In the first series of this article, I laid out the basic template. The recipe if you will. Now, it’s time to discuss the ingredients and their respective roles. The first lift is of course, the squat. For the lifts, in Part 2 of the series, I plan to be very specific on how to program the cycle and micro cycle. It’s a peaking phase. This was something that eventually evolved into what it is now while spending time working under Landon Evans. The trick isn’t necessarily to just train, but train with a purpose within each micro/macro cycle.

For starters, the cycle should focus on two issues: weakness and correction. You can either implement both into a micro cycle, or have one be the emphasis in EACH micro cycle (I usually have three micro cyclws in one full meet cycle).  For me it’s typically corrective, weakness then competitive.

For example, let’s say your weakness is top-end and correction is depth.

Example #1

Both in one micro cycle

Week 1-3 Primary Secondary
Day 1 Depth squats Reverse Band squats
Day 2 Speed bench floor press
Day 3 Block Deadlifts Speed pulls
Day 4 Shirted bench reverse band bench

*Depth squats help get used to the pressure and also the feeling of being in the “hole.”

**Reverse Bands help immensely with top end strength.

Example #2

One per micro cycle

Week 1-3 Primary Secondary
Day 1 Band Squats add chains
Day 2 Speed Bench floor press
Day 3 Block Deadlifts Speed pulls
Day 4 Shirted Bench reverse band bench
Week 4-6 primary Secondary
Day 1 Depth Squats 12” box squats
Day 2 2 board bench 4 board CG Bench
Day 3 Floor Deadlifts Block pulls
Day 4 Floor Press shirted rep work

As you can see, the first example is utilizing “depth squats” as a primary movement and reverse band squats for top-end work as a secondary.

In the second example, each mini cycle exclusively focuses on one issue.

Just to clear an exercise up, I know depth squats sounds generic for a title. It’s simply what I have deemed it. The protocol is simple; it’s learning to withstand the pressure and to get used to the position. Basically, you work up until you hit depth, and try to exaggerate it. Hit below what YOU would consider GOOD/LEGAL. This is accomplished by working up in singles, push to get low, the lighter the weight you can do, the better. Once you reach that depth, reduce by 5% and double it shooting for below depth. If you can get down, drop the weight another 5% and double that. If you can accomplish depth with that weight, drop another 5% and again double – perform 3 sets of drop sets per session. If you cannot reach it with any of the three sets, stay with that challenging weight for all three.

For example:

900lb max squat

  • Warm up raw
  • Briefs on for one set
  • Suit on (straps down)
  • 505lbs x 1 (no depth)
  • 595lbs x 1 (no depth)
  • 630lbs x 1 (no depth) 70%
  • 675lbs x 1 (no depth) 75%
  • 720lbs x 1 (no depth) 80%
  • 765lbs x 1 (depth) 85%
  • 725lbs x 2 (depth) 95% of previous set
  • 690lbs x 2 (no depth) 95% of previous set
  • 690lbs x 2 (depth)

You’re basically getting used to depth with lighter weight, this increases the pressure and discomfort, but the weight is light enough to allow confidence in working it down. Perform this protocol correctly and for sufficient enough time. Once you get to the 90% and above weights, you literally get to good depth with “comfort” and you feel much more explosive on the concentric. The point is to FEEL the weight in that bottom position, A LOT. Develop habit and comfort by repetition.

Back to the template, let us now cover a starter routine, someone unfamiliar with his/her weaknesses/issues. Basically, you want to emphasize all the necessary KEYS to squatting big. So strong glutes, hams, hips and improving the strengths needed to maximize gear.

  1. Utilize a box to develop the activation of the glutes and hams by learning to sit back.
  2. Use accommodating/lightening resistance/method to improve speed, driving power and top end strength.

*If you are a raw lifter, I would still use the box, but I would use it LESS. It would benefit you more to free squat and improve the low-end strength since no support is being provided.

Here is an example of what we plan to run for our next multi-ply competition:

We are opting to use the cambered bar, as recently we have had issues with stability. I have noticed chain weight with the cambered bar makes it tougher than the band; the band removes the swinging motion too much, with the pull towards the floor. More so, than just hanging weight.

  1. redraw
  2. greenbriefs
  3. purplesuited
Week Squats sets reps variation resistance Tools
1 70% 4 4 Cambered Chain Box
2 75% 4 4 Straight Bands
3 80% 4 4 Straight Bands Box
4 80% 4 3 Cambered Chain Box
5 85% 3 2 Straight Bands
6 90% 3 2 Cambered Chains Box
7 100% 1 1 Straight
8 95% 1 1 Straight
9 55% 3 2 Straight

*I do not use the SSB with gear or hardly at all, but if you find it to be helpful you can easily substitute it for the cambered.

*Also, we plan to work up to a heavy double or single before the rep work. The rep range is dependent on how we feel, if we feel strong then double, weak then keep it simple and do singles etc…if you do this, lower the sets by 50%.

As you can see, the intensity on the first micro cycle is average, but the volume is very high. The purpose being high CNS stimulus and recruitment, but also high repetition for the purpose of practicing technique. It will not only force you to grind, but it will teach you to hammer out technique in order to complete the set and rep demand.

I outlined the exercise set up in the first article. This chart demonstrates the primary movements workload/intensity. For the secondary movement, for the basic template, you can either incorporate hanging chains, reverse bands or speed squats.

If you choose hanging chains, perform this with the chains floating. They do not touch the floor, this is to assist with stability.

If you opt for reverse bands, start with 30-50 pounds above your last set and use either a light or average band. If you squat less than 700 use a light band, if you squat more, use the average. Work up every set for a minimum of two and maximum of four.

Now, for speed squats, we just recently began using this method again. Speed squats not only helped us in the past working on depth, but it also taught us to really punch at the bottom. For us, we perform our speed squats on a low box and sometimes use foam with the box at the lowest setting. We drop the weight being used in half and hammer out 4-6 sets of 2 reps. It works great and the weight feels light. The emphasis being a nice controlled descend and when sitting back all the way on the box, fire hard to the top.

As you can see, the focus with my squat cycles are to improve the skill. Strength comes from the volume. With high volume, you do two things. Practice the technique and force CNS recruitment from fatigue.

For the different exercise combinations, I could go on and on about all the different options for the micro cycles, but there is enough material out there to cover that. What I wanted for everyone to see is what we have been doing in our gym. The things that I have been doing, my exact system and exact protocols that have helped me. And that’s not because I’m full of myself, but simply because when I look at other protocols/ideas, I’m more interested in seeing what THEY are doing. What I look for is exactly what I want to provide.

In conclusion, I’m hoping this provides a clear picture of the squat in “How to Caslow Your Own Program.” Sometimes, we forget that training correctly delivers so much more in terms of performance instead of just putting gear on and lifting. In my family, professional and personal life, I am always working on creating methodical approaches to my end result. Goals, plans, and ideas are all part of the medicine for success.

Rick Hussey once told me “When you’re not scared of the weight, you’ll always be in control.”

Take your time, work hard and use this system to conquer the weight.