Updated: May 4, 2020
My personal opinion is that having a strong squat is arguably the most vital foundation for anyone looking to excel in weightlifting of any kind. Not only this but in terms of bodybuilding i think most would agree that squats are probably the most effective movement you will find for building leg muscles. Saying this however a lot of people struggle with squatting, whether that be due to technique or just lack of knowledge on squats.
I have also had a slight obsession with squats as i firmly believe it is the key to stronger lifts in nearly all other movements. When trying to improve my own strength in the squat I would predict that i have tried 10+ different lifting programs and workouts. In this article i will write about 3 that i have found to be most successful and i have used all 3 myself as well as using them on my clients.
The Squats And Milk Program
This is the first program that i would like to introduce, however it is actually the most recent that I have discovered myself. The brilliance of this program is that i have trained my legs for around 10 years and tried multiple programs but this one still allowed me to break a plateau.
To start off, this is a 6 week program and will have you performing 1 set of 20 back squats each workout. The actual program has you squatting 3 times a week, performing 1 set of 20 repetitions on each workout. If this sounds too much however you can change it so that you only squat twice a week or even once if you would prefer to do so. To find your starting weight, firstly you will have to find out the weight of your 5 rep max. Once you have have that weight then take off 5lbs for every workout you plan on doing in a 6 week period. For example if you plan to perform 3 workouts a week, which would be 18 workouts over the 6 weeks, you would take 90lbs off your 5 rep max to find your starting weight.
Now that you have your starting weight you then add 5 pounds to the bar every workout you perform. For example if your starting weight is 100lbs then the next workout you will perform 20 back squats at 105lbs and the workout after will be at 110lbs. Doing this it will essentially mean that on the 6th week you will be performing your 5 rep max for a total of 20 reps! That is why i would always suggest this workout for only serious lifters and who already have good technique and stable back squat.
Brilliant for experienced lifters to break plateau.Easy to work around a normal routine as only 1 set performed each workout.Can be cycled over but would be difficult as you are attempting to break your 5 rep max every 6 weeks.Not suitable for amateur lifters.
The 5-3-1 Program
Now this program is a very well-known program around the industry and it was one that i discovered a while back. With this program i have found non-stop results from amateur lifters all the way up to competitive power lifters. I have been on and off cycles of this workout for years and still like to cycle through the program to this day.
How this works is as follows: In week 1, you will perform 3 sets of 5 repetitions at 75% of your 1 rep max squat, then 80%, then 85%. The following week, you perform 3 sets of 3 reps at 80%, 85% and 90%. Week 3 will be 3 sets of 5 reps at 75%, 85% and 95%. Finally, the last week will be a deload week, you will perform 3 sets of 5 reps at 60%, 65% and 70% of your 1 rep max. When you are done with this four week cycle, you can start again by adding 10lbs to your 1 rep max squat and recalculating your working numbers. Eventually when you come to a point and you can't complete all the repetitions, then you are advised to re-calculate your numbers at 95% or you 1 rep max and continue on.
Once again this is a workout that can be easily cycled over and over. It is also ideal for people completing other rigorous workout routines as it only asks for 3 sets of squats a week.
Suitable for all level lifters.Easy program to cycle over.Can fit it in and around other workout routines easily.Sometimes you may hit a plateau after a couple cycles of this workout.
The EMOM Program
Finally we have a program that i discovered fairly recent, in a CrossFit box i trained at in New Zealand. This is due to the fact that over the last 3 years i have transitioned to become a CrossFit trainer and this is a well known program involved in CrossFit. An EMOM is simply short for every minute on the minute, so every minute on the minute you will perform a movement. For example a 10 minute EMOM of 10 push ups would involve performing 10 push ups when the clock hits 1:00 then 2:00 then 3:00 ect until you have completed 10 minutes of the workout.
On this squat EMOM it's going to be very similar to my bench press EMOM program that i have written about in another article. Instead of setting your timer for every minute on the minute, it will be and EMOM 2, which essentially means you will perform a movement every 2 minutes instead of every 1. Now to start you will need a timer set up to buzz every 2 minutes for 20 minutes, so in other words it would be for 10 sets. The first 5 sets you will perform 3-5 reps a around 80% of your 1 rep max. The following 5 sets you will perform 3-5 reps of a 5 second pause squat at around 60% of your 1 rep max. The 5 second pause should be performed whilst sat in the bottom of the squat. Once you can perform all sets of 5 reps then increase the weight on the bar by 10 lbs and continue to cycle through the program until you feel necessary to stop.
Suitable for any level of weight lifter.Can continue for as long as needed or until you stop seeing benefits.May effect your other workouts due to being very demanding.
Things Not To Forget
First things first you need to use the correct technique when performing any of these programs. The best advice i can give for your technique on squats is to break at the the hips first, keep your head up, keep your knees soft and keep your heel pinned to the floor. It's also very important to make sure that you break parallel when going down in the squat and stand all the way up to make sure it's a full motion repetition.
Another point to mention is that all these workouts can also be used for the front squat as well as the back squat. You may even perform some of these programs on both the back squat and front squat, as long as you give yourself adequate time for rest.
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