by Tim Henriques T-Nation
Here's what you need to know...
• High frequency training can deliver fast results, if you set up the program correctly.
• Squatting 5 days a week is possible, provided you periodize and scale back the rest of your lower body training.
• Including some biceps work with a high frequency squat routine can relieve squatting-related shoulder problems.
High Frequency Training: Pros and Cons
If you've experimented with high frequency training, you've probably made the following conclusions after a cycle:
- High frequency can deliver results really fast if you get the programming right.
- Getting the programming right isn't easy, especially with multiple lifters on a similar program.
- Chronic overuse injuries typically appear after 6-10 weeks.
- If the primary work is intense, you must back off on the assistance work.
- If you back off too long on the assistance work, weak points develop.
- Some exercises respond better to high frequency than others.
Considering the above, here's a program designed to get rapid results while minimizing the negatives that can occur with high frequency training.
Don't worry, this program isn't just something I dreamed up. My teammates and I battle-tested it with the squat for 8 weeks. I had nine lifters follow it and we achieved 23 out of 29 attempts on the squat, and every lifter set a lifetime PR.
- Squat five times a week. We squatted Monday through Friday.
- Perform just one work set per workout, preceded by several warm-up sets.
- Start light.
- Each day's workout will use heavier weights than used the previous week.
- Perform the workouts in the order presented.
First we need to establish the number on which you're going to base your percentages. For this plan, I want you to estimate what you'd like your squat max to be two or three months from now. What's a solid weight you'd like to hit by then?
This number needs to be based in reality. As a rule, don't make your goal more than 10% above what your current squat is.
So if your best squat after four years of training is 420 pounds, don't assume you'll be squatting 520 two months from now; 450 would make more sense. We'll use this figure in the example below.
Listed below is the daily plan along with the percentages. These percentages are based off a goal max, so they might seem low to start off. That's okay – one of the key points is to start light.
Notice that each day of the week has a different workout. That's because you shouldn't repeat the exact same thing when training high frequency.
Note: You shouldn't get sore from these workouts, particularly in the first few weeks. And in the first month you shouldn't even think about failing on a rep.
Monday, Workout 1: Squat: warm-up, then work up to a triple at 70%
Example: 135 x 5, 185 x 3, 225 x 1, 255 x 1, 285 x 1, 315 x 3 (work set).
Tuesday, Workout 2: Squat: warm-up, then work up to a single at 80%
Example: 135 x 5, 185 x 3, 235 x 1, 275 x 1, 315 x 1, 360 x 1 (work set).
Wednesday, Workout 3: Squat: warm-up, then work up to one set of 5 at 60%
Example: 135 x 5, 185 x 3, 215 x 1, 245 x 1, 270 x 5 (work set).
Thursday, Workout 4: Box Squat: warm-up, then work up to a single at 82.5%
Example: 135 x 5, 185 x 3, 235 x 1, 285 x 1, 315 x 1, 345 x 1, 370 x 1 (work set).
Friday, Workout 5: Negative Partial Squat: warm-up, then work up to a single at 85%
Example: 135 x 5, 205 x 3, 275 x 1, begin partials – 315 x 1, 355 x 1, 385 x 1 (work set).
The form you use on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday workouts should be a normal, slightly-below parallel competition squat.
For the Thursday box squat, set the box to just above parallel. A 15-18-inch box works well for most lifters.
Box squat form is specific: squat down, gently sit on the box, lean back slightly (so you're more vertical at the bottom), lean forward slightly, and then explode up. This form has the best transfer to a raw squatter.
The goal as you come off the box is to be in your natural squat position.
For the negative partial squat, descend slowly while counting to five in your head. At no point in the descent should you lose control or feel like you couldn't stop the weight. When you hit five, come back up.
The bottom of the partial squat should be no deeper than an honest three-quarter squat, and if it's just a half-squat that's okay, too.
The goal for the partial squat is to get used to heavier weight while using the same form on the descent as you would a full squat. Many powerlifters knock partial squats – and if that's all one does, rightfully so – but a partial squat is a useful part of a complete squatting routine.
It's also a superb diagnostic tool. A partial squat should be noticeably easier than a full squat. If this isn't the case, then you have a weakness somewhere that should be addressed.
The next week you're simply going to repeat the first week, except that you'll be incorporating progressive overload. Add about 2% to each workout – 5-15 pounds for most – and continue.
If it was easy, fine. The first week wasn't supposed to be killer. Don't hesitate to use micro plates – 7.5 or 12.5 pound jumps can work out well in the long run.
As you progress in weight, try to keep approximately the same weight ratio between the workouts. Workout 5 is the heaviest, workout 4 is the next heaviest, followed by workout 2 and workout 1. Workout 3 is the lightest. That should stay consistent throughout the program.
So if our 420-pound squatter lifter goes up 10 pounds a week on every exercise for 8 weeks, on the last week he's squatting 430 for 1, box squatting 440 for 1, and performing a negative partial with 455.
If he was successful, he might go 435 on his second attempt at a meet and 450-455 on his third attempt, and he should be fully prepped for that weight.
Other Exercises, Isolation Work, Biceps Curls, and Warm-Ups
I would not perform any other compound leg exercises in this cycle. You're squatting five times a week. That's a lot. You can perform deadlifts if you want, which is what we did as we were prepping for a meet. We did deadlifts on Tuesday and Thursday – one day heavy (Tuesday) and one light (Thursday).
You can perform isolation exercises, too, if you feel you need some weak point work, provided they don't hinder recovery. Things like leg curls, glute-ham raises, hyperextensions, reverse hypers, and hip thrusts are okay, but start light. The goal is to not get sore from them. Remember, you're squatting the next day! Skip the leg presses, front squats, or any other tough compound leg exercise.
Most lifters reported some pain in their shoulders and biceps with squatting this frequently, as low bar squats put a lot of stress on those areas. It generally started about the third week.
However, everybody reported less pain when curls were included, and most did curls twice a week. We generally did Tim's Curls (yes, named after me) which is 8 reps of supinated dumbbell curls immediately followed by 8 reps of hammer curls with the same weight. Do 3 sets total.
These curls don't have to be heavy. Some of our stronger guys were using 15-25 pound dumbbells on the curls. The point is just to get some blood in there.
Finally, don't spend forever warming up for your squats. From the minute we began the warm-up – which usually started with some quick foam rolling – we'd usually be finished with our last set of squats at or before the 30-minute mark. We could then spend the next 30-60 minutes training upper body or deadlifts.
Before You Start
This program isn't for everybody. You should meet the following standards before embarking on this plan:
- Be familiar with squats. Squat at least 1.5 x bodyweight with good form (1 x bodyweight for women.)
- Squat with good form. If you have bad knees or you squat with a lot of compensations, then squatting with lousy form five times a week isn't going to do you any good.
- Squat twice a week for two months to prep yourself. If you're only squatting once a week, jumping into a program like this might be a problem. Remember, recovery ability is trainable, so prep the body for the onslaught by squatting twice a week. That's what we did and it seemed to work well.
One of my lifters that used this plan was able to squat well over twice bodyweight at 165 pounds. Not a bad squat for a dude – but she wasn't a dude! She was also able to set the Open Federation record for 100% Raw at 165. Here's the video:
Get Your Squat On
Are you up for the challenge of squatting your brains out? It may sound crazy, but to achieve revolutionary results you need to follow a revolutionary plan, and doing 40 squat workouts in 8 weeks fits the description.