How much should I Back Squat? That is one of the most persistent questions I have heard over the last years.
While it is definitely a good idea to have guidelines and benchmarks on how much you should Back Squat, the answer to this question isn’t that easy.
This article and video answers the questions:
- how much should you Back Squat
- the number of Back Squat sessions a week
- sets, reps and loading parameter
How many Back Squat sessions should I do in a week?
Olympic Weightlifters squat every day, or better they squat multiple times a day, usually combinations of Back Squats and Front Squats. This has led to the popular squat every day program, which entertains the idea of squatting every day for more strength gains.
While for Olympic Weightlifters, their job is to lift the weight of the ground, because it is their competition, for most athletes lifting weights is a means to an end of becoming better in their dedicated sport. If we would now prescribe squatting every day, we would have to make sacrifices in other areas. Strictly speaking, we have to replace other training by strength training workouts focused around squatting. For most sports that would not be the right strategy, since the sacrifices in other areas or replacing other training would come to the detriment of their sporting performances.
While the question would still stand out, whether squatting every day would lead to the greatest adaptations?
For most athletes and people who strength train ambitiously a frequency of 3 sessions per week is sufficient, if done correctly.
So, what means done correctly?
If you have read articles from me before, you know I believe technical mastery comes first. The first step in training correctly and using the Back Squat as an example is to learn and master the Back Squat technique.
Once the Back Squat technique is mastered, you need to have a well-designed program for a minimum of 6 – 8 weeks. The more advanced the athletes are, the shorter the program can be since they have a solid base to start off. A well-designed program includes changes in training intensity and training volume, typically training intensity increases over time, while training volume decreases.
If you chose to squat 3 times per week, as we do, you can think about changing the exercises throughout the week. You can certainly do 3 times a week Back Squats, but you can also do Back Squats on day 1, a single leg variation on day 2 and Front Squats on day 3. There are different exercises to choose from and all of those have their place in training, depending on the training goal and desired training outcome.
How many sets and reps should I do in the Back Squat?
One of the big advantages of the Back Squat is that it’s what I call a ‘robust exercise’, which means you can use it through a wide variety of repetition schemes from 1 repetition up to multiple repetitions, 15, 20, 30 or more if you desire to. As opposed to the Front Squat or Overhead Squat, which are squatting variations that just make higher repetitions more difficult. I have written about the difficulties of higher repetition for the Front Squat and Overhead Squat here
- What Do Front Squats Develop and Why You Need To Do Them
- 9 Benefits of the Overhead Squat and counting…
Therefore the Back Squat is an exercise you can use for all different training goals.
You can use the Back Squat to
- improve Maximum Strength, working with intensities above 85% 1RM for 1 – 3 reps
- improve Power, working with a wide variety of intensities between 0 – 70% 1RM for 2 – 6 reps (if you are wondering why there is such a wide variety of intensities, I have explained that in this article The Importance Weight Training Has On Power )
- improve Strength Endurance, working with intensities below 60% 1RM for 15 or more reps (Strength Endurance comes in different forms, very similar to Power with different training intensity zones and repetition schemes, which will be a topic of a future article)
- to get bigger, working with intensities of 80 – 85% 1RM for 4 – 6 reps for functional hypertrophy (or myofibrillar hypertrophy / growth) or 65 – 80% 1RM for 6 – 12 reps for non-functional hypertrophy (or sarcoplasmic hypertrophy / growth)
How much should I Back Squat for my body weight?
The answer to this question requires a more sophisticated approach, looking at gender, training background and level of the athlete. I have written a complete overview of Back Squat in relation to bodyweight for ambitiously training people and athletes in The Fundamentals of the Back Squat