T Nation

Squat Sets/Reps for Most Benefit?


Hi Guys,

Heres another question that you can hopefully help me with! I have been using a gym lately that has little weight lifting type facilities so squats or dead lifts have not been possible.

However i will be going back to university in a week or so and will be using the facilities there again which are very good. So obviously i will be including squats and dead lifts again in my programme.

I have read alot about squats and dead lifts both giving a lot of benefits such as the release of more growth hormones and my question really is what would you recommend is the best rep and set pattern to get the most of this effect.

Is going very heavy with few reps best?
Lighter (still heavy obivoulsy) with more reps?
or maybe just a more standard pyramid up in weight and lowering of reps?

I hope you understand what im getting at here and i look forward to your help!


I think it is a huge mistake to organize your training around taking advantage of an (essentially) negligible hormonal response.

The first question I would ask is how good is your technique - if the answer is "not so good", that already precludes "going heavy with few reps".
If you do decide to restructure your goals around progressing in strength and size rather than trying to elicit a hormonal response, you will find many effective programs depending on the exact nature of your goals and current technical proficiency.


Thanks for your answer, i undertsand what you are saying however i dont think i was quite clear enough in what i meant. I have just had help in another thread with my overall training programme and i am happy with that and how it has been set out.

I was just wanting to know this for these particular exercises as these seem to be the two that i often see people change up abit compared to any other muscle groups. For example i have seen a few squat programmes with say 5 sets of 20 reps or something of that nature as well as 5sets of 3. Im just asking if there is anything in particular i should look for here?

I will be starting out squats and deadlifts for the first time in about 8 weeks (yes this is bad i know!) and would just like more experienced peoples opinions, even if that happens to be that you think it wont make that much of a differnce?.

I would also agree with your point about form, i personally dont think mine is yet good enough and therefore not safe and effective enough for me to be doing regular max or near max sets.


It depends...

On a lot of information you didnt come close to providing.


So, I just had a look at your other thread. It looks like you're squatting and deadlifting once per week, right? I'm glad you're honest in appraising your technique, and it might be helpful if you had some sort of squat and deadlift numbers (rep maxes, maybe) up.

The most general answer is probably that (if you're really a novice at the exercises) it doesn't matter so much. Several sets of 20 reps is not the way to go unless you're looking to build strength endurance and mental fortitude. For squats, stick with something between 5 and maybe 8 or 10 reps per set. You could do 5x5 ramping to a top set of five (a la Bill Starr), or you could use the 5/3/1 for these exercises ( http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/how_to_build_pure_strength ). For deadlifts, maybe try for slightly lower reps, many people advocate three or five, for fewer working sets.
Anyways, pick a rep range, add weight from week to week, profit.
Also: start light. Don't let your ego get in the way of things.


Thanks this was what i was looking for really. I think i will start off then at around 6-10 reps for squats. The deadlifts are new to me as i have never trained seriously enough to even think about include them but i am now deciding i want to change that as they seem like an essential to any plan. For that reason i think maybe i should start with higher reps just to get used to it but after a couple of sessions begin to lower the reps nearer to what you suggest?

As for numbers on these, deadlifts i obviously have no record. Squats i never did a 1 rep max but i believe i got to about 190 for 8-10 reps. This was built up but i only began doing squats just before uni finished for that year so i didnt actually spend much time developing this up.

I am probably going to get flamed for this as i have stated i havent done deadlifts before and that i only used to do about 190 for 8-10 reps squat however i have posted this in the beginners section and i am just starting to get serious about this as opposed to just going to the gym and pushing weights around for abit of fun.


What extra information would you be looking for? I wrote abit more about myself in my last thread, surely i wont have to do that for every thread i start? (im not blaming you here im just saying is there some other way most people do this?)

But anyway quickly some basics are:

i was about 135lbs just under 2 years ago and i have slowly made my way to 170lbs now. I have been going to the gym over this time and my aim whole at the gym was to put on weight however i just wasn't really serious and intense enough in the gym as i mentioned in the post above. I dont do 1RM but all of my lifts have gone up so i have definetly made some progress in bulking up so far. However i feel i could have gained the weight while staying more lean so from now on im making my training more intense as it definitely was not enough before. My first main aim is to keep bulking up to 200lbs and i will re-evaluate at that point what i would like. oh and im 5ft9!

I also dont want to sound like the type of person who wont bulk because of putting on abit of fat because that is not my attitude to this at all.

so as i stated 200lbs is my next aim, however i would like to get there abit cleaner than my journey from 135-170, my diet was far from ideal in doing that and as stated my training lacked any real volume and good excercises such as deadlifts and regualr squatting. I would estimate my bodyfat to have been at about 8% at 135 and maybe 12-14% ish now, im not sure, you can see a very slight top 4 ab outline if that gives you any idea?

Anyway thanks for your time!


What else are you doing on the day you squat and deadlift?

You have a good attitude. This stuff takes time to figure out. You'll be alright


Hey Lucky, which uni are you attending?


My current split which i have had help with in another thread is this:

day 1 - chest/biceps
day 2 - legs
day 3 -rest
day 4 - shoulders/triceps
day 5 - back
day 6 -rest
day 7 -repeat

My legs day would therefore consist of the squats, leg extensions and calf raises.

For your question about deadlifts i was actually wondering when you guys thought might be best? I cant imagine deadlifts would be that productive if they were on chest day or legs. I would guess the best day would be back?

For back at the moment i usually do bent over rows, lat pulldowns and pullups.
Oh and to boffin, im at loughborough


Hey man, working up to a few heavy work sets (3-5 reps or whatever) and then doing a down set of high reps (15+) will get your squat up to speed pretty quickly. Maybe do two high-rep down sets if the only other things you're doing are leg extensions and calf raises... that means you don't have to save any steam for more taxing accessory moves.


I love going heavy with fewer reps especially that i am taller its better... Also reps 8-12 is the best rep range and does best for fat loss.


This is how the rep thing for ATG back squats works...
-if you are a newbe squat light with hihg reps 10-15 (if ur lower back rounds at the bottom, the weight is low so there is no need to worry about it). I have the new guys do these for 1-3weeks depending.

-Them Rippetoes's 5x3 (5reps, 3sets) work great. To test 1RM I just tell them to go for it whenever they feel really strong.
--other variations are 3x3, 2x4, 2x5, 3x5, etc...
--The important thing is to do VOLUME with 80%-95%. If you look at 5x3, those are 15reps total with 80%-85%.

Also squat at least 2x a week, do Front Squats too, and (since you are not body building) don't Leg Press.

As for deadlifts... do them on Day 6.
It will only take you 45mins.


Luck you being at Loughborough their gyms and pool there are awesome