How do you get stronger in the squat as an advanced lifter?
In this post, I’ll outline an advanced squat program and explain how and why your training should differ from the beginner’s and the intermediate’s.
- Still a beginner? Check out our beginner squat program.
- Still at the intermediate stage? Check out our intermediate squat program.
Before we get into the details of the training program, let’s recap our definitions of what an advanced lifter is.
How To Know if You Are a Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced
There are many ways to classify experience level, but I like the clarity of these definitions from Practical Programming:
- Beginner: Gets significantly stronger from workout to workout.
- Intermediate: Gets significantly stronger from week to week, or bi-weekly.
- Advanced: Gets significantly stronger from month to month, or longer.
By “significantly stronger”, I mean that you can add 2.5 kg (or 5 lb) and do the same number of reps, or use the same weight but do more reps.
For example: If you could squat 100 kg for five reps last week, and can squat 102.5 kg for five reps this week, then you’ve gotten significantly stronger.
- If you’re still getting stronger from workout to workout, then our beginner squat program is right for you.
- If you’re still getting stronger from week to week, our intermediate squat program is the answer.
But what if you don’t?
What if you’ve been training the squat hard and consistently for a while now, and you’re struggling to make progress?
Then it’s probably time for advanced training.
How to Increase Your Squat Strength at the Advanced Level
As a beginner, you could slap on an additional, small weight plate on the barbell almost every workout. Every workout was “heavy” in the sense that you were always progressing and taking one step forward.
When you entered the intermediate stage, you could no longer progress every workout. You started to utilize some manner of periodization, like the wave progression that we use in many of our powerlifting programs, and added medium or light workouts in between every heavy session.
The law of diminishing returns dictates that your gains will generally come the fastest and easiest in the beginning, and the more advanced you get, the more you will have to work for every extra plate on the bar.
Just like you need more training to progress as an intermediate lifter than a beginner, you will need even more training to progress as an advanced lifter. That is why our intermediate squat program has more training volume than the beginner program, and why this program has even more.
The Advanced Squat Program, 2 Days/Week
This training program is nine weeks long, with two workouts per week.
The advanced squat program is written to serve as a complete training cycle, in which you’ll:
- Increase your strength in the barbell squat.
- Build bigger leg muscles.
The advanced squat program is percentage-based, and StrengthLog will calculate your training weights in the squat based on your one-rep max.
This program contains two squat workouts per week:
- Monday: Heavy weight and high volume
- Thursday: Medium weight and medium volume
Here’s an outline of the training week.
Workout 1 (Monday), Heavy
Workout 2 (Thursday), Medium
(Download our workout log app to see % of 1RM, number of sets, and reps.)
Note that the weekdays are only examples. Train on whatever days you feel like, as long as you get two or three rest days in between workouts.
Accessory Exercises in the Advanced Squat Program
Just like the intermediate squat program, the advanced program contains plenty of assistance work. These are intended to aid your muscular development without inducing more fatigue from additional squatting.
This probably won’t make a big difference in the short run. But in the long run, your muscle mass is one of the primary determinants of your squat strength.1
However, if you feel like the squat training is all that you can handle, then skip the accessory exercises. Or at least dial them down a few notches.
The most important part of the entire program is the squat training. The accessory work is just icing on the cake, and it won’t suit everyone. At the advanced stage, individualization is important, and you must adapt every program to suit your needs and capacity.
Also note that we won’t calculate your training weights in the accessory exercises for you in the app. Instead, use a weight that let’s you do the designated number of reps, and try to increase the weight over time.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the accessory lifts.
1. Good Mornings
The key to this exercise is to start out with very light loads and focus on good form. Around 50% of your 1RM in the squat is usually a good starting weight for sets of five.
It can also help to think about pushing your butt back, rather than thinking about leaning forward.
2. Bulgarian Split Squats
The Bulgarian split squat is a great way to get some extra leg training done without loading your spine and lower back as much as many of the other squat variations do.
If you’ve never tried these before, prepare for having to practice your balance for the first few training sessions.
3. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian deadlift is another classic barbell exercise for working your posterior chain: your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.
Like the good morning exercise, the key to proper form in the Romanian deadlift is to think “butt back” rather than leaning forward.
Don’t hesitate to use lifting straps in this exercise to enable better focus on your posterior chain muscles instead of your grip.
This is another exercise where it really pays off to prioritize technique over weight.
4. Leg Extension
Finally, an isolation exercise for one of the most important muscle groups for squatting: your quadriceps.
One of the most common weak points in the squat is your knee extensors, and this exercise (and the Bulgarian split squat) will help increase your strength there.
In contrast to many other lower body exercises where you extend your hip and knee simultaneously, the leg extension only has a knee extension element. This has the benefit of training your rectus femoris (one of the four quadriceps muscles), which doesn’t get worked to the same extent as the other quadriceps muscles in exercises like the squat.
Read More: Squats vs. Leg Extensions For Quad Growth
Doing a few sets of leg extensions is a great way to add some meat to your quads, without incurring heavy strain.
Use fairly light weights and focus on squeezing your quadriceps.
5. Seated Leg Curl
Finally, the seated leg curl works your hamstrings. While the hamstrings aren’t prime movers in the squat, it is probably a good idea to keep some degree of muscle balance across your knee joint.
Additionally, one of the purposes of this program is to grow your leg muscles, so some direct hamstrings work is warranted.
Read More: Do Squats Work Your Hamstrings?
When You Reach The End of The Advanced Squat Program
This program ends with a short peaking phase and a PR attempt in week nine. If you gained strength on this program and believe you could gain more from another cycle, I suggest you take a deload week with only light training before starting another cycle.
Enter your new 1RM or bump up your entered 1RM by 5–10 kg (10–20 lb) to get slightly heavier training weights your next time around.
What About Upper Body Training?
This workout routine only covers lower body training.
Alternatively, you could check out our list of training programs and see if you find something you want to combine this squat program with.
Just remember: you’re doing a squat specialization program, and that will require your focus and priority for you to be successful with it.
Follow This Program
Want to give our advanced squat program a go?
It’s available exclusively in our workout tracker app StrengthLog.
While this program requires a premium subscription, StrengthLog itself is entirely free. You can download it and use it as a workout tracker and general strength training app – and all basic functionality is free forever.
It even has a bunch of free programs and workouts. However, our more advanced programs (such as this one) are for premium users only.
Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.
Download StrengthLog for free with the buttons below:
Good luck with your training!