How to Increase your Squat to 500 lbs
A Progressive Strength Effort:
Getting stronger is key to body recomposition. You know what all those sexy people look like. The problem most people have is obviously accepting this. Most people go to the gym and follow some useless routine in circles for years doing stupid shit where nothing ever happens or changes because they never challenge themselves, they let fear beat them. If you do not know what MORE work is then you need someone to teach you. MORE strength is required to see changes in the body or you WILL NOT change. Understanding that there is a root to strength is essential (more on this later). Most people do not have the mental drive to become better so that is why magic pills and roller coaster rocket abs sell so well. But I hate writing things like that because it is negative and I would rather just teach, even if it is slowly.
So the next step is how do I get more strength? Coaches are great for this because the little things and the big things are known to them so you do not have to think, just pay attention and learn. Writing down what to do is sometimes hard because it’s not just a routine that’s the problem, its the mental toughness and the knowledge of when to apply more to the bar and when to just back off or even when to walk away. But since I believe the best teacher is trying, I will give what I used straight from a training journal. I have applied this to several of the more serious trainees and athletes over the years and it works VERY well. You can adjust the numbers up and down quite easily to suit your given needs.
Note that when I started this I didn’t have a coach, it was not done with a belt or knee wraps either. All I had was me and the fact that I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I wanted more and I was going to get it. I didn’t understand fear. So please believe your mental state to achieve something is the MOST important thing you have if you are going to succeed at anything. So the story goes like this:
I had hit a personal best in the squat of 415. I can’t say I couldn’t have done a little more but I was a bit burnt out from squatting so I moved over to some other training namely the upper body to catch it up to my lower body. When I finished off with my bench press specialization I decided the 500lbs squat I was after was my next goal. I wanted it, I can’t tell you how bad. The time off of about 4 months reset my brain and my ‘gusto’. So in my head, I knew that 1 rep was going to be my passing point from ‘normal gym guy’ into your ‘not normal anymore guy’ zone. I didn’t have a plan exactly I just knew if I followed what I knew I would get there.
So this is me thinking about what I already knew from deadlifting that if I just got that 1 rep max up then my 5 rep, my 12 rep, and my 20 rep was just going to go up with it. I knew that from bench pressing too. Hell, I got stuck on 275lbs for mental reasons and I couldn’t break 225lbs for 9 reps no matter what I did. My bodyweight wouldn’t go up, my arm measurements wouldn’t go up, nothing changed no matter what I did until I could lift more. I finally hit 305lbs for a single best 1 rep max after 7 weeks of training and the next week testing my 225 I hit 14 reps. I hadn’t touched a single set of over 5 reps during this process. That clued me into something stronger than ever.
So I figured if I could just hit 500lbs then ‘4 plates’ would be my normal set/rep weight and that would just be soo cool.
This is how I start: I treated the first week as if it were a deload so to speak and just break into squatting again as I hadn’t touched it since I hit my last 1 rep max.
- Week 1: 315×3 355×2 365×3
- Week 2: 315×3 355×2 385×3
- 3 315×3 355×2 395×3
- 4 315×3 355×2 405×3
- 5 315×3 365×1 415×3
- 6 315×2 365×1 425×2
- 7 315×2 365×1 425×1 445×1
- 8 315×2 365×1 405×1 435×2
- 9 315×2 365×1 405×1 435×1 465×1+1
- 10 315×2 365×1 405×1 435×1 475×1
- 11 315×2 365×1 405×1 435×2 480×1
- 12 315×2 365×1 405×1 435×1 490×1
- 13 315×2 365×1 405×1 435×1 465×1 500×1
Note: Unless otherwise stated all weeks had a warm-up as follows: 135×10 135×10 135×10 225×5
Simple isn’t it? I did it every Wednesday and it was my only leg exercise of the week except standing calf raises I would do for 3 sets of 10 after squat. No other work. I had really found that the body is best at doing 1 thing and focusing 1 main exercise while maintaining the others was best if I wanted to get better and squats being very hard on my recovery like deadlifting was best left to being the thing this time..
After I hit my 500lbs squat I can’t tell you the feeling I felt! I remember racking the weight and just jumping straight up and hugging my training partner.
I don’t know what it was about looking at all those plates but it took me an extra minute to find the courage to do it. I won’t lie I was scared. But then I just phased out and only looked at the bar. I lifted it off the rack squarely and it felt light but as I stepped back I found I had to take 5 breathes before I could go. I donʼt distinctly remember the lift while it happened that well but I do remember going down much more slowly than normal. I think that is what led to my knees moving a little out of place as I came up but I do remember coming up much stronger than I expected. So it was just all in the head before the lift.
But several weeks before I hadnʼt come up to anything mentally difficult until the week I tried 465lbs. 445lbs didnʼt scare me oddly enough the week previously and I probably should have just gone 455 but I felt so strongly I could do it. I knew I had to. But once the weight was added and I clamped it in it suddenly looked different to me. Something told me this was heavy. I took extra time to walk it off and just get ready. After all, it wasnʼt the biggest percentage bump, was it? I mean, the weight sounded bigger in terms of numbers but the percentage wasnʼt that big… but the bar looked big and just looking at it I thought ʻSHITʼ.
I almost sabotaged my lift because as I unracked it I obviously didn’t do it straight up because it felt a bit ʻheavyʼ and off, I had to stabilize it slightly. This added to the mental problem I was having. So I held it a second and said to myself FUCK THIS and without taking breathes I went down and up. I won’t lie, there was a struggle in the middle then I racked it. Right after I got from under the weight I was mad at myself. I looked at the bar and knew I could get an easy one so I broke my rule and after 20 seconds got back under the bar and owned that weight much easier than the first rep. Fuck that shit I thought and I wasn’t going to let myself think it was heavy. When I felt that second rep and how easy it was I instantly knew 500lbs was doable. This is the power of the mind, donʼt let it control you.
The week after I hit my 505 I went back to have some fun, I was happy with myself for the time although thoughts of 600lbs squat were in my head… but there would be a time for that. I decided to try out 405 on the bar and happily knocked out 8 reps ass to the grass no stop. So much for needing to train reps to get stronger in a rep range because I handed 315 20 reps to the face right after without much effort.
If you’re wondering about the time between sets, I took as much time as I needed. I would say generally somewhere between 3 and 5 minutes but I know there were times there was much more in between than that.
On a side note my diet was not really specific I just ate how my body told me too and it worked out to a typical 3000 calories a day. I didnʼt mind the ʻjunkʼ food and indulged in drive-throughs at the time commonly. Interestingly even though my calories were definitely steady overall, my body changed. I lost a pant size and was down to a 33 waist from 35. I also gained 7 scale pounds. Many people told me I definitely was looking noticeably different, leaner was the common comment.
I venture to guess then I probably lost 7lbs of body fat too so I gained a total of 14lbs of new muscle! Who says the art of powerlifting has to be accompanied by huge eating? Depending on how it’s used, it can be used to make probably the most impressive types of gains in both physique and usable real-world strength. What more do you want?
Written by: Mark the COGFather