For the last 4 years, I’ve had the privilege to train at Eastside Barbell in Palisades Park, NJ. Eastside, owned by John Bott has been home to numerous elite and pro lifters, and currently claims 7 elite full-time members. The following squat cycle, put together by John, is our current meet preparation cycle. This program has worked exceptionally well, enabling all 7 members to squat at least 700, with 5 of us surpassing 800, including John’s 905. The reason I wanted to share this program is that it worked for lifters with various levels of experience and a broad range of physiques/squatting styles.
As you can probably tell by the name, this cycle is an adaptation of the Westside Barbell template. The most significant difference is that we squat once per week as opposed to twice. Despite the lower frequency, we are still able to address speed, maximal strength, special exercises and suit work, all within the same month.
To start, a few points to note about this cycle:
This is a one day a week squat cycle. We all do extra work on our own, but this is left up to the individual. Do whatever extra work you think you need.
This cycle is intended to be used by competitive powerlifters, training and competing in gear.
This cycle is intended to follow an off-season training program. You should already be in relatively good shape before starting this meet cycle.
It’s recommended for Master-level lifters (lifting status, not age) and up. You can find out how you measure up here: Elite Powerlifting Classification Table
The program is divided into 3, 5-week cycles, each consisting of the following days.
Week 1 – Dynamic with accommodating resistance
Week 2 – Max with accommodating resistance
Week 3 – Deload
Week 4 – Full gear squat
Week 5 – Special exercise (optional)
Following each workout, we’ll perform assistance exercises. These include reverse hypers, glute-ham raises, straight-leg deadlifts, back extensions, goodmornings, pulldown abs and various sit-ups. Pick at least one posterior chain and one abdominal exercise to do after your main exercises.
Week 1 – Dynamic With Accommodating Resistance
We’ll start the cycle with a dynamic effort squat session. For the last cycle, we started with a strong band (black) for accommodating resistance and squatted to a box with a foam pad. The foam builds strength out of the hole and keeps the hips strong. We’ll wear a brief and use around half of our max squat. We’ll typically increase the weight every two sets for a total of six work sets.
For example, a 750 squatter training for 800 might go:
315 x 2 x 2
345 x 2 x 2
365 x 2 x 2
For our second exercise, we’ll use a heavy deadlifting movement to balance our speed squats. This can be a deadlift from the floor, standing on mats, or rack pull, with or without accommodating resistance
Week 2 -Max Effort with Accommodating Resistance
Following the dynamic day, we will work up to a max using the same accommodating resistance as the previous week. This time, we will use a hard box and wear our suit bottoms. Following our normal warm up, we will work up to a heavy single.
Since we’ve already worked up to a big strain, we will speed deadlift, typically with bands.
Week 3 – Deload
This is a light workout, usually a speed box squat with similar training weights as week one, but without bands. I like to do this workout raw because I’ve found it helps my bottom end strength and gives me extra muscle work. If you do wear gear today, a light brief tends to work best. We won’t pull on our deload day in order to preserve our central nervous systems. Instead, we will do a goodmorning, usually for sets of five. You can also free squat if you feel you need the practice.
Week 4 – Full Gear Squat
We are firm believers that you must practice the lift you are going to perform at the meet. This is especially true for us because we often work with novice lifters, who might not yet be good at the squat. On week 4, we’ll work up to our last warm-up at the meet. For example, at my last meet, my planned attempts were 720, 760 and 800 pounds. For my week 4 workout I worked up to only 675 pounds. Following our last squat, we will put reverse bands on the bar and do one or two more squats to get our nervous systems used to heavier weights. With bands, we will go up to either a first or second attempt.
Since this in our day to practice in gear, we will also work up to a full gear, contest style deadlift, also to a last warm-up.
Week 5 – Special Exercise
Although this day is optional, (we did it to fill a few extra weeks) I’m including it because straight bar squatting week after week is tough on the shoulders, and special bars are great for giving them a rest. Plus, you can use this day to focus on your specific weaknesses. Use either a cambered or safety squat bar and work up to a heavy 5 or 3 off the box.
We generally will not do a deadlifting movement on this day, but this is up to you.
Week 6 – Dynamic With Accommodating Resistance
Same as week 1 except we will switch the strong band for five chains. Bands can be very draining, especially for some of our taller lifters. Switching to chains allows us to keep hitting our top end with less stress to the CNS. While bands ground you, making you more stable, chains challenge your ability to stabilize by swinging.
Week 7 – Max Effort with Accommodating Resistance
Same as week 2, except we will continue with the five chains instead of the strong bands.
Week 8 – Deload
Same as week 3. We might go a little heavier but not much.
Week 9 – Full Gear Squat
For this squat workout, we’ll go up to a projected first attempt. Following our goal weight, we’ll use the reverse bands to hit a second, or maybe a third attempt. We deadlift up to a first attempt.
Week 10 – Special Exercise
Same as week 5, although we’ll use a different bar.
Week 11 – Dynamic With Accommodating Resistance
For our last dynamic day, we will switch back to bands, this time with a black and an average (silver) band. Remember that this is a speed day! You may need to lower the weight to keep your bar speed up.
Week 12 – Max Effort with Accommodating Resistance
Same as weeks 2 and 7, continuing with the black and silver bands. With the increased band tension, it’s even more important that you use your suit bottom and a hard box today. You’ll want to keep your hips healthy for your suit squat in two weeks.
Week 13 – Deload
Same as weeks 3 and 8. Once again, you can make a small weight increase, but remember that this is a deload day.
Week 14 – Full Gear Squat
This is your last and heaviest squat day before your meet. The goal here is to hit your projected second attempt. Next, use the reverse bands to make your third. You can also make one more jump to get used to the overload. We will shoot for about 4-5 percent over our third atempt.
Work up to a second attempt deadlift.
Week 15 – Deload
This is a light workout with either a squat bar or special bar. Keep the weights at 50 percent or below and keep your speed up. I like special bar work on this day to give my shoulders a break. No more pulling at this point.
Week 16 – Off
Only light assistance/restorative work today only.
Week 17 – Meet
We’ve used several incarnations of this program over the years, and we will continue to make adjustments as the sport and our specific needs evolve. We’ve used different levels of band tension, more foam, no foam and gone without the optional special bar day. While most of these variations produced gains, I chose to write this one up because it has resulted in our two most recent 800 pound squats. My own at 198, and long-time Eastside member, Mike Stuchiner’s.
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