Building High-Performance Muscle™

Get That Squat Up!


Get That Squat Up!


If your goal is to be strong, you're going to have to spend time under the bar. Benches are cool and deadlifts are studly, but there's something special about squats. They're arguably the hardest, and I'm not ashamed to say, the scariest of the big three lifts.

But the experts are divided. Many love squats, seeing them as a cure-all for almost any physique or performance woe, while others say squats are overrated and lead to sore knees, bad backs, and waists as wide as barn doors.

I'm not hear to tell you who's right – although you're likely a pencil-necked geek if you believe the latter – but I will say this with absolute certainty: to get good at squats, you have to squat.

Sure you can get "strong" legs on the leg press or pushing the Prowler, but to demonstrate prowess in the barbell squat, you better spend some time doing just that. Otherwise, anything more than 400 pounds on your back will staple you to the platform no matter how many fat guys you can load on the leg press.

This routine is designed to increase your 1RM in the squat, and likely the deadlift as well. It's a two day-a-week routine. Each day should be spaced 2-4 days apart.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with weight training programming will notice this set up is somewhat similar to a Westside lower body program. Certainly, I'm not claiming to have invented this method – I'm just presenting a plan that's easy to follow and delivers results.

My team followed this to prepare for our last meet and average squat gains were 20-40 pounds in 12 weeks. One guy relatively new to squatting put 70 pounds on his max!

This routine is designed for the raw lifter (one not using a squat suit or knee wraps) at an intermediate to advanced level. The squatting form suggested can vary with the individual but is generally aligned with what's in Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.

  • This is a 12-week routine, consisting of four different three-week long phases.
  • There's one technique day per week, sometimes called a speed day, light day, or dynamic effort (DE) day.
  • There's one heavy day per week, sometimes called a strength day, maximal effort (ME) day, or a bring-your-balls to the gym day.
  • All squats should be performed explosively if possible.
  • If necessary, an intermediate single can be performed after your main sets, before the high percentage set (i.e. 50% 12x2, 65%x1, 80%x1).
  • No warm-up sets are included in this program. Warm-up as needed for all exercises.


Phase 1

Get That Squat Up!


Week 1


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Regular squat 50% 12 2
Back squat to below parallel. The percentage is based off the 1RM. High percentage set 80% x 1.
B Glute ham raise   * 30
Glute ham raise is total reps – use as many sets as necessary to get there. Try to decrease sets over time.
C Banded mountain climbers   3 20-30
Mountain climbers with bands wrapped around the ankle and attached to something sturdy. This works the hip flexors, and strong hip flexors help keep the knees healthy.
D Reverse hyper   2 20
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Cluster squat    
Cluster squats are performed as follows: Perform one rep of a squat, rack it, rest about 30 seconds, perform another rep, repeat. The goal is to get at least 6 reps and hopefully 10 reps (stop at 10). Start with 87.5% of your 1RM and go up 10-20 pounds each workout. These are intense. See the video below for a reference.
B Front squat 3 8
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 10 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Hyperextensions 2 20

Week 2


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Regular squat 60% 11 2
Back squat to below parallel. High percentage set 85% x 1.
B Glute ham raise   * 30
Glute ham raise is total reps – use as many sets as necessary to get there. Try to decrease sets over time.
C Banded mountain climbers   3 20-30
Mountain climbers with bands wrapped around the ankle and attached to something sturdy.
D Reverse hyper   2 20
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Romanian rack pull at ~ 14"    
Romanian rack pull is a rack pull done Romanian style to ensure the shins are vertical and the bar is over the middle of the foot. Work up to a 1RM, no straps. Week 2 is from a height of approximately 14? bar to ground. See the video below for a demonstration.
B Front squat 3 8
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 10 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Hyperextensions 2 20

Week 3


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Regular squat 70% 10 2
Back squat to below parallel. High percentage set 90% x 1.
B Glute ham raise   * 30
Glute ham raise is total reps – use as many sets as necessary to get there. Try to decrease sets over time.
C Banded mountain climbers   3 20-30
Mountain climbers with bands wrapped around the ankle and attached to something sturdy.
D Reverse hyper   2 20
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Low box squat    
Using the same height box as on the technique days, work up to a 1RM. Sit softly on the box, no plopping. I?m fine with a slight lean back on the box and then a lean forward once the lifter is sitting down. See the video below for a demonstration.
B Front squat 3 8
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 10 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Hyperextensions 2 20


Phase 2

Get That Squat Up!


Week 4


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Low box squat 50% 12 2
Low box is below parallel, likely 10-14" high for most lifters. 14" is pushing it. High percentage set 80% x 1.
B Negative squats   3 5
Use about a 6 count on the way down, pause at the bottom for a full count, then normal speed back up. Use ascending sets and try to increase each set by about 10 lbs a week or 5%.
C Single-leg deadlift   3 5
Performed Romanian style, and is used to build balance and symmetrical power. You don't have to go super heavy.
D Reverse hyper   3 15
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Cluster squat    
Cluster squats are performed as follows: Perform one rep of a squat, rack it, rest about 30 seconds, perform another rep, repeat. The goal is to get at least 6 reps and hopefully 10 reps (stop at 10). Go up 10-20 pounds each workout. These are intense.
B Leg press 3 12
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 20 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Romanian deadlifts 3 15*
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 20 pounds per set every week.

Week 5


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Low box squat 60% 11 2
Low box is below parallel, likely 10-14" high for most lifters. 14" is pushing it. High percentage set 85% x 1.
B Negative squats   3 5
Use about a 6 count on the way down, pause at the bottom for a full count, then normal speed back up. Use ascending sets and try to increase each set by about 10 lbs a week or 5%.
C Single-leg deadlift   3 5
Performed Romanian style, and is used to build balance and symmetrical power. You don't have to go super heavy.
D Reverse hyper   3 15
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Romanian rack pull at ~ 11"    
Romanian rack pull is a rack pull done Romanian style to ensure the shins are vertical and the bar is over the middle of the foot. Work up to a 1RM, no straps. Week 5 is from a height of approximately 11? (bar to ground) combined with light bands, double looped.
B Leg press 3 12
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 20 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Romanian deadlifts 3 15*
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 20 pounds per set every week.

Week 6


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Low box squat 70% 11 2
Low box is below parallel, likely 10-14" high for most lifters. 14" is pushing it. High percentage set 90% x 1.
B Negative squats   3 5
Use about a 6 count on the way down, pause at the bottom for a full count, then normal speed back up. Use ascending sets and try to increase each set by about 10 lbs a week or 5%.
C Single-leg deadlift   3 5
Performed Romanian style, and is used to build balance and symmetrical power. You don't have to go super heavy.
D Reverse hyper   3 15
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A High box squat ~18"    
Work up to a 1RM.
B Leg press 3 12
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 20 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Romanian deadlifts 3 15*
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 20 pounds per set every week.


Phase 3

Get That Squat Up!


Week 7


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Squat w/light bands 50% 8 2
Squat with light bands can be to a box or not, your preference. See the following video for a demonstration. The weight listed is not including the bands. High percentage set 80% x 1.
B Glute ham raise   * 35
Glute ham raise is total reps – use as many sets as necessary to get there. Try to decrease sets over time.
C Hip flexor sled drag   2 ~30 yards
For the hip flexor with the sled, do one trip with a high knee and the other trip with a straight leg kick (sometimes called a Frankenstein walk). See the video below for a demonstration (the Frankenstein walk portion starts at the 30-45 second mark).
D Reverse hyper   3 12
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Cluster squat    
Cluster squats are performed as follows: Perform one rep of a squat, rack it, rest about 30 seconds, perform another rep, repeat. The goal is to get at least 6 reps and hopefully 10 reps (stop at 10). Go up 10-20 pounds each workout. These are intense.
B Front squat 4 5
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 10 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Good mornings 3 8
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 10-20 pounds per set every week for assistance work. Keep it moderate intensity and form should be strict.

Week 8


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Squat w/light bands 60% 7 2
Squat with light bands can be to a box or not, your preference. The weight listed is not including the bands. High percentage set 85% x 1.
B Glute ham raise   * 35
Glute ham raise is total reps – use as many sets as necessary to get there. Try to decrease sets over time.
C Hip flexor sled drag   2 ~30 yards
For the hip flexor with the sled, do one trip with a high knee and the other trip with a straight leg kick.
D Reverse hyper   3 12
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Deficit deadlifts ~ 4"    
Stand on something about 4? high and work up to a 1RM. If form/flexibility are an issue, work up to a 3-5RM on regular deadlifts. See the video below for reference.
B Front squat 4 5
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 10 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Good mornings 3 8
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 10-20 pounds per set every week for assistance work. Keep it moderate intensity and form should be strict.

Week 9


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Squat w/light bands 70% 6 2
Squat with light bands can be to a box or not, your preference. The weight listed is not including the bands. High percentage set 90% x 1.
B Glute ham raise   * 35
Glute ham raise is total reps – use as many sets as necessary to get there. Try to decrease sets over time.
C Hip flexor sled drag   2 ~30 yards
For the hip flexor with the sled, do one trip with a high knee and the other trip with a straight leg kick.
D Reverse hyper   3 12
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Low box squat w/reverse avg. bands    
Using the same height box as on the technique days, work up to a 1RM. Sit softly on the box, no plopping. I?m fine with a slight lean back on the box and then a lean forward once the lifter is sitting down.
B Front squat 4 5
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 10 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Good mornings 3 8
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 10-20 pounds per set every week for assistance work. Keep it moderate intensity and form should be strict.


Phase 4

Get That Squat Up!


Week 10


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Regular squat 55% 10 2
Back squat to below parallel. High percentage set 85% x 1.
B Negative squats   3 3
Use about a 6 count on the way down, pause at the bottom for a full count, then normal speed back up. Use ascending sets and try to increase each set by about 10 lbs a week or 5%.
C Single-leg deadlift   3 3
Performed Romanian style, and is used to build balance and symmetrical power. You don't have to go super heavy.
D Reverse hyper   2 20
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Cluster squat    
Cluster squats are performed as follows: Perform one rep of a squat, rack it, rest about 30 seconds, perform another rep, repeat. The goal is to get at least 6 reps and hopefully 10 reps (stop at 10). Go up 10-20 pounds each workout. These are intense.
B Leg press 4 6
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 20 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Reverse hypers 4 8
In this phase use ascending sets and go heavy.

Week 11


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Regular squat 65% 8 2
Back squat to below parallel. High percentage set 90% x 1.
B Negative squats   3 3
Use about a 6 count on the way down, pause at the bottom for a full count, then normal speed back up. Use ascending sets and try to increase each set by about 10 lbs a week or 5%.
C Single-leg deadlift   3 3
Performed Romanian style, and is used to build balance and symmetrical power. You don't have to go super heavy.
D Reverse hyper   2 20
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Good mornings for maximum effort    
Work up to a 3RM or pick a reasonably heavy weight (heavier than assistance work sets) and rep that weight out for as many reps as possible. Go heavy and feel free to bend the knees a bit, arch the back, and keep the shins near vertical if possible. You?ll want to do this low bar style and you?ll probably bend forward about 60-80 degrees when working with max weight. The goal is safe form combined with good effort. You don?t need to be a form Nazi. See the video below for reference.
B Leg press 4 6
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 20 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Reverse hypers 4 8
In this phase use ascending sets and go heavy.

Week 12


The Technique Day

  Exercises Weight Sets Reps
A Regular squat 75% 5 2
Back squat to below parallel. High percentage set 95% x 1.
B Negative squats   3 3
Use about a 6 count on the way down, pause at the bottom for a full count, then normal speed back up. Use ascending sets and try to increase each set by about 10 lbs a week or 5%.
C Single-leg deadlift   3 3
Performed Romanian style, and is used to build balance and symmetrical power. You don't have to go super heavy.
D Reverse hyper   2 20
Reverse hyper refers to straight weight each set. Go up about 10 pounds a week continually.

The Heavy Day

  Exercises Sets Reps
A Repeat week 3, 6, 9 or rest    
You can either repeat the max exercise you did on week 3, 6, or 9 and try to increase your 1RM by 5-20 pounds, or you can rest. You could also plan this cycle to peak for a meet.
B Leg press 4 6
Ascending sets are ideal. Go up about 20 pounds per set every week.
C Deadlifts (optional)    
D Reverse hypers 4 8
In this phase use ascending sets and go heavy.

While this program is focused on the squat it also trains the deadlift. In my experience the good deadlifters (550+ pullers) shouldn't need much extra pulling, although the not-so-good deadlifters (400-500 lbs or so) might see some benefit from it, which is why I listed deadlifts as optional.

You can either perform the optional deadlifts as speed deads to work on form (4-6 sets of 1-3 reps at about 50-60% 1RM), or one good set of about 8 reps (pick a reasonably light weight, do that for 8, then go up 10-20 pounds each week and repeat for as long as possible).

You could also follow an alternating pattern of sorts. When the heavy exercise is deadlift-related, as in the second week of each phase, go light and do speed work – or just skip regular deadlifts all together. If the heavy exercise is squat-related (the first and third week of each phase), then perform the heavier deadlift set if necessary.


It's Clobbering Time!

How about that, you lucky bastards – a 12-week lower body cycle all laid out for you, fresh, neat and pretty-like. You can combine this with whatever non-stupid upper body program you happen to be following, although starting the week with the technique day and finishing with the heavy day is ideal.

Remember that reading and dissecting workout programs is nice and all, but following them and busting your hump is where the real dividends pay off. If you have any questions about this program please post them in the Livespill. I'm confident there's a PR squat waiting for you at the end of this 12-week journey.



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