Editor's Note: It's hard to believe, but this squat cycle is now five years old. Matt Wenning hasn't competed in full gear in quite some time, opting instead to make a splash in the raw powerlifting realm, but this gem reminds us of how incredible of an equipped lifter he truly is. Let's revisit his methods and the training cycle that once built him a world record total and incredible 1085-pound squat.

Here at Team Extreme, we’ve broken three world records and many personal records in the past year. Our guys all follow similar workouts. Chuck Vogelphol has the squat world record of 1140 at 242 pounds, my former world record of 2665 (with a 1085 squat) and a 1100 squat, and Chuck Foughts, former world record total with a 1080 squat. We now have Mike Brown, a 1074 squatter. To my knowledge, we have more squatters that can do close to 1100 pounds in the past year than any other gym in the world!


There are ways we accomplish this. First, we don’t always use a box to squat on. Boxes are great for training, but people often use them too much or incorrectly. Ever notice that lifters who use boxes constantly have a tough time at the bottom of a squat? They fumble with either their depth or balance. Second, a box squat shouldn’t be a relaxed state when the glutes and hamstrings hit it. If you’re squatting in a meet and you relax these muscles while lifting - God help you! Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t use boxes. We’re just constantly changing how we use them by adjusting the height, type and other variables. Peaking at the proper time is also a huge factor in meet success. To get stronger, we must lift heavier loads, but at what point? And when is it too much? When I was first introduced to circa max training for squats, my lift did nothing but rise. However, after five years of this, squatting started to become stronger in the circa max (with heavy bands) than what showed at the meet. We’re now experimenting with stability, circa max, box squatting and free squatting in variable orders to drastically improve our meet results. Just remember that you can have all the ideas in the world, but all that matters is the meet numbers. Don’t be a gym lifter with your biggest lifts during nonplatform situations.


Another big issue is gear. Gear has changed our sport forever, whether you believe it to be good or bad, it’s probably here to stay. We have many phases through the year where gear is phased out and more muscle work is phased in. This helps give us a mental break from heavy weights, while still building muscles and staying in shape. Training in gear year-round will never get you better and often times you’ll become hurt. People that train raw all the time never get used to heavy loads, and have problems with the execution of lifts at meets. So, a happy medium must be employed. Please note, that you should have all of the gear (suit, briefs, training briefs, bench shirt, etc.) that you plan to use for the meet. It should always be available to you while training. Too many lifters change gear too close to a competition with little or no experience in the suit or equipment. DON’T EVER DO THIS! With all of the above considered, here’s an example.

Squat cycle: Heavy day only

15+ Weeks

Almost all of your training should be done raw. You’d be surprised to notice how much bigger and stronger your legs, chest and hips will become. Training raw allows the muscles to get all of the work, therefore grow. Adding the gear after this point will allow constant progress in your strength gains.

15 Weeks or Closer

Your training should include a belt and briefs. Start to phase in your squat suit and wear knee wraps occasionally. These numbers are based on a 1000-pound squatter for the simplicity of the math, but it will still work for any squat level if percentages are followed correctly.

Week 15 Technique

After warm-ups: 6 x 2 with 35% weight and 35% band tension. For example: a 1000 pound squatter would use 350 pounds and 350 pounds of bands off a slightly below parallel box. Briefs and belt only.

Week 14 Stability

After warm-ups: 8 x 2 with 40% weight and 20% chains The chains will be fully suspended. This means that chains are on the bar, but never touch the ground. Training briefs and belt only. No box.

Week 13 Strength: Perfection of setup

After warm-ups, work up to a heavy double with 50 percent band tension on the bar. Try to achieve 6 - 8 sets. For example, a 1000 pound squatter would use 500 pounds of band tension and perform off of a parallel box: 135 x 2 225 x 2 250 x 2 275 x 2 315 x 2 350 x 2 405 x 2 Competition briefs and belt only.

Week 12 Unload: Utilized to keep overtraining to a minimum

Warm-up to 50 percent of real weight. Use two chains if you squat 500 pounds or less, three chains if you squat between 501 - 800 pounds and four chains if you squat over 800 pounds. Then, include 8 sets of 2 reps at 50 percent of your one rep max plus a chain on a slightly below parallel box. Training briefs and belt.

Week 11

After warm-ups, work up to 70 percent of max when you are in full gear. Use light wraps and don’t use a box, so that you can focus on form. You may not break parallel, but the goal is to set up and balance without a box.

Week 10 Hyp/Technique

After warm-ups, work up to 60 percent of real weight and use two chains if your one-rep max squat is 500 pounds or less, three chains if it is 501 - 800 pounds, or four chains if it is 800 pounds or more. Perform six sets of these for two reps each, then do two heavier sets by adding 10 percent of the weight to each set for one rep using a slightly below parallel box. Training briefs and belt.

Week 9 Stability

After warm-ups, use 40 percent of real weight and 25 percent of it as suspended chains. NO box training briefs and belt.

Week 8 Weakness: Sticking point training

If you’ve been lifting/competing you should know where your sticking points are in the squat. You’ll need to set chains or straps that hold the bar from going down any further and gauge your sticking point (usually one to two inches above parallel, and for some at the bottom). Then, work up to a paused max. Rest the bar in the chain for two seconds. Use real weight only, and remember to pause. This will help strengthen your weakest point. Do all singles and work up to a one rep max. Competition briefs and belt only.

Week 7 Weakness: Training volume

Choose either a safety bar or cambered bar squats for your work on this day. Saftey bar - If you notice your upper back is rounding while squatting. Cambered bar - If you notice your balance and stomach tightness is an issue. Use a box that is one inch below your parallel. After warm-ups - complete 8 sets of 2 reps with 40% on sets 1 - 4. Then, 50% on set 5, 60% on set 6 and 70% on sets 7 - 8. These percentages should be based on a brief and belt max. Training briefs and belt.

Week 6 Meet Specific

This requires full gear, no box, and you’ll work up to your opener using full depth and commands starting at 70 percent. For example: a 1000 pound squatter starts with a 315 warm-up. Then, they put their briefs and belt on and warm-up to 500. Suit bottoms are added as they warm-up to 700 and then put their straps up. From there, they will go up to 750 x 1 with full gear. 800 x 1 full gear and commands, then 850 full gear and commands then 900 (opener) or so full commands.

Week 5 Unload

After warm-ups Use 50 percent of real weight and 25 percent band weight for 4 x 2 on a parallel box. Briefs and belt only.

Week 4 Circa Max: Slightly Below Parallel Box

Use 40 percent band weight and warm-up slowly. Competition briefs and belt. After warm-ups: 4 x 2 with 35 - 45% 1 x 1 with 48% 1 x 1 with 50% These percentages are the real weight on the bar.

Week 3 Circa Max: Slightly Below Parallel Box

Use 40 percent band weight and warm-up slowly using singles. Competition briefs, suit bottoms and belt. After warm-ups: 30% x 1 40% x 1 48% x 1 52% x 1 57% x 1 60-62% x 1 *These percentages are the real weight on the bar.

Week 2 Download

Work up to 60 percent in full gear, but no wraps. Don’t forget to really work on your technique. MEET Matt Wenning answers questions from elitefts lifters about his squat training and cycle.