T Nation

Do I Need to Reevaluate My Programming?


Background: I started with 40-set machine circuits, barbell bench presses, and a million variations of dumbbell curls when I was 16. I started actually trying to incorporate squats about a year ago after having my world rocked once I took the time to start educating myself on proper programming.

Height: 6'4"
Weight: 230#, currently 13% body fat on a bulk

Predicament: My exceptionally low squat stands out like a sore thumb. I'm on my 7th month of 531, and my lifts have increased significantly.

Current Lifts:
Bench: 305 (+65 from June)
Squat: 335 (+95 from June)
Deadlift: 480 (+130 from June)
Military Press: 180 (+40 from June)

While my squat has improved, it still sticks out like a sore thumb. I hit an approximate 1RM of around 330-340 consistently on months 5 and 6, but I'm down to around 315 on month 7. I'm trying to be patient with my progress, but at the same time having such a low squat makes me consider whether or not I should be doing something like Smolov to do some dedicated work to get my leg strength up after having not squatted for the first 19 years of my life.

Current Programming:
Squat Day:
531 Squat
3 sets RDL (10/8/5 reps on the 5/3/1 weeks, respectively)
3 sets additional squats for 10 reps
3 sets of a unilateral movement, either walking lunges or RFESS

Deadlift Day:
531 Deadlift
3 sets Front Squats (10/8/5 reps on the 5/3/1 weeks, respectively)
3 sets Good Mornings for 10 reps
3 sets of a unilateral movement, either walking lunges or RFESS

I do three sets of 10 on the GHR for some additional posterior chain work after each day, regardless of movement. I've also been doing 3 sets of 10 reps of squats with a relatively light weight (so that I'm pushing on the 8-10th reps on the third set) on the days after my Squats and Deads just for extra volume.

I suppose my post boils down to a few questions:
1) How is my lower body volume?
2) Do I to reorganize my programming and spend some serious time trying to get my squats up to snuff?
3) I cut out power cleans just so that I could focus on the squat and dead on my lower body days. Wendler has said that speed work isn't necessary, but could adding power cleans back in help compensate for what may be a lack of explosiveness?
4) Am I being an impatient little bitch that just needs to stop overthinking all of this and put my nose to the grindstone?


One: You made some pretty drastic gains so far this year. Maybe you just need to be patient.

Two: At which percentage do you do the "additional squats for 10 reps"?

Three: Are you deloading? If so, what does a deload look like?

Four: Have you taken steps backwards in your training maxes as Wendler recommends? If so, at what freqency?

Five: Maybe your squat form sucks.


Are your other lifts progressing, is it just your squat that is stuck? If everything is stalled, you probably aren't eating enough to recover.

-record yourself to check form. The mirror really lies in terms of squat depth, plus you can't see your lower back

-watch the "So you think you can squat" series on youtube, at least the first 3 or 4 videos (7-10mins each) to see if you are doing something wrong with form.

In terms of total progress, 40/65/95/130 is about right in terms of ratio on those lifts. Your problem was a low starting point, not a lack of progression IMO. Don't panic too soon if you don't progress for a couple weeks, the more you lift the slower gains are. Make sure you are eating enough and the rest should fall in place.

-if you keep stalling, maybe remove front squats on deadlift day, so you have one day dedicated to squatting and a week to recover from it. Some people progress better like that.


your squat has gone up 95 pounds in 6 months and you want to change something? What's wrong with you?


  1. I agree, but I'm not a patient person.

  2. 60% of my theoretical max for the week. I got 305 this past week, so I did 3 sets at 185.

  3. I deload every fourth week. I do a lot of Oly lifts, try to do more conditioning, and in general more unilateral work. I also squat on every day I would have been lifting, but nothing to bust my balls.

  4. I haven't had to reset yet. I've actually had the opposite problem. It wasn't until I was 3 or 4 cycles into 531 that I realized I wasn't actually strong enough to be doing it yet because my gains were coming too quickly. For example, I did 13 reps on 3 rep week for deadlift, so I'm going to have to increase my training max more than 10 pounds for next cycle. I try to keep my 5 rep week around 10 reps, 3 rep week around 8, and 1 rep around 5.

  5. Probably. The extra volume I've added in is to try to master the lift biomechanically, but I'm not sure if the excess volume is holding me back.


My squat is the only thing that's stalled. My max bench went up 30 pounds(theoretical max)from my last cycle. Unfortunately, I did start 531 way too light, but 7 months ago I though I was easily an intermediate lifter, while I now realize that I'm just starting to hit the middle of the pack among beginners. I was comparing myself to the weak ass baseball players at my division 3 school--dumb move.

I definitely need to record my form from the side, though. Thank you for reminding me.


Don't get me wrong; I am insanely happy with my progress so far. My only concern is that I didn't squat for so long that it really held me back in terms of my progress, and only a squat heavy program could possible catch my squat back up to my other lifts. If the heavy squatting volume from Smolov could help get my squat up to 400 from 335 in 4-5 months, then it would definitely be worth putting the great gains I've been seeing on my bench, for example, on the back burner.


Bahaha. I was watching "So You Think You Can Squat" for like the fifth time. I figured "Yea, it looks like I have that right," and then as soon as their dummy started squatting, I realized his form pretty much looked identical to mine.



  1. Be patient man. Get a good idea of what 5/3/1 is all about.

  2. IMHO, that's not high enough volume of work. If you're not SUPER strong, your body can handle a bit higher percentage work. Just my opnion, though.

  3. I think you have the wrong idea what a DELOAD is all about. You should honestly just cut your work volume and allow your body to grow/recover. If you're doing different lifts and increasing your volume, you're not actually deloading are you? Just changing to different stressors which in turn will add even MORE stress due to the fact you are introducing a new stimulus to your training. Deload means deload. Not new program.

  4. I would recommend a 5 waves up, 2 back or 3 waves up, and 1 back approach. Seems counter productive, but if you're pushing your last work set, it will keep you on a more steady upward swing. As far as starting too light. Wendler says to just keep going on your progression and stay with the program. I honestly would just keep my increases steady, lower my training maxes when I started getting only two or so reps above prescribed, and stop being S.O.V.

  5. More volume doesn't always mean more practice with proper form. I second getting your form on film and letting some of the guys here look at it. Make sure you tape it when you're fresh and with sub-maximal weight. You're pretty tall and I'd bet you are all sorts of jacked up. I've worked with a ton of guys who are way taller than I am (I'm 5'9") and they usually are afraid to turn their feet out and actually commit to getting their knees pointed out.


I had a friend help me with squat form after watching those vids, it put about 50lbs on my 1rm without getting any stronger. Keeping the lower back arched and my ass out behind me (instead of down beneath me) helped a ton.