Legends of Pittsburgh Fitness and Performance Center

1-2-3 SQUAT! Program

Article by owner, Stefan Lundberg 
If you’re like me, you like squatting heavy and often. Sometimes anything 5 reps or more just feels like cardio. So how about less reps, more weight, and more power? Enter the 3-2-1 SQUAT program.
I designed this program myself with one thing in mind—to move more weight. The volume is somewhat high when considering the percentages of your 1RM that you are working in, but with proper implementation and recovery, you’ll be hitting a new PR in no time (or 5 weeks to be exact).
Here’s the breakdown of the program: (and note, we squatted every Tuesday and Saturday which means we had ample rest time between squat days).
Day 1: 10×1 at 90%
Day 2: 5×2 at 90%
Day 3: 3×3 at 90%
Day 4: 8×1 at 92.5%
Day 5: 3×2 at 92.5%
Day 6: 2×3 at 92.5%
Day 7: 5×1 at 95%
Day 8: 2×2 at 95%
Day 9: 1×3 at 95%
Rest 3-5 days then try for a new max!
A couple notes from my experience—because you are working at such a high percentage of your max, there are some days when you just might not have “it” in you to perform at that level. This program is taxing on your nervous system, but you won’t overtrain if you are smart about it. For example, on day 7 I was supposed to hit 5 singles at 95%. I hit 2 of them and failed 2 more times. I was upset, but knew I just wasn’t in the right mindset. Later that night I went back to the squat rack and tried again. Boom. 4 singles that were much prettier than the two earlier that day. There’s nothing wrong with taking an extra day when necessary or splitting up the sets like I did. It’s all about getting the volume in. It will pay off.
After the first cycle of this program, I hit a 20lb PR and joined the 400# club with a 405# squat. Not bad for 5 weeks time. I’m excited to re-work my percentages and go through the cycle again.
Sidenotes: Starting at 90% is no joke. If you haven’t been squatting very heavy recently then you have two options: start at a lower percentage like 80 or 85% and then don’t decrease the volume until you hit 92.5% like the cycle says. Or the other option is to use a relative max or training max to work from instead of the PR you hit 3 years ago on the smith machine at school.
This is an advanced program, so beginners tread lightly. If that’s the case I recommend trying a simple 5×5 progression like Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength or Wendler’s 5-3-1 program. We did a variation of the 5×5 routine with something called madcow and saw good results from it. After that try the Daily Squat Cure from t-nation.com. And after all of that’s over, it’s time to 3-2-1 SQUAT
Train like a legend!

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