powerlifting, squat

How often should I Squat?

How Often should I Squat?

In my experience, squatting is a little easier to program than deadlifting. Because it’s slightly less taxing on your CNS, I’ve always found the optimal squatting frequency to be 2-3 times per week.

Typically I find deadlifting 2 times a week optimal. One deadlift session a week is best saved for a particular variation so you can work on your weak points and prevent overtraining.

With squats, variations are less important as it’s harder to overtrain when squatting. You can utilise the same squat type for 2-3 days per week and still make progress as long as you include a form of DUP (daily undulating periodisation). You can’t continually squat with the same intensity and not suffer burnout.

Clearly accumulated fatigue isn’t exercise specific, but by ensuring you don’t do much volume >90%, squats are relatively simple to manage.

How many times a week should I squat as a Powerlifter?

For a powerlifter, squatting 2-3 times a week is usually most effective for strength and hypertrophy gains.

As a powerlifter, your main goal is to have the biggest squat possible. In order to do that you need to refine your technique, which only comes with repeated repetitions around 80% of your 1RM.

If your program utilises daily undulating periodisation, then each day will have a different rep range and level of intensity. You need to accumulate volume over time in order to increase the size of your legs – and their potential for a greater 1RM in the long-term.

So you need to squat frequently enough to accumulate enough volume to grow. Whilst allowing enough time for recovery.

If squatting frequency goes up, your daily volume must decrease in order to keep under your MRV (Maximum Recoverable Volume). Simple.

How often should I squat to improve my Sports Performance?

If you’re squatting for sports performance then the same principle applies. You want to have the highest squat possible to increase your overall power production, which should improve your sporting prowess if programmed correctly.

But you can’t sacrifice your sport for the sake of your squat. You can probably squat 2 times a week if you take another sport seriously, but your overall volume can’t impact your ability to sprint or your stamina if you sport demands that.

If you play rugby or football 2-3 times a week for example, you can’t expect to accumulate the same volume as a powerlifter and still recover. In the off-season you can squat more frequently if you think stronger, more explosive legs will be of use as you haven’t accumulated the same level of fatigue.

So pick your battles. If you want to squat more frequently reduce your daily volume. If you squat less frequently, increase your daily volume. And if your sporting ability is reduced because you’re overly tired, change your approach to training.

It’s that simple.

How do I program my Squats?

So if we break the week down into 4 days of training, we know we’re going to be squatting on at least 2 of those days.

I typically program 2 days worth of squat sessions per week. At the start of my programming, day 1 accumulates volume (hypertrophy) in my competition style. On the same day I also incorporate a squat variation, depending on my current needs.

On the second squat day I have a heavier day that focuses on power. If I feel I have enough left in me, I might then perform some positional reinforcement work on my squat. This typically looks like c.60-70% of my 1RM, focusing on a slow eccentric portion of the movement.

Day 1

> High Bar Squat: 5(8) @ 75-80% 1RM

> Paused Front Squat: 3(4) @ 80% 1RM

Day 2

> Paused High Bar Squat: 5(3) @ 85% 1RM

> Slow Eccentric High Bar Squat: 3(2) @ 60-70% 1RM

So as you can see, I have one day focusing on hypertrophy with my competition style lift and one day focusing on power. This is a form of DUP (Daily Undulating Periodisation) that is ideal for intermediate to advanced level lifters.

Now as my program progresses I want to increase specificity. To do this I swap the intensity between day 1 and 2.

In doing say, the days look like so:

Day 1

> High Bar Squat: 5(3-4) @ 85-87.5% 1RM

Day 2

> Paused High Bar Squat: 4(5) @ 80% 1RM

The overall volume has decreased, but the intensity and specificity has increased. Exactly what you want pre-competition.

I would also include some lighter ‘fluff’ work like 3 sets of 15-20 reps of isolation exercises for hamstrings and quads and some single leg isometric work – pistol squats and single leg RDL’s for example.

These exercises are much less taxing but improve power output potential, muscle size in the long-term and increase blood flow to affected muscles. Key for recovery.

Squatting for Strength vs squatting for Mass

Squatting for strength is very different to squatting for mass. Absolute strength is your ability to grind out your 1RM. By looking at Prilepin’s chart, you can see the rough guidelines for the amount of volume that should be used based on the % of your 1RM.

Percent Sets Optimal Reps Total Range
55 – 65% 3 – 6 24 18 – 30
70 – 80% 3 – 6 18 12 – 24
80 – 90% 2 – 4 15 10 – 20
90% + 1 – 2 7 4 – 10

You can see how little volume is recommended around 90% + of your 1RM. That’s because it’s so taxing. Especially for squats and deadlifts. That’s true strength.

But for real strength training the majority of your work is done in the 80-90% range. Up to 30 reps if you’re around the 80% mark. 18 max if you’re closer to 90.

But true strength also requires mass. Typically, the greater your mass and muscle size, the greater your propensity to move more weight. Force production is directly influenced by mass. And size is dictated by the below:

Volume + Frequency + Time Under Tension = Size Gains

Volume is the most important factor when trying to increase size. But to take advantage of protein synthesis, you need to train a muscle group at least twice a week – frequency.

Increasing intensity is for strength. Intensity denotes the weight on the bar. An increase in weight increases the intensity. But requires a reduction in volume in order to do so.

So in order to optimise for size, you never need to increase the intensity. But you do need to increase the volume. You can do so but upping the frequency, playing with time under tension, or just by doing more repetitions.

Now Read: How to Bulk for Beginners

To optimise your strength potential in the long-term, you need to incorporate volume based workouts at the beginning of your program. You need to get used to being under the bar and handling the weight, but you also need to grow in order to maximise your force production.

There are freaks of nature where this doesn’t happen (sic. Max Chewning), but to shift big weight you need big legs.

To get big legs you need volume. To maximise for strength you need increasing intensity.

So strength requires some training for size. It reduces the risk of injury and gives you a proper base to work from.

Size doesn’t require strength training and bodybuilding is a great indicator of this. Isolation exercises on their own won’t increase your strength, but it can make you grow.

But I’ve never felt bigger or thicker than when I squat. I have no doubt that compound exercises increase muscle density.

Can you Squat Everyday?

Absolutely. Should you if you’re not an elite level lifter? No. But I’ll show you how you can do it below.

Firstly you can just run the Bulgarian Method. But it’s brutal.

Every day you’ll perform singles only above the 90% mark, trying to PR virtually everyday. It’s so taxing on your CNS that if you’re not at the very top you should never try it. Or on steroids.

So it’s definitely not for you.

The other way to do so is to is to manipulate your intensity daily so that you only go heavy at most 2 days a week, work with accessories like chains and bands to improve speed and then have 2 sessions a week to work on weak points with as little intensity as possible. Like focusing on the eccentric portion of the lift. All with incredibly low volume.

This is such an elite level of daily undulating periodisation that you can only do it under extreme supervision and coaching. But it could work for the right athlete. One that performs well with low volume, high intensity training.

Once you finish squatting daily however your numbers will drastically reduce. It’s such a short-term program that you’d be an idiot to try it.

{Or on an awesome steroid cycle.}

How often should I Squat to see results?

That really depends. Some programs will have you squatting only once a week, with more of an emphasis on GPP (General Physical Preparation) and hypertrophy / isolation exercises. This is great for beginners.

As an intermediate lifter 2-3 times a week is ideal for strength. But for size you never need to squat. You can rely solely on leg isolation exercises such as:

  • Hamstring Curls
  • Leg Extensions
  • Calf Raises
  • Lunges
  • Single-Leg RDL’s

So if your end goal is size, don’t feel like you have to squat because you don’t. It can cause lower back issues amongst others and you can train body parts individually.

But you’ll never be as thick or powerful without them. The muscle quality just isn’t the same.

How often should I squat for Bodybuilding?

You never need to squat for bodybuilding. Ronnie Coleman and Arnold Schwarzenegger squatted heavy. Ronnie over 800lbs.

But most bodybuilders don’t squat more than once a week (if at all) in season. The energy demands are high and not ideal for those in a calorie deficit.

Plus the strain on your body increases the injury risk. Ask any bodybuilder if they can perform any forward facing leg dominant pose with a torn quadricep. It’s not worth the increased injury potential if your livelihood depends on it.

This guide to powerlifting vs bodybuilding should help you understand this better.

What type of Squat is right for my goals?

This is a very multi-faceted question and we’ve covered the bodybuilding angle.

But you need to understand what each squat type does so you can decide if it will improve your performance. Some of the most common squats are:

Pause Squats: Increase your power production potential and negate the stretch reflex ‘out of the hole’

Front Squats: A quad dominant form of squat that is more taxing than the back squat

High Bar Squat: Leg dominant form of the back squat that is better for building absolute strength

Low Bar Squat: Better for expressing absolute strength, but incorporates lower back into the lift rather than just leg strength

SSB Squat: Similar to the front squat as it’s quad dominant and forces you to drive your chest up

Slow Eccentric Squats: Used to reinforce positioning throughout each section of the squat. A 5 second descent is basically cardio, but it can help get rid of common issues such as caving in knees

Read this guide high bar vs bar squats to optimise your training program based on your goals.

How often do you squat? Let me know in the comments

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