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3×3 – Squat: High Volume & Competition

3 x 3 – Squat: High Volume & Competition

By Stephan Korte

have already mentioned in part 1 of this series, the best way to train all the muscles you need for a big squat is to squat. It is an effective exercise for working the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors and, of course, the lower back. It also works the abs in an isometric fashion. The powerlifter needs to develop these muscles to achieve his or her greatest potential squat in a powerlifting competition.

        With the 3×3 system you squat three times a week. This may seem excessive. Keep in mind, however, that Olympic, world and national weightlifters squat up to six times a week. To train only the competition lifts is a training approach that has been used by the Eastern Bloc and Western European Olympic lifters for over 40 years now. It is a very effective training system that has produced many Olympic, World and European champions. 

 This training approach doesn’t contain any assistance exercises for powerlifters. Assistance exercises are only done by Olympic lifters and these are modified competition lifts like high pulls and low pulls that are not performed through the full range of motion. These partial movements are done to overload the muscles, a very effective technique to gain maximum strength. Many power-lifters misunderstand this training technique. They do exercises like leg extensions, leg curls, leg presses, lunges and some even walk across a football field pulling a weight in order to increase their leg strength. Some of these exercises may help you to prevent or recover from injuries, but a powerlifter must constantly squat to achieve his competitive potential.

        The following training program is a part of the 3×3 system. It is an eight week cycle for the squat. During the eight weeks you go through two different phases. A high volume phase (phase I) and a competition phase (phase II).

Preparations:
In order to calculate your training weights for the next cycle you have to find out your current squat maximum first. There are different ways to do this. You can take the weight of your last competition lift, but make sure that the competition is not too long ago (max. 4 weeks). You can also go for a maximum single in the gym (important: use all the equipment you usually wear in competition), or you can estimate your current squat maximum.

Increase your current squat maximum by 25 lbs., and you get your “projected maximum”. This is the basis for the calculation of your training weights for the next eight weeks. During Phase I you will use 58-64 percent of this calculated maximum. In Phase II the percentages will range from 60-95 percent.

       

Phase I: Week 1-4
High Volume Phase: The main goal of Phase I is to increase your muscle mass, strength and to improve your coordination and technique of the squat. This is reached by a high volume. Make sure to use no equipment except a powerlifting belt and always squat below parallel.

        Phase I consists of 12 workouts (three workouts per week). You should rest one day between the workouts and rest two days after the completion of one training week. You can work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and take the weekend off. You can also work out on any other day, but make sure to get that extra day rest after one training week.

        The set and rep scheme is the same for every workout of each training week. Five to eight sets of five reps for the squat. There are four different percentages for phase I: 58%, 60%, 62% and 64%. You stay with each percentage for one week (three training sessions) and increase it for the next week. That way the training weight increases every week.

        I recommend what I call it the “energy saving method” (ESM) for squatting. It simply means that you should only put in as much energy for a particular lift as you need to. Ed Coan is a perfect example of that method. I have seen him in several competitions over the last five years and his warm-ups look always the same: they look almost as heavy as his biggest squat in competition. He seems to only put in as much power and strength as he needs for each weight. Many lifters waste a lot of energy during their warm ups.

  The ESM method is essential to the success of the 3×3 system. Considering that the training weights will be between 58 and 64 percent of your projected maximum squat, it is important that you don’t put maximum effort in each rep and set. Just put in as much energy as you need to complete each set and concentrate on the perfect technique and the flow. With weights around 58-64 percent of your maximum there is no reason to psyche up. If you follow this method you will save enough energy for the next two exercises of your workout (bench press and deadlift) and it will also build your confidence for the heavier weights. Knowing that you put only half of your energy and power into a set with 64 percent of your maximum generates confi-dence for the weights in the 80-95 percent range. It is simply a matter of applying more energy.

Phase I – Week 1-4
High Volume Phase (current maximum: 700 lbs. / projected maximum: 725 lbs.)

Week 1

  • Day 1: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 58% of 725 lbs. = 420 lbs.
  • Day 2: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 58% of 725 lbs. = 420 lbs.
  • Day 3: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 58% of 725 lbs. = 420 lbs.

Week 2

  • Day 1: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.
  • Day 2: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.
  • Day 3: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.

Week 3

  • Day 1: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 62% of 725 lbs. = 450 lbs.
  • Day 2: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 62% of 725 lbs. = 450 lbs.
  • Day 3: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 62% of 725 lbs. = 450 lbs.

Week 4

  • Day 1: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 64% of 725 lbs. = 465 lbs.
  • Day 2: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 64% of 725 lbs. = 465 lbs.
  • Day 3: squat 5-8 sets of 5 reps with 64% of 725 lbs. = 465 lbs.

 

Phase II: Week 5-8
        Competition Phase: The goal of phase II is to increase your maximum strength, power and to further improve your technique. Therefore the volume is reduced dramatically and the intensity will be increased week by week. That way you will get used to the heavy weights. Use your powerlifting equipment (suit, belt and wraps) for every heavy lift (1-2 reps) and al-ways squat below parallel.

        Phase II also consists of 12 workouts. That is three squat workouts per week. Make sure to get plenty of rest between the workouts. Rest one day between the workouts and rest two days after the completion of one training week. The sets and reps are as follows:

      1. Technique and power training is done twice per week with three sets of three reps. The training weight is 60 percent of your projected maximum and it will be constant for the next four weeks.
      2. Maximum strength training is done once per week for one or two sets of one rep. The training weight starts at 80 percent of your projected maximum. It will be increased weekly by five percent up to 95 percent. I used to squat heavy on my third and last workout of each training week, but you can also do it on any other day.

        Always use the “energy saving method” (ESM method) for the technique training as well as for the maximum strength training. Just put in as much power and strength as you need to complete each rep and concentrate on the perfect technique.

Phase II: Week 5-8
Competition Phase (current maximum: 700 lbs. / projected maximum: 725 lbs.)

Week 1

      • Day 1: squat 3 sets of 3 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.
      • Day 2: squat 3 sets of 3 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.
      • Day 3: squat 1-2 sets of 1 rep with 80% of 725 lbs. = 580 lbs.

Week 2

      • Day 1: squat 3 sets of 3 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.
      • Day 2: squat 3 sets of 3 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.
      • Day 3: squat 1-2 sets of 1 rep with 85% of 725 lbs. = 615 lbs.

Week 3

      • Day 1: squat 3 sets of 3 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.
      • Day 2: squat 3 sets of 3 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.
      • Day 3: squat 1 set of 1 rep with 90% of 725 lbs. = 650 lbs.

Week 4

      • Day 1: squat 3 sets of 3 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.
      • Day 2: squat 3 sets of 3 reps with 60% of 725 lbs. = 435 lbs.
      • Day 3: squat 1 set of 1 rep with 95% of 725 lbs. = 690 lbs.