Squat Routine To Improve Your Squat Max

improve your squat max

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When you’re trying to improve your squat one rep max, you’ll want to avoid over-training and stick to the basics of adding raw power. You’ll only be training legs once a week, and that’s all you’ll need.

You’re going to need every day off to fully recover.

No bodybuilding routines, no reaching hypertrophy to get that “pump”, either. It’s all about adding raw gorilla power.

Here’s an eight week squat routine to break through a plateau and improve your squat max.

Proper Form

If you’re relatively new to squats, watch the video below to understand the basic concept of squat form and how to prevent injury. If you’re a squat veteran, and have been in the gym awhile, you can skip to the routine below.

Week 1-3: The 20 Rep Challenge

Week 1-3 is going to build power, endurance and help you reach a state of fatigue you’re probably uncomfortable with. Most people either choose a power routine or a bodybuilding routine. The 20 rep challenge combines the two, asking you to lift heavy weight for high reps.

The key is to take short pauses, and catch your breath without putting the weight back on the rack.

You’ll complete 10-12 reps no problem, but instead of racking the weight you’d pause for 5-10 seconds then complete as many reps as you can. Pause, take a breath, then a few more reps until you reach 20.

It’s not easy, and will make you uncomfortable with the burn in your legs, but that’s how you grow and add new strength.

Week 1: 75-80% of max squat total

Set 1: 12 reps, pause, 4 reps, pause, 4 reps
2: 10 reps, pause, 4 reps, pause, 3 reps, pause, 3 reps
3: Do what you have to do to get to 20. (Some have to pause after 4 reps, no joke)

Week 2: 5 pounds more than week 1

Same set routine as week 1

Week 3: 5 pounds more than week 2

Same set routine as week 1

If you’re getting to 20 reps easily, without needing to take a pause, add more weight. It isn’t supposed to be easy. Push yourself, and get the most out of every set.

If you’ve never done a 20 rep squat routine, it can take three to four days for the soreness to go away.

Related: Carb Cycling – how and why you should do it

Week 4-6: Power Routine

Week 4-6 is all about adding power with low reps. You’re going to work with the same weight and the same rep total for the entire squat routine. It sounds easy, especially if you’re used to moving the weight up and down throughout your workout.

This power routine stresses constant power, over time. Set one will be significantly easier than set five.

Set five should be a challenge to get all five reps. If it’s too easy, add more weight the following week. As always, be sure to warm up first and wear knee and back support as needed.

Week 4

Set 1: 80% max weight, 5 reps
2: 80% max weight, 5 reps
3: 80% max weight, 5 reps
4: 80% max weight, 5 reps
5: 80% max weight, 5 reps

Week 5: 5 lbs more than week 4

Same set and rep routine as week 1

Week 6: 2-5 lbs more than week 5

Same set and rep routine as week 1

Week 7: Low Volume Leg Work

Over the past few weeks you’ve added new power and endurance, but before jumping to the big payoff day, you’re going to give your knees and quads a break. Let them fully recover.

Don’t go into a max squat attempt if you have any soreness in your legs. You need every ounce of power for your next max attempt, and every muscle fiber to be at 100%.

Take it easy, and avoid the squat rack when choosing your leg exercises this week.

Week 7: Your choice, but no more than 8 sets on legs today

See Also: How the Paleo Diet works

Week 8: Squat Max

Only Warm-up to Warm-up

A common mistake when trying to max out, is reaching fatigue before your heavy set. You want your joints and muscles to be warm to help prevent injury, but you don’t want to sap any of your power before your max attempt.

– Stretch everything for 10 minutes.
– Use light, non squat sets to warm up the knees. (Leg extensions, walk on treadmill, etc)
– Use 2-3 warm-up squat sets. 1 light, 1 mid, 1 at 70% max (Don’t reach fatigue)

Psyche yourself up

Before taking the bar off the rack, take 20 secs to get your mind and emotions into a state of anger, rage, fear — anything to influence your adrenaline and give you a boost. It helps more than most want to admit.

Just close your eyes and focus on a specific memory where you were the most angry. Where force and power are needed to persevere. Imagine your children in danger, imagine yourself in danger. What would you do?

Use that short burst of emotion right here. Right, now.

Then lift that bar, dig deep and get that weight up, up, up.

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