My baseline squat training begins with 60% of my guesstimated max AT THAT TIME. Its a guess because I go through periods where I dont back squat at all for months at a time, either because of injury, burnout, or different focus (usually as a result of burnout). So I guess my max then figure out 60% of that and perform 5 sets of 5 reps without a belt, and below parallel. Thats « the plan » but honestly I just use 420 (4 plates on a squat bar) because thats 60% of 700 and Im pretty confident I can squat 700 any day of the week regardless of how long ive been without training.
I try to perform these quickly with little rest between sets. Depending on my current level of conditioning, it may take 25 minutes (no more) or as little 15 minutes. I do not increase the weight from that number until i can get 5 sets of 5 in 15 minutes, with every rep at least as fast and powerful as the first. I primarily use the principle of Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT)for the majority of my training. That is, I lift 60% with the same force production required to lift 100% or 60% of max lifted with 100% effort. I want my last rep to be my best and fastest. The purpose of this is to get reconditioned, perfect my technique and build confidence in the lift. This period lasts anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, but in no event less than 4 weeks. Generally, I can guesstimate my max based on my bar speed and power output with 420 pounds. When Im confident my squat is back up to near my previos best Ill begin increasing the resistance.
I really dont have a set way of increasing resistance. There are a few approaches I take just depending on how I feel at that point, but generally, I dont like to go very heavy very often so I try to avoid adding actual weight to the bar as long as possible. So my next wave period may be to keep the same bar weight and set/reps but add bands to the bar. I personally use green bands and keep just a little tension in the bottom- i have no idea what that added resistance amounts to, i just use it and it seems to work. So I may spend 2-4 weeks using the same 60% weight (420) plus green bands for 5×5, no belt, below parallel, and still trying to complete all reps as fast or faster than the first using CAT in under 25 minutes.
After this period I will either remove the band and start adding weight to the bar for each set so that my first set is with 60% and my last set is with about 70%. As a raw squatter I must gradually load the bottom portion of the squat because there is little need for major overload training of the top end. For these sets I simply add 20lbs per set after the first- 70lbs is 10% for me, and 80 is easy math so i just do that. Your jumps should be smaller. Take 10% of your max and divide by 4 and make the math easy, no need to be precise. For me, this wave will go 5 sets of 5 reps going 420/440/460/480/500. I will follow this for 2-3 weeks then use the same weights plus the green bands for 2-3 weeks.
At this point Ive got between 10 and 18 weeks of foundation training under my belt. I may do 1 of 2 things here, either take a rep max or start a new wave. It really just depends on how i feel and what i have coming up. I like to use rep maxes rather than heavy singles because its less taxing on me and because its less intimidating. COnfidence is key in this sport, as with pretty much anything else in life. Im a lot more confident with a 5 rep max for a new PR than a 1 rep for a new PR. I usehttp://www.joeskopec.com/repmax.html to calculate my rep maxes and they are always spot on for 8 reps or less for me. Then I know that whatever that rep converts to I can hit for a max single. If I do this, I reset my 60% based on the new max and start over but spend only 2 weeks in each phase as long as the weights are still flying.
If I start a new wave, which I am likely to do because, as I said, I avoid they heavy stuff as long as possible, then I take the next 3 weeks and wave 60% for 5×5 the first week, 70% 3×5 (plus a set at 60%x5 on the way up) on the second week, and then 80% for 5x3reps (with 60% and 70% both done for 5 on the way up. Remember all these sets are done with CAT- 100% effrot on every single rep- all should be fast and explosive, no grinders. If you are grinding at all or slowing down then you tried to progress too fast. I do add a belt for 80%, but nothing less than that.
The fourth week ill rest, then take then finally take the rep max or repeat one more time before the rep max. I prefer this way because I like to do my rep max with about 80% and I like to feel it on my back a time or two before I have to max out my reps with it. Again, its a confidence thing. After all those weeks crushing weights confidence is pretty high. Ive performed hundreds of explosive powerful reps and not one single miss or grinder any where. By the time i get ready to max im ready to test the limits. Once I test, I reset my max and either begin again or change things up to add some variety- maybe a few weeks of chained singles the last 4 weeks before a meet.
Accessory and Supplemental work–
I really feel i should address this aspect also so you get a complete picture because I squat and Deadlift twice a week.
Main squat day i use the progression outlined above. I also follow that up with some form of deadlift, usually a SLDL or similar set/rep for speed pulls. I used to do SLDLs for 3x10reps, but I am now performing those with 5-6x5reps moderately heavy but not a max. Or i would do Speed pulls, which is what I am currently doing at 6-8×3 reps at 60% with 1 minute rest between sets. I get more volume on the GHR for 3-4 sets of 10-15, some abs and upper back work.
On a second day, I used to front squat and rack pull. I performed both of these heavy and did not use percents as a guide. I went balls to the wall. Front squats i performed 3x5reps with the same weight- the last set being performed to rep failure. If i got more than 8 i added a little weight the next week. I worked to 445 for 3×5, and top set of 495×5. On rack pulls, i set the bar up just below the knee and worked up in sets of 5 till i couldnt do 5 anymore, then to a heavy set of 3.
–However, I am now focusing on my pull to bring it more in line with my squat (best squat 783, best pull 675- i know it sucks, thats why im working it!) so for now, my second day consists of 5 inch block pulls up to max 3 or single, then several sets 5-8) of 3 at 70-80% of that number from the floor. Some lunges for a unilateral move for some specific weaknesses i have, hanging abs, ghr and lats. Im still working on this, but as of now the plan is a 4 week wave consisting of:
1- 5″ block pull to heavy 3, drop to 80% for 5-8×3 from floor.
2- 5″ block pull with same weight as week 1 shotting for 5 reps. the 80% from floor for 5-8×3
3- Front squats as outlined, for 3x5reps followed by near max single on 5″ block pull.
4- 5″ block pull up to weight for single in week 3. Then pull same weight from 2.5 inch block. Then pull same weight from the floor for 3 singles. High rep GHR if anything left.
Now, all that said, I have 12 weeks until my next meet then 12 weeks after that I have another meet, and possibly another meet 7-8 weeks after that. It will be very difficult for me to take a lot of singles and maintain a peak that long so i will have to do some mini peaks. I doubt Ill take any singles before the Clash in 12 weeks, Ill just go by a rep max done about 3 weeks out. My goal for that test is 705 x5-6 or 750×3. Im using knee wraps for the second so i will take singles in those to get used to them with the meet goal being a 900 in wraps.Im starting out for these meets in much better shape than I have the last 2 years, but we’ll see how it pans out.