Build A Bigger Squat: 8 Week Periodized Workout Plan

Steve Shaw
Written By: Steve Shaw
October 3rd, 2013
Updated: January 22nd, 2018
Categories: Workouts Leg Workouts
93.4K Reads
This program is designed to help strength athletes add 10-30 lbs to their squats over an 8 week period. Each week lifters alternate between rep work and heavy sets.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

This is an intermediate squat program for lifters who are squatting anout 275 pounds or more for reps. It incorporates the following components:

  1. Rep Work - For general conditioning, form work, and to help maintain or build additional leg size.
  2. Undulating Periodization - Training will become progressively more intense as the weeks pass, but you will alternate between light weeks and heavier weeks.
  3. Peaking - At the end of 8 weeks you should feel strong and ready to make a run at a new PR attempt.

For some of you, straight linear periodization will make squat weaknesses grow slightly weaker. This was the case for me. If I wasn't training above 80% on the squat frequently I noticed that my hamstrings would start to pick up strains when I moved back to heaver weights. This was a sign that something was broken.

I've spent the last 30 months training with heavy squats multiple times per week. While this has been beneficial in many ways, I noticed two major downsides:

  1. Loss of conditioning. Having no rep work in my program made me a slave to a limited number of sets. If I wanted to do more, it was extremely difficult. In addition, my overall health and fitness levels deteriorated. This was not good for long term strength gains.
  2. Decrease in muscle size. I was losing leg size. This issue is not one of vanity, but rather optimization. The loss of leg size can only contribute to the slowing of strength gains. While this slowing might appear to be a trivial percentage to some, when you're chasing big numbers every pound counts. There is no downside to having more muscle mass when you're chasing strength.

This program is designed to give you the best of both worlds: rep work for size and conditioning, and consistent heavy work to improve confidence under the bar and assist with maintaining and building strength.

Week 9 can either be used as a rest/deload week if you prefer.

Please also note that the sample training split listed below can be modifeid to fit within your current program.

8 Week Squat Periodization

  • Monday - Squat Day
  • Tuesday - Bench Day (Heavy bench, triceps, back work, etc.)
  • Thursday - Deadlift Day (Deadlifts, hamstrings, quads, etc.)
  • Friday - Overhead Press Day (Moderate bench or close grip bench, triceps, back, etc.)

Use the following set and rep scheme for the next 8 weeks. Base the percentages off of your current one rep max plus an additional 20 pounds. This isn't to say you can't add more than 20 pounds to your squat during an 8 week period, but a 20 pound addition over the course of 2 months is very good progress for an intermediate lifter.

Even a 10 pound bump every 8 to 9 weeks is solid progress. So aim for 20, hope for 30, be satisfied for a minimum of 10 pounds.

Squat Cycle
8 Week Periodization
Week Percentage Sets Reps
Week 1 65% 4 10
Week 2 80% 7 3
Week 3 70% 5 7
Week 4 85% 5 2
Week 5 75% 6 5
Week 6 90% 3 1
Week 7 80% 7 3
Week 8 95%, 100% 1, 1 1, 1

Week 8 Notes. During week 8 perform a 95% single. This should be in the ballpark of your old one rep max. If it feels manageable or rather easy, go for the 100% single.

If the 95% single is an absolute grinder, add 5 to 10 pounds to the bar and try one more rep. 

If your 100% single was easy, add another 10 pounds (no more) to the bar and try another single.

Sample Squat Day Workout

Squat Day
Sample Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press, Hack Squats or Lunges 3-4 Varies
Romanian Deadlifts 3 5-8
Leg Curls 4 10
Glute Ham Raise 3-4 6-10
Ab Wheel or Barbell Rollouts 3-4 10
Jesse Botella
Posted on: Thu, 11/21/2019 - 18:07

Currently using this same plan for the 3 other main lifts—has anyone else tried doing this yet?

Posted on: Thu, 09/08/2016 - 12:25

I gained 5kg on my squat with this program taking it up to 215kg or 475 lbs at 85kg bodyweight. I failed week 1 last time and today. I suck at reps over 8. But I have done 145kg 3x10 beltless before but that was when I trained high reps an volume all the time but really struggle on week 1

Matt Steinruck
Posted on: Sat, 10/25/2014 - 16:20

How about a sample plan for everything else to go with the squats ?

Posted on: Sat, 04/12/2014 - 15:32

Can I use this block for Bench press insted of squat?

Posted on: Thu, 03/08/2018 - 04:38

Can be applied this method to bench press?

Posted on: Thu, 02/20/2014 - 17:25

Very good programming. My squat went up from 165 kg to 180 kg. Assistance exercises are too much in my opinion. I did only leg presses, lots of glute ham raises (50-75 reps) and lots of ab work (100reps). Total workout length: less than an hour. To the prescribed weigth I added 5-10 pounds.

Andrew Conte
Posted on: Sun, 10/27/2013 - 21:23

Can I use these parameters for all 3 main lifts during this cycle?

Posted on: Wed, 10/09/2013 - 15:28

Hi Steve, so im wondering if them set/rep scheme would work for other workouts such as bench press or deadlifts or overhead presses, and so on. Thanks

Posted on: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 21:48

Hi Steve- I'm currently making good progress on a 5x5 program that has me squatting 3x a week. Do you think I need to add in some higher rep days in order to maintain size and endurance?

Posted on: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 01:31

For Leg Press what are your recommended reps?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 23:28

I prefer 15 to 20 per set. Really anything above 8 will be fine.