8 Week Squat Progression

The following template is an example of a progression that can be used to peak the squat leading into a meet or used at your own leisure when testing a true one rep max. The program is written assuming that you have access to specialty bars, bands and chains but commercial gym equipment can be substituted as well without issue. For the sake of the article, only main lifts are covered as I wanted to get into great detail about how and why everything is programmed the way it is and I will cover accessory movements in another edition.

The program follows a wave progression as intensities are waved up and down weekly, leading us to our goal 1RM. As you will notice, the max effort method, repeated efforts method and dynamic effort method are all incorporated as well as some conjugate style principles such as exercise variations, specialty bars, bands, chains and box squats are added into the mix to keep things fresh.

Phase 1: The first 4 weeks of this program are utilized to lay the ground work for a successful peaking cycle in phase 2. Here, your CNS gets its first taste of supra maximal weights with the use of bands and/or chains in Weeks 1 and Week 3 which will allow you to get familiar with the feel of heavy weight on your back, therefore it will be less of a shock to the system when it is time for 1st and 2nd attempts.

Week 1:

  • Competition Style Squat w/bands or chains (25% accommodated resistance): Work up to 3RM

Were hitting some heavy lifting right out of the gate in Week 1. Work your way up to a somewhat conservative 3RM, leaving one (1) rep in the tank as to not overly fatigue yourself and to not risk injury. DO NOT MISS!

Your top set this week is what you will base your top set in week 3 off of and the weight at the top including accommodated resistance should equal a projected opener (Example: 475 bar weight+ 140 lbs chain weight= 615 top weight).

Week 2:

  • Safety Squat or Spider Bar Box Squat: 2×5, 1×3, 2×1

Following a HEAVY first session, week 2 is meant to give your body somewhat of a break. A specialty bar and box squat is used, so the workout is somewhat auto regulating in the sense that you will not be able to use nearly as high of an intensity as you would with a competition style squat in wraps. Follow the progression below and choose your weights wisely, make yourself WORK but always leaving 1 rep in the tank.

Week 3:

  • Competition Style Squat W/heavy bands or chains (25% accommodated resistance): Work up to conservative 1 RM **Use Wraps if you wear wraps.

Working off of the 3RM we hit in week 1, week 3 is the first heavy single of the training cycle. Follow the same rules as the first week, work up to a conservative 1RM, leaving 1 rep in the tank. Do not miss! The weight at the top including accommodated resistance should equal somewhere between a projected 2nd and 3rd attempt (Example: 495 bar weight+160 lbs chains= 655 top weight).

Week 4:   

  • Cambered Bar Speed Box Squat w/chains: 7×3@ 60% (30% accommodated resistance).

Week 4, like week 2, is programmed to give your body somewhat of a break from heavy weights after a heavy single in week 3. The only difference here is that Dynamic Effort Training is used in place of SSB or Spider Bar box squats. The weight used this week is based off of your projected 1RM in sleeves and should include the weight of the accommodated resistance along with the bar weight.

An example would be if the max squat in sleeves was 550 and 60% is the prescribed percentage with 35% of this weight being chain weight. 60% of 550 is 330. 30% of 330 is ~100. This means ~100 lbs of chains would be used and the rest would be straight weight.).

Give yourself 1 min rest between sets!

Phase 2: The second phase of this program gets a lot more specific, as only competition style squats are used to determine attempts and peak the lift. Your attempts in week 1-4 should give you a pretty good idea of what you are able to hit headed into the final 4 weeks, follow the plan closely and get ready to PR.

Week 5:

  • Competition Style Squat: 1×3 (Sub opener, AKA last warmup), 1×1 (opener) **Use wraps if you wear wraps.

Week 5 is the first straight bar, straight weight squat of the training cycle and sets the tone for the remainder of the training cycle, as week 6 builds off of the foundation laid in this session. Warm up with triples leading into a top triple, which would be a planned “last warmup” at a competition before heading to the platform to hit the opener. Following the triple, go straight into a projected opener and shut it down. An example of this progression could look like this:

Ex: 135×3, 225×3, 315×3, 405×3, 455×3, 505×3, 585×3 (last warmup), 615×1 (opener)

The “top weight” of the squat you took in week 1 give or take a few pounds is a good place to start when choosing a planned opener.

Week 6:

  • Competition Style Squat: Opener> 2nd Attempt> Reverse Band 30-50 lbs over 3rd attempt **Use wraps if you wear wraps.

Week 6 is the heaviest session of the training cycle. Working off of the opener you determined in Week 5, you will work up to a planned 2nd attempt after working your way up to your opener again. Warm up with triples into singles. An example of this progression could look like this:

Ex: 135×3, 225×3, 315×3, 405×3, 455×1, 505×1, 585×1, 615×1 (opener), 655×1 (2nd attempt).

Following the second attempt, set up HEAVY reverse bands on the squat rack, the racks should take off about 100 lbs in the bottom of the lift. From that point, choose a weight that is 30-50 lbs over a planned third attempt at the meet. Example: A lifter wants to take 700 on this third attempt at the meet, he would use somewhere between 730-750 on the reverse band.

This allows your body to get the feel of taking a weight that is considerably over what you will touch on meet day, without having to worry about getting stapled at the bottom. Handling a super max weight on your back with reverse bands does wonders for your confidence, as it will make whatever weight you are planning on hitting at the meet seem like that much less of a shock to the system.

Week 7:

  • Competition Style Squat: Work up to last warmup. You may also work up to opener if you’re feeling good. **Use wraps if you wear wraps.

Week 7 is a great final dress rehearsal before the meet or max out. The taper is well underway at this point and your body should be starting to feel competition ready. Keep the volume very low on this day, work up in triples and singles just like you have in prior weeks with significant jumps. Work up to your sub opener, and potentially your opener. I have found success basing this off of the strength, experience and fatigue of the lifter. If someone is a true beginner, and yet to push the limits of their body’s physiology (Ex: a 198 lb lifter squatting 430-440 and opening with 365-380) they should be able to get away with taking heavier attempts later than someone who is more advanced (Ex: a 198 lb lifter squatting 750, opening with 675).

Ex: 135×3, 225×3, 315×3, 405×1, 455×1, 505×1, 585×1 (last warmup), 615 opener is optional depending on fatigue.

Week 8:

  • Meet Week or Max Out Week: Hit a PR!

Hit a few light workouts in the days prior to the meet/max out to keep blood flowing and to “grease the groove”, but no straining what so ever. Eat, rest and visualize success!

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