  Progress by doing more reps per set until you can do 50 reps in 3 sets then put the weight up next time.

 

Deload

By the end of week three you’ll be feeling the fatigue, it’s time to step it down and rest up.  Enjoy your deload!  The weight will feel light but make sure you set up and nail the lifts all the same.  By the end of the session they’ll be smooth, fast and feeling great.

 

Week 1-3

Monday

Squat - Use a ramping sets to warm up

60% 5reps

65% 4reps

70% 3reps

75% 2reps

80% 1 rep

85% 1 rep

 

Working sets

90%+ 1 rep 3 sets 

RPE - 8/9

 

Assistance work

40-50 reps over 3-5 sets

 

Wednesday 

Squat

80% 3 reps 5 sets

RPE - 7/8

 

Friday

Weak point squat variation

Approximate 55% max - 6 reps 5 sets

(increase 5% each week) 

week 1: RPE - 5/6

week 2: RPE - 6/7

week 3: RPE - 7/8

 

 

Week 4 

De-load and 1rep max test

 

Monday

Squat

50% 3 reps x 6 sets

 

Wednesday

Squat

50% 3 reps x 6 sets

 

Friday

Ramp to a new 1RM

 

 

Week 5-7

Monday

Squat - Use a ramping sets to warm up based on new 1RM set week 4

 

60% 5reps

65% 4reps

70% 3reps

75% 2reps

80% 1 rep

85% 1 rep

 

Working sets

90%+ 1 rep 3 sets 

RPE - 8/9

 

Assistance work

40-50 reps over 3-5 sets

 

Wednesday 

Squat

80% 3 reps 5 sets

RPE - 7/8

(based on new 1RM set week 4)

 

Friday

Weak point squat variation

Approximate 55% max - 6 reps 5 sets

(increase 5% each week) 

Week 5: RPE - 6/7

Week 6: RPE - 7/8

Week 7: RPE - 8/9

 

 

Week 8 

De-load and 1rep max test (same as week 4)

 

 

Week 9-11

Monday

Squat - Use a ramping sets to warm up based on new 1RM set week 8

60% 5reps

65% 4reps

70% 3reps

75% 2reps

80% 1 rep

85% 1 rep

 

Working sets

90%+ 1 rep 3 sets

 

Assistance work

40-50 reps over 3-5 sets

 

Wednesday

Squat

80% 3 reps 5 sets

(based on 1RM set week 8)

 

Friday

Week point squat variation

Approximate 85% max 4reps 5 sets

(increase 5% each week)

Week 9: RPE - 7/8

Week 10: RPE - 8/9

Week 11: RPE - 9/10

 

 

Week 12 

De-load and 1rep max test

 

 

Final notes

Squats are among the most complex lifts, not only requiring a high degree of strength but great mobility and mental toughness.  A staple of every serious athlete.  If you're not squatting more than once a week I urge you to try it!

 

Coach Dom Kinsey

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