Building Up To Your Best Ever Squat – Head Coach Milo

Training Frequency

While low-frequency (1x per week) programming can work, it’s probably not the best approach for everyone. Because muscle growth takes at most several (up to 5) days to go through its full course, and because technique practice is important to strength gains, very infrequent lower body work can leave something to be desired. Beginner lifters can benefit a lot from doing lower body work 3x per week, but the research has shown that bigger, stronger people can better tolerate 2x per week work. How many working sets you do per session depends on a host of factors, mostly your personal ability to recover/adapt, but 6-8 working sets of squats or other quad work and 2-4 working sets for the posterior chain during each 2x weekly workout is probably a good start for most.

How Many Reps?

In modern periodization, there are 3 distinct goals for squatting:

Enlarging squatting musculature
– Best done with sets of 6-10 reps (getting hench!)

Making the muscle you already have stronger
– Best done with sets of 3-5 reps (building Strength!)

Teaching your body to exert itself under heavy (maximal) loads
– Best done with sets of 1-3 reps (CNS Building)

Seems pretty straightforward, but people get this stuff mixed up all the time. You’ll see people constantly trying to get bigger so lifting as much as they can for 1 rep thinking it will make them big as they lifted loads of weight. Or people looking to get Strong so doing sets of 10-20 reps! Take a look at your plan, choose your long and medium-term goals, and then train with the rep ranges you need to get there!

What About Assistance work?

Squatting strength comes from two groups of muscles:

– The pushing muscles of the legs (quads, glutes, adductors)

– The posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, erectors)

In the quest for a big squat, it’s important to fill in all the gaps and make sure ALL of your squatting musculatures is being trained to its adaptive potential. Now, the absolute best way to train the muscles of the squat is to squat! Squatting should be done as much as can be recovered from. But, since squatting hard all the time can be very taxing, other accessory type lifts come in very handy. For developing hypertrophy in the quads, front squats and or deep leg presses can be very useful. For developing both hypertrophy and strength in the quads, high bar squats, front squats, and pause squats can be used with very good effect.

For the posterior chain, one of the best assistance moves to the squat is actually the deadlift! If you can pull a lot and not round over, your posterior chain should be able to handle almost anything the squat throws its way. In addition to deadlifting, variations of stiff-legged deadlifts and good-mornings are quite helpful. If you can good-morning a ton of weight with incredible control, you simply won’t get caved over by a big squat.

Dedicated Focus at a Time

The body has limited adaptive ability. Other than for beginners (who don’t need to read this part and will get stronger doing anything anyway, win-win!), trying to improve ALL systems and abilities at once tends to offer very diminishing returns and is a bit unrealistic. That is, the best way to train for the squat seems to be to focus on one or two problem areas at a time. For example, by making your posterior chain AND your leg pushing muscles stronger, your squat will go up. So will re-tooling your technique, as will practising more low-bar work, and paused work, and getting tighter under the bar, and working on your front squats, all the way down the line. The right approach is NOT to try to do all of those things at once! The result will be a mishmash of confusion that may or may not actually improve your squat. Neither is the right approach to alter your focus once every week or several weeks. You watch some games documentary and think “man, I need to front squat more,” so you change your program to front-squat focus and abandon the previous technique work you started just a week earlier. But each method to improve your squat needs time to work, and meaningful, retainable gains usually take between one and two months of dedicated training.

The better approach is to pick two areas of focus and work on those for one or two months. Catch the improvement, and then switch your focus to another set of factors. For example, you can work on your Back Squat Strength (much like we are now in our new strength cycle!) and with set accessory work/technique work specifically for the Back Squat and then transition to maintenance work for your back squat as you work hard on your posterior chain (deadlift) and your low-bar setup over the next two months. This way, you keep your gains attained from one angle, and expand them further from other approaches, leading to long-term, steady improvements. Which brings us to the final point:

Dedication!

At the risk of sounding cliché, one of the most important variables for improving your squat is just plain old time. And I don’t mean 2 hours in the gym, I mean years. Once the basic technique of squatting is attained, there is no magic trick to putting a bunch of weight on the exercise quickly. Yeah, you can alter your bench setup and eek some weight off of that, and you can definitely work with a good coach on snatch technique and hit some massive improvements, but with the squat, it’s not quite the same. After you’ve got the technique down, there are no tricks… you just have to make your quads, glutes, hams, adductors, and back bigger, stronger, and more capable of exerting under heavy loads… that takes months and years, and means squat PBs can be expected steadily, but slowly, over time. This is important to note because you’ll hear lifters complaining about how their squats have only gone up by small increments from year to year… and my first thought is… so what?! So long as it’s a steady and continual gain, that’s a great place! I’m not sure about you guys, but I prefer slow, almost predictable gains over sporadic, magical random PB moments!

Let us know how you get on with these tips and if you want to reach out to talk about them some more or how you can implement them with us then drop us a Message anywhere you prefer. Carrier pigeon not advised.

By Head Coach Milo (Milo@crossfitthames.com)

Gym inquiries – Info@crossfitthames.com


Monday

Teams of 2
120 Cal AD/Ski
120 Abmat Sit Ups
100 Cal AD/Ski
100 HSPU
80 Cal AD/Ski
80 T2B
60 Cal AD/Ski
60 Burpee Box Jump Over 30/24″
40 Cal AD/Ski
40 Bar Muscle Ups

Tuesday

Classic CrossFit

A) Back Squat
Build to a 3 RM for the day
Then, drop to 80% for max reps

Superset: Build to a heavy 10 Z-Press Between sets of Squats

B) 12-9-6
Overhead Squat 70/50kg
Strict Pull Up

MetCon

Teams of 2
100-80-60-40-20
Cal. Assault Bike
GHD’s/V-Ups

Wednesday

Classic CrossFit

A) Hang Power Clean , 12 Mins
Build to a heavy double for the day

B) For Time!
1000m row
100 Wallball 9/6kg
1000m row

*Row is ideally kept at or under 1:50/2:00
*Go for it on wall balls! This is the last metcon of the week so let’s empty the tank! Even if it affects the row after. You can always just stay moving on the rower at a slower pace if nothing else.
*If wall balls are a struggle, they should be kept in sets of at least 20-25

Target Time: 12:00
Time Cap: 15:00

Thursday

Classic CrossFit

2 rounds
25/20 Cal Assault Bike
20 Pull Ups

– Rest 3:00 –

2 rounds
20/15 Cal Assault Bike
15 Chest to Bar

– Rest 3:00 –

2 Rounds
15/10 Cal Assault Bike
10 Bar Muscle Up (Burpee Pull Up)

7 min Time Cap (each)

MetCon

@0:00
3 rds

15/12 Cals of Choice
15 DB Thrusters 16/12kg

@10:00
3rds

15/12 Cals of Choice
15 DB Shoulder to overhead 22/16kg

@20:00
3rds

15/12 Cals of Choice
15 Front Squats 22/16kg

8 min Time Cap each set

Friday

Classic CrossFit

A) Superset of :
Back Squat
(Based on 3 Rep From Monday!) – 3 @ 80% , 3 @ 82.5% ,3 @ 85% , 3 @ 87.5% ,3 @ 90%
Bent over row – 4-5 sets 8 reps @80% of body weight

B) 12 Min Amrap:
10 DB Push Press 22/16kg
20 Wall Balls 9/6kg
30 Cals of choice (HARD PACE)

Saturday

Deads and Bench
Deads ,Build to a heavy 3 across 3 sets
Bench ,Build to a heavy 3 Across 3 sets

Superset with Bar Muscle Up Work
3 Sets of Max Reps!
Or max rep Pull Ups
Into max rep ring row

If no Pull Ups then, 60% BW Row into max rep ring row

Teams of 2 to try and finish!
2000m Ski/Row (Only if no Ski) (Female 1500m)
20 Rope Climb (Female 14)
2000m Ski/Row (Only if no Ski) (Female 1500m)

Time Cap 22 Mins