Squat Your Way to Better Performance With This 4-Week Training Program

STACK Expert John Cissik offers a 4-week training program incorporating Squats to improve your athletic strength.

Squats are a critical exercise for most athletes. The Squat strengthens the lower body, trunk and core, makes your bones stronger and helps you to push against the ground more explosively. It is an essential exercise for developing speed, agility and power. This article offers some pointers on squatting technique, principles for program design and a sample program to help you improve your Squat.

Technical Pointers

The first thing to keep in mind with the Squat is that the majority of athletes are not bodybuilders, powerlifters or Olympic weightlifters. For most athletes, the Squat is a tool used to improve performance. Thus, it should be approached in a manner that provides the best transfer to sports, not necessarily the ideal squatting technique for a powerlifter. With that in mind, here are some important pointers for an athlete's Squat:

  • Keep your feet flat on the ground. This keeps you balanced and distributes your weight evenly.
  • Your feet should be around hip-width apart. Although it is better for squatting heavy weights, you don't play sports with your feet in a super-wide stance.
  • Begin by pushing your hips back. This keeps the weight primarily around your hips and not on your knees.
  • Go to parallel. The Internet is filled with great videos of Olympic weightlifters squatting all the way down, but you do not get enhanced muscle recruitment by doing that.

Principles for Program Design

A few principles for program design with the Squat:

  • The Squat is a strength exercise. If your goal is to get stronger, you need to train heavy with low volume—generally 3-5 sets of eight repetitions or less with at least 85 percent of your maximum weight.
  • If improving your Squat is a priority, perform it at the beginning of your workout.
  • A number of exercises can enhance parts of the Squat, but if you want to get better at the Squat, you have to train that exercise.

Sample Program

Below is a sample four-week program that incorporates squat training into a comprehensive program.

Week One

Monday

  • Back Squat: 3x4-8 @ 85-90%
  • Romanian Deadlift: 3x4-8
  • Bench Press: 3x4-8 @ 85-90%
  • Bent-Over Rows: 3x4-8
  • Standing Military Press: 3x4-8

Tuesday

  • Power Snatch: 3x3-6 @ 60-70%
  • Snatch Pulls: 3x3-6 @ 70-80%
  • Snatch Grip Push Jerk: 3x3-6 @ 60-70%

Wednesday

Off

Thursday

  • Front Squat: 3x6-10 @ 70-80%
  • Lunges: 3x6-10 each leg
  • Good Mornings: 3x6-10
  • Reverse Hyperextensions: 3x15-20

Friday

  • Incline Press: 3x6-10
  • Dumbbell Bench Press: 3x6-10
  • Pull-Ups: 3x6-10
  • 3-in-1 Shoulders: 3x10 each exercise
  • Biceps/Triceps: 3x10-15

Week Two

Monday

  • Back Squat: 3x3-6 @ 87.5-92.5%
  • Romanian Deadlift: 3x4-8
  • Bench Press: 3x3-6 @ 87.5-92%
  • Bent-Over Rows: 3x4-8
  • Standing Military Press: 3x4-8

Tuesday

  • Power Snatch: 3x3-6 @ 60-70%
  • Snatch Pulls: 3x3-6 @ 70-80%
  • Snatch Grip Push Jerk: 3x3-6 @ 60-70%

Wednesday

Off

Thursday

  • Front Squat: 3x6-10 @ 72.5-82.5%
  • Lunges: 3x6-10 each leg
  • Good Mornings: 3x6-10
  • Reverse Hyperextensions: 3x15-20

Friday

  • Incline Press: 3x6-10
  • Dumbbell Bench Press: 3x6-10
  • Pull-Ups: 3x6-10
  • 3-in-1 Shoulders: 3x10 each exercise
  • Biceps/Triceps: 3x10-15

Week Three

Monday

  • Back Squats: 3x1-4 @ 90-95%
  • Romanian Deadlift: 3x3-6
  • Bench Press: 3x1-4 @ 90-95%
  • Bent-Over Rows: 3x3-6
  • Standing Military Press: 3x3-6

Tuesday

  • Power Snatch: 3x3-6 @ 60-70%
  • Snatch Pulls: 3x3-6 @ 70-80%
  • Snatch Grip Push Jerk: 3x3-6 @ 60-70%

Wednesday

Off

Thursday

  • Front Squats: 3x4-8 @ 75-85%
  • Lunges: 3x4-8 each leg
  • Good Mornings: 3x4-8
  • Reverse Hyperextensions: 3x15-20

Friday

  • Incline Press: 3x4-8
  • Dumbbell Bench Press: 3x4-8
  • Pull-Ups: 3x4-8
  • 3-in-1 Shoulders: 3x10 each exercise
  • Biceps/Triceps: 3x10-15

Week Four

Monday

  • Back Squats: Max
  • Deadlifts: 3x4-8
  • Bench Press: Max
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 3x4-8 each arm
  • Seated Military Press: 3x4-8

Tuesday

  • Snatch Pulls + Power Snatch: 3x6+3 @ 60-70% of Power Snatch
  • Snatch Grip Push Jerk + Overhead Squats: 3x6+6 @ 60-70%

Wednesday

Off

Thursday

  • Front Squats: Max
  • Step Ups: 3x6-10 each leg
  • Seated Good Mornings: 3x6-10
  • Back Raises: 3x15-20

Friday

  • Dumbbell Bench Press: 3x6-10
  • Dumbbell Incline Press: 3x6-10
  • Pull-Ups: 3x6-10
  • 3-in-1 Shoulders: 3x10 each exercise
  • Biceps/Triceps: 3x10-15


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SQUAT | BENCH PRESS | WORKOUT PLAN | MILITARY | POWER | PULLS | EXERCISE | SPORTS | TRAIN | BENCH | PRESS | DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS | SNATCH