If you are looking to build thick thighs and strong legs, then this is the article for you. I have to assume that you have had your fair share of brutal leg workouts, and you know all too well the side effects of a workout consisting of higher rep squats--stiffness, soreness, and a little tenderness going up and down the stairs or standing up after sitting for awhile.
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In this article however, I want to focus your attention to the benefits of higher-rep squat training, and how you can implement higher-volume squatting into your current training routine to help you gain muscle, strength, and enhance your long-term fitness If you are a beginner and are looking to maximize your muscle gain, be sure to also check out our previous post discussing the 8 Rules Beginners Must Follow to Gain Muscle. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson uses this type of workout in particular to improve his overall athleticism, while basketball players like Dwayne Wade use high-volume squatting to be more explosive on the court. You can use the same techniques to improve your strength, too.
High-Volume Squat Training: What It It?
In its simplest form, high-volume squat training can be defined by periods of training where repetitions and sets are higher than normal. For the typical lifter, ranges of 12-15 reps are considered higher volume, often done for 3-5 sets. For athletes engaged in higher-level weightlifting and powerlifting, where overall strength is key (not necessarily muscle size...see more below), “higher volume” may mean repetition in the range of 6-10 for 3-6 sets. During these times, intensity (amount of load lifter) is in the moderate range to allow for more repetitions, yet is still heavy enough to keep total training volume (sets x reps x load lifter) high.
How to Get Started with Higher-Volume Squat Training?
Below are two critical phases you must go through to build a strong foundation of strength and skill to maximize results in injury prevention.
1. Set Your Base (4 week of base volume squatting program)
Before you set out on building some powerful thighs and glutes you need to have a plan that covers all the necessary aspects of a training program. A good program is balanced (meaning it targets all of the muscles in the lower body), has a wide array of exercises and movement (to stimulate new muscle growth and movement abilities), and includes some mobility and stretching exercises. Lucky for you we have put together a full 4-week lower body workout program, which you can download for free and begin building some muscular legs.
Once you have completed the 4-week Beginner Squat Program, you will have a better foundation of strength, movement, and the technique necessary for more advanced training programs.
2. Grow Serious Muscle (8-12 weeks of moderate to high volume squatting)
Now that you have set a great foundation for muscle growth, proper squat technique, and work capacity, you can devote a few months to growing some serious leg muscle. After a brief deload phase which allows for some recovery from previous training cycles (if you download the 4-week Beginner Squat Program above this deload phases is already programmed for you).
Muscle hypertrophy (growth) takes anywhere from 8-16 weeks, sometime longer, so this phases of training is one that is 1000% necessary for actual results. While some beginners may see some results during the initial base phase, “beginner’s luck” will run out if they do not continue to add volume (sets x reps x load) in a very systematic way. Some of our favorite programs for building leg muscle and strength for those who have finished the base phase are programs like our 8-Week Lean Strength program (included squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press training PLUS bodybuilding exercises) and the 9-Week Strength and Hypertrophy Fitness program.
High-Volume Squat Program: 4 Benefits
If you are still on the fence of whether or not you need to start in a phase that has higher volume squatting (assuming your goal is strength and muscle gain), think again. Below are four (4) benefits of performing high-volume squats.
1. Foundational Training Phase for Athlete and Functional Fitness
Squatting is one of the most foundational movements we as humans do. Because the squat includes large muscle groups, high-volume squatting with help tap into your anabolic state, creating much faster gains. Strengthening these muscles creates communication to other muscle groups of the body to get swole! "Hey you! We're growing over here, you should too!"
2. A Great Remedy If You Sit Behind a Desk All Day
As we age, we often find ourselves spending huge chunks of the day sitting behind a desk. The health effects of constant sitting are only now being studied, but early research correlates too much sitting to losing muscle mass, muscle function, and coordination. By performing high-volume squat programs throughout your fitness training, you can forestall joint issues, muscle loss, weakness and poor balance, and set yourself up to be fit even as you get older.
3. Improved Recovery and Injury Resilience
It's proven that more reps at higher volume helps flush out any build up in the joints and soft tissue of specific areas of the body, ultimately helping to strengthen ligaments, tendons, and even bones. And if you’re an athlete who is recovering from an injury, high-volume squats should help you bounce back faster because muscles tend to adapt faster than soft tissue.
4. Muscular Endurance and Work Capacity
Training either system has different adaptations. When Training at higher volumes you are able to tap into both of these beneficial adaptations. Killing two birds with one stone so to speak. So if your sport, movement, or ADL requires a need to work in both aerobic and anaerobic capacities then training in higher volumes might is where you might want to focus your programming or training consistencies..
High-Volume Squat Training: 3 Issues to Keep in Mind
Below are three keys to success during a higher volume workout program, all of which can help minimize plateaus in strength and muscle gain, injury, and burnout.
Higher volumes put additional stress on the body--that’s the point! So that added intensity requires a sufficient amount of rest and regeneration between workouts. Make sure you’re sleeping an adequate amount and eating enough calories each day, especially on days when you train.
Be Aware of Your Rest Time Between Sets
Don’t expect to rush through high-volume squats--that will risk injury and may lead to middling results. You have to plan on between one and two minutes of rest time between sets, and therefore you need to plan enough time per workout to get through your program. Be mindful of the time between sets and try not to become distracted. No texting at the rack!
Keep Track of Your Weight Loads
When we look at a workout programming that includes squats, we must determine if the training volume and variables will in fact bring about the intended training outcome. Contrary to what some may believe, Doing squats for the sake of doing squats, while well-intentioned, may not actually result in increased muscle gain, strength, or power. The key is to perform exercises with the right weight loads, number of sets, and reps per set, in addition to the overall training volume necessary to reach your goals.
After a year or more of following a formal high-volume squat program, you will notice a significant amount of muscle mass and strength--not only in your legs, but also in your back, core, and upper body. You will probably feel like a new person, and quite frankly, you kinda are! At this point, you are able to decide your next step...maybe you want to try Olympic weightlifting, or maybe you want to become a functional fitness athlete...or maybe you just want to stay on the path you are on. The choice is yours.
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