The squat is the king of all exercises – so why wouldn’t you want information about how to boost your squat strength in 6 weeks?
There is just something truly primal about lifting an sh*t-ton of weight on your back.
Personally, I have gone through many phases of training and I must admit that powerlifting was hands down the most fun and engaging.
Talk to any of the biggest guys in the gym. The guys who have been around lifting heavy for years without any performance enhancements. Squatting heavy, or powerlifting in general, is a long-term quest for absolute strength, and for some, there is no greater obsession in life than hitting that 500-pound marker.
These guys and girls try to put 500 pounds on heir back and, with legal squatting depth, press back up to a standing position – most of the time with no wraps or assists.
It’s pure madness. I’ve seen this done before and I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. The power and structural integrity of this type of athlete are unmatched.
Why am I buttering this up?
Good question. As much as I think balance and structure in your workout program are essential for long-term health – nothing beats the primal drive to heavy heavy objects.
For some guys, it doesn’t matter what they look like. All they care about is their pure absolute strength – and I can respect that.
For those guys out there I have put together a 6 WEEK SQUAT BOOSTING PROGRAM that is sure to get your body in the right shape to start lifting heavier and heavier.
How do you hit a 500-pound squat? Here are all the steps you need to crush your squat goals!
Before we get into the real fun and games (the program) let’s make sure you have a good understanding of squatting – from a biomechanics perspective.
Importance of Squatting
For millennia humans have been squatting. We squat to pick things up, we squat to poop and we squat to rest.
Unfortunately, here in the western world, we do not squat as much as we have in the past. Many people that I come across do not have the mobility or the strength to even reach the depth of a squat, nevermind sitting there for long periods of time.
Squatting is an important movement for our human physique.
Unlike sitting or lying down, many of the muscles in our body are still active when we squat – even when there is no weight on our back.
5 Reasons to Start Squatting
- Squatting can help to improve ankle mobility
- Improves core strength
- Helps to create structural integrity in your spine
- Increases basic balance and proprioception
- Squatting heavy looks badass
In all honesty, I would never ask anyone to start squatting with resistance unless they can be relaxed in a traditional squat with no weight on their back.
Obviously, this is not the squat you will be using when you are lifting the weight. The form is all wrong. This resting squat teaches your body of the connections that are needed for the bottom range of motion.
Later we will talk about depth and its importance in strength training for the squat. For now, you should work on your resting squat and train to sit relaxed in a bottom range of motion before you start lifting heavy.
Check out this very simple video made by Ido Portal on squat mobility.
TOP TIP: If holding this position is difficult you can place a board or lift under your heels. This will help to allow for greater dorsiflexion (knee over the toe) which will help you to remain more upright and balance your body weight.
Mechanics of a Good Squat
There are many different variations of squatting that require various movement cues and postures, yet on a very fundamental level, all squats will contain these simple mechanics in common.
Before I describe the best mechanics for good squatting lets take a look at a video that depicts what you should be looking for. After all, visual stimuli are always good for breaking down a movement.
Common Mechanics and Cues for Strong Squatting
1. Strong and Stable Core
The core is an essential element in your success under the bar during the squat. If your core is weak you will suffer at your end-range of motion (at depth).
Many people who have weak core will notice that they struggle to push out of the bottom and even start to *butt wink as they rise out.
In the early days this may not be a huge issue, but developing stronger core stability and integrity is an essential mechanical advantage.
2. Angles and Parallels
Take another look at the clip above. Yes, the individual has a heel lift (which I would urge people to use in the start) but more importantly his back angle falls into almost the same angle as his shin angle. If you pause the video at 15s you will notice that his shin and back are nearly parallel.
What does this do?
Effective shin and back angles allow you to press out of the bottom range of motion by using the biggest and strongest muscle in your body – the glutes (it also helps to save your back from unnecessary stress).
3. Neutral Neck Position
I am not a fan of looking up to the ceiling during a squat. Some trainers feel that this works – and to be honest, yes, I think it can help you hit a PR every now and then – but to train with this every day will 100% have negative effects on your spine health.
Maintaining a neutral neck with the same angle as the back and simply looking up (eyes only) will be enough during training.
4. Foot Spacing
This one is a bit difficult. Personally, I say whenever is most comfortable for the individual. I like to do 1 foot (on each side) wider than my deadlift but that’s just for me. I have shown this to clients and many of them have stuck with it and some have found more comfortable positions.
Your foot spacing will be dependant on many factors, most importantly, limb length. Longer limbs may be better with a wider stance. Keep in mind, the most important part of foot spacing is to ensure that you do not have any knee valgus (far right of the image) during your squat.
If you notice knee valgus (demonstrated in the picture above, far right) alter your foot spacing to recruit more glutes.
Squatting should not be a struggle. It is a natural movement that many of us have not done very much so working into form slowly is important.
Let’s get into the interesting stuff. Take a look at the most important principles of a strong squat.
Principles of Squat Training
Here I will help to explain some of the important principles to help you squat heavy with high frequency while avoiding injury.
Step 1: Overload the Quads
Much of the strength in the squat will come from the quad group. These muscles are big and strong and require a decent amount of volume to strengthen.
The main action of the quads is to help you press out of depth.
After a 90-degree knee angle the glutes can take over with hip extension but strong quads are required for heavier and deeper squats.
Overloading the quads are best done with consistent volume. Understanding that the main quad, the vastus medialis actually crosses the knee means you cannot commit to a high volume or high amount of weight – that’s just asking for knee pain.
Instead, try to keep your volume consistent throughout the week. Overload with variable tempo rather than more reps or sets. Personally, I try to keep most quad-dominant exercises to less than 8-10 sets per week.
Especially if you are already training heavy, this will be more than enough to grow.
Step 2: Commit To A Stronger Core
We touched on this earlier but it is ever important in any of your big lifts – especially the squat.
Having a strong core not only means you can maintain the perfect angles we need in a heavy squat, but it also means we can use a variable set of squat exercises without having to worry too much about back pain or injury.
Think of a strong core as your safeguard for strength training – especially in your big lifts (squat, deadlift, overhead press etc.).
Step 3: Use Variable Bar Positions
As much as specificity is important, using an ever-changing bar position will help to create stress for greater strength. Use all squatting exercises like front squats, lumberjack squats, suitcase squats, prisoner squats.
Bar position will determine where the weight falls and creates stress on the muscle. You will notice in the program below that I try to have a balance of all bar position with the primary stress coming in the high-bar back position.
Step 4: Understand Specificity Creates Faster Progress
We all know this principle. Specificity tells us that if we want to get stronger in an exercise or movement that we need to do more of it – or more training specific to it.
For example: when we look at squatting we should not just be performing a strict squat over and over again.
Specificity also falls into the programming for accessory movements. If you train a 6×4 with front squat keep your quad extensions relative. Train with a similar tempo at a similar rep range. This will help to maintain specific strength to your lifts.
You can also be specific in the type of weight you train with. If your goal is to improve your barbell front squat – train more with barbells. Simple.
Step 5: Never Forget Accessory Muscles & Movements
This is a big one that far too many people forget about. Training for squatting can be as simple as getting under a bar 2-3x a week, but it can also be complex in the sense that accessory muscles, like those small stability muscles in the feet will help you to make faster progress.
When it comes to squatting, the main accessory muscles you should focus on are those in the calves, feet and external rotators at the hip.
Important accessory muscles for squatting:
- Tibialis anterior
- Plantar fascia
- Gluteus medius
- Abductor longus
Supplements for Recovery
The last thing you can do to improve your squat is to ensure you are eating properly and supplementing accordingly. We are currently putting together a supplement page to help detail the importance of specific supplements but here are the most effective supplements for increasing performance and recovery.
Creatine (Monohydrate of HCL)
Creatine is the god supplement. Check out my video on creatine to help understand why it would be an effective supplement for heavy lifting or any explosive sports.
If you are new to training in the squat you will need to start off with a low volume. Glutamine can help you to maintain muscle mass without wasting. Supplementing with 5-7g a day should be enough to help you recover and maintain muscle mass with a lower volume.
I am a big fan of ZMA complexes – especially for people today. I don’t think I have ever come across the average person who has enough zinc of magnesium in their diet and both play an important role in testosterone regulation.
We’re not going to get into the details on this topic right now, but if you are interested in squatting heavy I would recommend checking out a good ZMA supplement. Here is a link to my favourite.
6 Week Squat Boosting Program
The real reason you are here. Take time to walk through the complete program below and keep in mind the purpose of each exercise and how it relates back to our principles and mechanics.
Week 1 – Introduction
|WEEK 1 – WORKOUT 1 (MON)||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|Kettlebell Front Squat||8||3||2110||2m|
|Low Bar Back Squat||8||3||2110||2m|
|Weighted Stair Climbs||30||3||n/a||3m|
|WEEK 1 – WORKOUT 2 (WED)||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|Plyometric Jump Squats (No weight)||6||3||10X0||2m|
|WEEK 1 – WORKOUT 3 (SAT)||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|High Bar Back Squat||6||5||2110||3m|
|Seated Good Mornings||12||3||2121||3m|
**Repeat Week 1 with increased weight or more difficult tempo. Keep reps and sets the same.
Week 3 – Introduce Overload
|WEEK 3 – WORKOUT 1 (MON)||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|High Back Back Squat ¼ Reps||6||4||3110||3m|
|Wall Sit (Single Leg Hold)||60s||3||n/a||3m|
|WEEK 3 – WORKOUT 2 (WED)||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|Leg Press (High Foot Position)||12||3||41X1||3m|
|WEEK 3 – WORKOUT 3 (FRI)||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|Low Bar Back Squat||6||3||21X0||3m|
|Seated Good Mornings||8||3||3111||3m|
|WEEK 3 – WORKOUT 4 (SAT)||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
**Repeat week 3 with some progressive overload. You can increase weight or make the tempo more difficult. Remember, more stress means longer rest times. 3m may not be enough time to recover for your next set.
*Each of these sets should be a near-max effort.
Week 5 – Specific Strength
|WEEK 5 – WORKOUT 1 (MON)||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|High Bar Back Squat||8||3||31X0||3m|
|WEEK 5 – WORKOUT 2 (WED)||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|Weighted Stair Climbs||30||2||n/a||3m|
|WEEK 5 – WORKOUT 3 (FRI)||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|Elevated Lunge (front foot)||8||3||21X0||3m|
|Seated Good Mornings||12||3||2121||3m|
|Heel Elevated Depth Squat||8||3||2121||3m|
|Peterson Sled Drag||16||3||1010||2m|
**Repeat week 5 with overload.
My suggestion here would be to keep the weight the same, and overload with variable reps. Each exercise that is an 8×3 can be switched into a 6×4 with less rest.
In this way, you are still completing a total of 24 reps per exercise but you are limiting the stress (in terms of time under tension) but decreasing rest which will help you to lock-in on the nuances of form and function.
This program is built to be placed into your already existing workout regime. In the case that you are an athlete who has a pre-built strength program and are looking for a way to boost your squat, this could help.
Here we are not overly focused on weight. The first 2-3 months of any program should focus on form and function, not weight.
Your quest to join the 500-pound squat club will take time, This is merely a stepping stone in the correct direction. Locking in on these exercises and these specific tempos will help you to grow stronger and create the integrity needed for heavy training later in your development.
Success Tactics: Things to Keep In Mind
Before you get super keen and start squatting 3-4 times a week there are some important concepts I want you to keep in mind for your overall progress.
1. Squatting Takes Time
Any training program takes time to complete and perfect. Aside from the overhead press, mastering the squat could be the most time-consuming training process.
The level of mechanical efficiency needed to master this exercise takes years.
Do not become turned-off if you are not hitting your goals right away. Be patient and trust the process.
2. Squatting Can Be Harmful to Your Spine Health
Let’s be very clear. The human body was not built to carry hundreds of pounds on the back. The spine does not do particularly well with axial loading (weight on the top of the spine) especially if you are flexing and extending as some beginners do.
Be very careful when progressing in weight. Use simple video and picture analysis from your workout buddies to make sure your form is on point and everything is aligning like in the video we show above.
3. Always Have A Spotter On Heavy Lifts
We’ve all seen the fail videos online. Be smart, use a spotter and stop lifting for your personal ego.
Don’t worry about weight for the first several weeks. As a beginner, it’s just not important to your early progress.
Instead, focus on form and function. Create a squatting pattern that is effortless and efficient.
As always, leave some comments below and let me know if this was helpful.
If you read this far I would waiver that you are focussed on pushing your physical limits. This program is pre-built for a beginner who has had very little exposure to traditional strength principles.
Those who are keen to make read strength advancements specific to their goals or their respective sports should take a look at our shop. We offer customized training programs for any athletes and any diet.
Good luck and enjoy the gains.