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Pretty much everyone knows that if you want a great pair of legs, you’re going to have to squat. And if you want to take your squat to the next level, you’ll need a good squat workout. The Russian squat program could be exactly what you’re looking for.
The Russian squat program is a routine designed to increase your squat 1RM (one rep max) by at least 5% in six weeks. There are other popular squat workouts also derived from old Soviet / Eastern Bloc programming that make similar claims, but most are almost too taxing in that very few trainees are able to actually complete the program without severe overtraining or getting injured. This program aims to get you comparable results while being more “doable”.
The Russian squat program will have you squatting 3x/week for six weeks. To ensure proper recovery, separate each workout by at least one day of rest – a Mon/Wed/Fri layout works for most trainees. Below is the six-week layout:
Spend a few minutes analyzing the Russian squat program, and you’ll see a couple definite patterns emerge. First, you alternate workouts of 6 sets x 2 reps @80% your one rep max, with workouts of increasing volume for the first three weeks. Meaning you increase every other workout to sets of 3 reps, 4 reps, 5 reps, then 6 reps, all with 80%.
Starting in Week #4, you start to then increase the weight used while decreasing total volume / reps done. This is what builds new strength in the legs. All the while, you still continue doing your 6 sets x 2 reps @80% every other workout. Doing this continues to “groove” the squatting movement, better developing your neural pathways and improving your skill at squatting itself.
By the time you hit Workout #3 of Week 6, you’re ready to attempt a new 1RM. For this workout, you can abandon the typical 6 sets protocol you’ve been using, and just build up to your new max weight. After a brief warmup, do sets of singles making modest jumps in weight between sets. Keep going until you hit failure, which should happen after you eclipse your old max.
Because this is such a demanding program, you don’t want add too much additional work to your program as a whole. Doing so can easily lead to overtraining, especially of the central nervous system. Since improving your squat is your primary purpose for these six weeks, limit your upper body training and cardio to more than necessary.
Alternate doing vertical pressing and pulling one workout with horizontal pressing and pulling the next for 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps each. Do easy recovery cardio in the form of walking 2-3x/week for 30 minutes.
On paper, the Russian squat program might not look overly hard, given that half of your workouts are done with only sets of 2 reps, and you only do sets of 5+ reps 3x in six weeks. However, this can be a very grueling routine, so treat it as such with a spotter if possible. Hit each workout hard, be sure to eat enough, and focus on proper recovery. Do this and you’ll find yourself with not only a new squat max in just a few weeks, but better legs, as well.