Observations from Squatting Daily

Last week, an article of mine was published on TNation, titled, Max Out on Squats Every Day. This article was based on the methods of Olympic Weightlifting coach John Broz, and it caused quite a stir. It even invoked an excellent response from Jim Wendler of Elitefts titled John Broz: A Response. I couldn’t have said it any better. Though Jim summed up my entire thoughts on the matter, I’ll add some comments below.

1)     I have spoken to many, many fellow lifters who tell me that they tried daily training and saw the best gains of their lives.

2)     We don’t have a good definition of “daily training.” My definition is 5 or more full body workouts per week.

3)     Since I met Broz, I’ve realized that he’s right on the money with a lot of his realizations. What you feel is definitely a lie. Max squatting does become a walk in the park.

4)     I’ve been conducting 5 full body workouts per week since I met Broz and this system definitely works for me. I’ve found ways to tweak it to suit my individuality. I will have a hard time going back to anything else.

5)     I believe that this type of training can be modified to suit everyone; including old and young, beginners and advanced, steroid users and natural lifters, and men and women.

6)     I don’t believe that you should attempt daily max squatting with the low bar, wide stance squat that is common practice in powerlifting.

7)     I don’t believe that sport athletes should train this way as they need days off to stay fresh. Oly lifters don’t have to worry about maximizing fitness and minimizing fatigue until a competition comes up. Athletes need to do this on a weekly basis, and often several times per week.

8)     I recommend you go to John’s Youtube page and check out the videos. You will be impressed.

9)     The elephant in the room is anabolic steroid usage. Honestly I didn’t speak to John about this topic. I will say that many of his lifters did not appear to be on AAS (I’ve been around for a while and believe I have a knack for identifying users). There was a female who obviously was not using anything who had been training for 2 months with Broz and was new to lifting. She could already power clean her own bodyweight. I know of coaches who train women for four years and don’t get them power cleaning their own bodyweight. I believe that there would be some differences between how the AAS using lifter and natural lifter approached daily training, but nonetheless I am convinced that Broz is on to something.

10)Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

One of my readers emailed me this week with the following observations. His name is Matt Delaney, and though I could probably find ten colleagues to write-up similar articles regarding their experiences with daily training, hopefully this one will allow you to get the gist.

Observations from Squatting Daily

By Matt Delaney

As soon as I read Bret’s article I had to contact him. I had similar results as he did after trying the John Broz program and knew he would encounter some resistance from other coaches and trainees that may think this style of training was too much.  Almost two years ago I spoke with John because I heard about a gym in Las Vegas that was getting results fast with frequent training and frequent heavy training. I could not believe how frequently John’s guys would lift.

Previously I thought any form of “Bulgarian” style training should be taken with a grain of salt due to their frequent association with drugs. John convinced me this style of training would be fine for an athlete like myself who was natural and still had a very low Sinclair compared to those at the World level. My squat with 170 kilos was difficult and I was nowhere near my genetic potential compared to those who are close to World Records and have to be more careful with training intensities. I know this program is not for everyone. There are very few who can back or front squat well and it’s the coach or athletes ability to recognize good technique from poor or dangerous technique. There is very little danger in squatting with heavy weights daily as long as the technique is excellent. Yes some Olympic lifters do develop back problems due to excessive lumbar extension and flexion, mostly those at the elite who are taking big risks, but there are also those who go their whole life with out serious back problems. In fact they have healthier backs than anyone there age!

Here is a 77 year old, Russian Master of Sport, who also helps coach us, performing a 242lb parallel squat:

Here are some of my observations from this style of training:

1.) I was definitely under-training. There may be those of you who don’t have the time to lift every day but some of you would do anything to improve strength, size, or improve Olympic lift numbers. For those that want to invest the time or just temporarily experiment, this is a great program, which will allow you to truly improve your strength and size. In the past I had tried various squat programs like the Smolov which had lots of volume and scheduled off days. These programs worked very well but there were times were I aggravated my knee and hip. I honestly believe it was the off days that created this. During off days you can lose the mobility you create during training. This program allows you to autoregulate at any moment and emphasizes quality over quantity and intensity. With this program I was always prepared to squat and remained healthy. Of course anyone starting this program better be able to squat well. Adding strength to poor technique will eventually result in injury.

2.)  Your level of stiffness may indicate how well you may perform on a given day. When you squat daily you rarely ever get a sore muscle, however you may feel tight or stiff on days following strong performances. You should have a decent indication of this during warm ups with the bar or the first few sets with light weight. On days you warm up quickly, you will be much more likely to set PR performances. There will be some days, especially in the beginning where it may take you a while to achieve a solid full range of motion squat. These are the days even sitting down in a chair is a chore, but working through these times will certainly pay off in the long run. Sometimes I squatted twice in a day. If I felt excessively tight in the early session, I backed off and selected weights that were quick. The second session was always much better and I set most PR’s during days I could get two sessions in. How you feel can definitely be a lie in the first session of a given day.

3.) You may be surprised how easy back off sets will feel after heavy singles. In the past after I performed heavy singles I was done for the day. John recommended performing much more volume after my singles. Maybe it was a potentiation like effect or just increased neural drive however either way I was surprised by how much weight and volume I could perform after heavy singles or doubles.

Here is a squat session recently, with my coach Denis Reno

Here is an athlete of ours, who has made huge jumps of late, here squatting over double bodyweight, then performing reps with near double bodyweight

4.) Pay attention to the time under tension and select the proper weight for heavy singles. When you select your max for any given day, you must have a feel for how 70-80% is feeling. Your single for the day should not be a slow grind it out attempt unless it’s a huge PR but even then you should still have solid technique. On days I set personal records I noticed the bar was really moving. John occasionally will time some of his lifters during squats and I think this is a great way to autoregulate if you have a training partner. If your partner notices your squats with 80% are faster than normal then it may be a good day to attempt a personal record.

Timing Squats at various weights was recommended by John and definitely helped:

5.) One of the unique benefits I noticed after frequent heavy squat workouts was improved performance in pressing and pulling movements. If you have previously separated upper and lower body work, you may notice improved performances in movements such as pull ups, push-ups, and military presses. This may be due to the constant work the upper body does in stabilizing heavy weights and also possibly due to increased testosterone from constantly performing heavy multi-joint lifts. I packed a lot of mass on in my shoulders and upper back. I think if bodybuilders tried a program like this they could achieve fantastic results. [Bret’s note: I don’t agree with this statement]

6.) Progress can come fast. At the start of the program my max back squat was 170kilos and after a few months I was performing sets of 5 with 170k and performing singles weekly with 190k. My Olympic lifts made a lot of progress as well. I went from snatching 232lbs to snatching 257lbs. My clean and jerk moved from 292lbs to 308lbs. This style of training allowed me to qualify for Sr. Nationals for the very first time in my weight class.

7.) My diet got worse and I got leaner. Crazy how that works. Before entering this program I ate clean, but there were days I was starving from the work I put in at the gym and there was no food that I would not eat. Pizza, ice cream, and Captn’ Crunch were my frequent cheat meals. I ate plenty of good foods as well, but never held back when I was hungry. John Berardi has written extensively about his “G-flux” theory. Certainly if you move a lot you need more calories to support recovery. I was training as much as 10 times per week. [Bret’s note: I noticed this same thing]

8.) Everything John told me was true. My squat is now creeping up to 200kilos and  if I had the time to train year round like this, it would probably be a whole lot more. Bret did a great job with the article, but I just wanted to support his claims because I know there will be critics. John definitely taught me that we are capable of doing much more than we think. There are some who will always have a negative outlook and think certain weights are impossible or point to drugs but like Theodore Roosevelt said: “Its not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”

9.) I would never have new athletes who are training for sports train like this. I would also never have athletes who have specialized in another sport train like this. The program is very specialized for those who want a bigger squat and added size. Being great at the basics and focusing on sport specific skills is much more important for athletes. Some strength coaches I know, such as Mike Boyle, don’t even have squats in their program and still get great results!

10.) Experience and age are a huge factor in entering a program like this. The younger you are, the much more likely you are to benefit from the program. Young athletes can probably add 2-300lbs on top of their current squat in a couple years, especially when coached.

11.) There are plenty of Olympic lift programs that will also bring success, but I feel most of them are too easy on beginners. Most beginners don’t need to rely heavily on percentages! What are they taking a percentage of exactly? Their max can jump 10 kilos per week! Training can be more complicated when you are an international level competitor but until then most of us underestimate what we are capable of.

Matt Delaney is a strength and conditioning coach for the non-profit Inner City Weightlifting, which focuses on making an impact with inner city youth through fitness.

38 thoughts on “Observations from Squatting Daily

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  2. James

    Hey Bret – Been following this system since the beginning of June since I moved to a place where my gym is literally across the street. My lodestone for this has been Matt Perryman’s work, mixed with a bit of the ideas of Christian Thibaudeau for good measure, and the effects are pretty tremendous.

    One question, though – what do you have against using a low-bar squat for this style of training?

    As it stands, I’m currently squatting low-bar Mon/Wed/Fri and, on Tues/Thurs, deadlifting and working up to one heavy triple on Zercher squats. (It’s a break from the heavier weights, and my AC joint issues keep me from front squatting.) My squatting style, which seems to work great for how I’m built, is basically orthodox Rippetoe – a bit wider than Olympic style, not as wide as a geared lifter (the most gear I’d ever use would be belt and wraps.)

    Why wouldn’t this work with daily squatting? So far, my numbers have gone nowhere but up. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Hey James,

      The Rippetoe technique (as you can tell) may very well work fine for daily squatting. Hell, even the low bar/wide stance/sit back style might work for some. But the way I see it, the typical powerlifting squat would be akin to the deadlift; placing too much stress on various joints to perform the movement daily. The lower the bar position, the greater the trunk lean. The more you sit back, the greater the trunk lean. For these reasons, you’ll get a greater bending moment on the lumbar spine than you would a high bar Oly style squat, which will place more stress on the spine. The wide stance used by powerlifters beats up your hip joints pretty good too, and I just can’t see lifters being able to max daily with that style. I would think that 3 days per week could work (I think Westside Barbell went through a period of time where they were box squatting 3 times per week), but not 7, and no daily sessions. Dynamic effort 7 days per week could work, but not maximal effort in my opinion.

      But in all honesty, I was deadlifting 5 days per week and my deadlift had never been stronger. I did 3 days heavy and 2 days explosive. So maybe a strategy like this would work for the powerlifting style squat as well. I think it depends on the lifter. This doesn’t quite apply to you as you don’t go ultra-wide.

      Hope that helps!

      Bret

      Reply
  3. Ted

    Would zercher squatting daily be completely moronic, or do you think this could actually work? Thanks!

    All the best,
    Ted

    P.S.
    I hope you are recovering well from your bicep tear, Bret.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Ted, I’d be worried more about the biceps tendon more than anything if you were to Zercher everyday. Now, if you had a Zercher harness, maybe, but you’re still going to get a bigger lean and might therefore have the same issues as stated earlier about the low bar back squat. -BC

      Reply
  4. Rob

    A small bit that confused me: Matt said not to have your maxes be slow reps unless you’re going for a “huge PR,” which seems to contradict the term “max.” Does “max” mean 100% 1RM or “100% what you can perform without a significant decrease in velocity”?

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Rob, this is something I’d like to expound upon in a future post. There are different types of maxes which have been defined, and I’d like to add my 2 cents to them. I’ll touch on this soon. -Bret

      Reply
    2. Matt P

      Rob,

      We’re actually dealing with two kinds of max, which I’ve written about this in my articles. You’ve got a competition maximum, which is what we normally associate with a “max lift” — all the straining, grinding, face-twisting efforts that you hit on the platform in front of refs (or the gym-equivalent for guys who like to psych up on stimulants and throw it all in, the physiological effects are similar).

      But we also have a training max, which the Russians defined as the best weight you could hit without emotional arousal. In this instance, HR should remain stable, no real hit of adrenaline, no brooding for 10 minutes to death-metal before you take the attempt.

      Now, the question is, can you separate a heavy attempt from the emotional stress? In my experience, you can to a point. You can and will condition yourself to psychological stress, so that you no longer fear getting under Very Heavy Weight — and I think this is what we need to aim for.

      Abadjiev thinks we need to get exposure to heavy attempts so that we lose the fear and only “switch on” the adrenaline during the actual lifting. Based on some information I’ve come across in the last few months, I’m pretty much in total agreement.

      It’s the emotional arousal and anticipation response that winds us up for the contest max, but it also leaves us a quivering mess after the fact. Once you remove that from the equation, the actual physical stress of a heavy lift is nothing you can’t handle.

      Reply
  5. Kashka

    Hey Bret
    I tried the Broz method for about a month and half, I did put 40 pounds on my PR squatting 5 times a weeks and I only trained once per day. The thing is I developed quad tendonitis about a month in where it hurt just above the knee caps, my doctor told me to stop squatting. But I kept doing it for another couple of weeks, I can still hit PRs, it’s a bitch to walk upstairs and had the jumping abilities of a 4 years old girl. I finally give up, now in the progress of healing.
    Do you think my legs would have eventually gotten used to it if I kept it going or maybe I jumped in it too fast without slowly increasing frequency?

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Kashka,

      Personallly I don’t think your legs would have gotten used to it. I think that your tendonitis would have kept getting worse and worse until it was unbearable. However, Broz’s experiences made me question what I thought I knew about physiology and healing. At any rate, a competitive Oly lifter will naturally assume more risk than a regular Joe, so in your case I’m glad you listened to your doctor. To address your second question, yes, I do believe you jumped into it too fast. If you gradually build up the body doesn’t freak out. This is very hard for us meatheads to do though :)

      Bret

      Reply
    2. Bryce

      More training stimulus produces more stress which requires more recovery in order for adaptation to occur.

      If the quality and quantity of recovery methods are not increased then the increased training ceases to be a stimulus and instead becomes a stressor as the rate of adaptation slows.

      This is especially true for daily training and multiple daily sessions. Most athletes simply have “off/rest days” to aid recovery. However, this approach is counter-productive to daily training methodology.

      So what did you do to increase your recovery via diet, sleep, supplementation, stretching, and variation of movements?

      For example, did you increase your daily fish oil intake, use the foam roller on your quads every day, and alternate your daily technique between back and front squat? If so, would these or similar recovery methods have made a difference?

      Reply
      1. Bret Post author

        Bryce, read the current blogpost for some simple tips as to how to ease into it. It’s strange; I’ve noticed that I don’t feel very tight even though I train fully body 5 days per week. I don’t get very sore and I don’t feel the need to increase my foam rolling and stretching. Your body gets used to it after a month. Of course, you can certainly experiment with this as recovery methods are always wise.

        Reply
    3. Mike

      Kashka,

      I tried this recently and had great results but also developed quad tendonitis. Been 2 weeks still very painful. Now that is has been over a year for you did it heal fine? How long did it take? How frequent can you squat now?

      Thanks,
      Mike

      Reply
  6. John

    Hey Bret and Matt,
    Thanks for the article on T-nation and this review, I really enjoyed them. I started alternating back and front squats every day last week and am loving it so far. I still play hockey, but nothing to serious anymore so I am going to continue with this and see where it takes me.

    I only weight 150 lbs, and my 1RM’s for Back Squats and Front Squats are 245 and 215 respectively. I am in need of gaining some strength and muscle, and was wondering if you guys think it would be beneficial to perform some higher rep back off sets (3-6) to help me gain some size??

    Thanks again, all the best!!
    John

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      John, I definitely think that you should do some back off sets. But don’t be afraid to tweak things around to make sure you’re recovering and getting stronger. There are no absolutes; only shades of gray. -Bret

      Reply
      1. Mike T Nelson

        I am not Bret, but my thoughts are that back off sets can help by pushing up the volume; BUT I have wondered though about the effects of the “last exposure” on the body.

        My thinking is the the last set may have a greater effect, so I would go more with straight sets.

        If doing low reps, stay with lower reps, thus signaling the body to add more strength.

        If doing moderate reps, stay with moderate reps on that day.

        Alternate intensity more from one session to the next and not DURING a session.

        If my thinking is correct, I would not do a bunch of singles or low reps, followed by a back up set at 8-15 reps at the end if strength was the goal.

        There was an interesting study that showed if the last 30 seconds of a colonoscopy was painful, subjects remembered the ENTIRE procedure as painful.

        If the last 30 seconds were not painful, they tended to remember the whole session as NOT painful; even it the doc was in their burrowing them a new one!

        Perhaps our brain/ nervous system remembers the LAST set best; so don’t confuse it?

        Anecdotally, I have seen a better response doing this so far.

        Thoughts?
        Rock on
        Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

        Reply
        1. Derrick Blanton

          Mike, to quote Frances McDormand in Fargo,

          “I’m not sure I agree with your police work, here..”

          “Last exposure” effect sounds like bro-science.

          The theory is that if you lift heavy, and back off to a moderate rep range, that you will somehow negate the strength training effect previously gained during that same session?

          Yet it’s okay to use that moderate rep range, as long as a window of time passes (note, how much time?) As long as it’s a separate session, no harm done?

          Well, we are all different, so maybe this is one of those individual training effect variations.

          For me, back off sets further groove a successful motor pattern with a highly excited CNS, and have an extremely positive effect on maximal strength.

          To quote Christian Thibaudeau,
          “Anything over 60% of your max can affect strength and size gains, provided that you attempt to lift the bar with as much speed as possible.”

          Reply
          1. Mike T Nelson

            Hi there Derrick.

            I think I goofed on my explanation.

            I don’t think back off sets will negate a whole session at all.

            I was attempting to say that we may see an even GREATER strength gains if volume work and intensity (low % of 1 RM) work are done at separate times.

            I totally agree that overload is the most important thing!

            Correct, it may be bro-science since I don’t have a direct study to verify it. We do know that at some level (which is really fuzzy) that training multiple qualities in a very short time frame may not be optimal.

            What this exact timeframe is, who knows and will probably vary from lifter to lifter.

            Easy to test out on your own though!
            Rock on
            Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  7. Mike T Nelson

    Good stuff as always Bret.

    I would totally agree, that most can do more training, IF it is done correctly.

    Basic motor learning 101 says that to improve a task (say, squats), more exposures (reps) gives you more chance to make changes.

    Want to get really good at something? Perfect practice with lots of frequency.

    I would be interested in your thoughts from a biomechanics stand point long term about the same lifts done with high frequency.

    I know the Bulgarians did it for a long time too, but they were known to use drugs and had many many that could just not cut that type of frequency; so they were simply not on the team.

    Have you ever looked at someone and thought “That dude brah looks like a…. (insert lift here_____bench/squat/deadlift)?”

    I personally have found that slight variations are needed to maximize the cost/benefit ratio over time.

    For deadlifts, I can pull virtually every day, but it is not the exact same deadlift. It currently varies from conventional, 2 inch axle with both hands down (pronated), Dinnie Stone Trainers, Jefferson, 1 arm deadlift and hack squat (behind the back). This also distributes the stress to different tissues also, yet keeping the goal the same–lifting heavy shit off the floor.

    Thoughts?

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

    Reply
  8. Dale

    Bret -

    Do you suppose that this format would benefit the bodyweight enthusiast like myself ? One-legged squat variations, etc., 5 days a week ? Perhaps if for no other reason than to refine technique and increase workload over time ?

    Reply
  9. Evan

    For what its worth, I’ve been doing 3 or 4 full-body workouts per week for the last year or so. Prior to this I was doing one balls-to-the-wall HIT-like full-body workout per week. I DEFINITELY responded better to the higher frequency program.

    To make the higher frequency program work, I had to decrease the intensity (i.e., effort) of my sets. If my 10RM for barbell curls was 100 lb, then I might do, say, 80 lb for 10 reps. I have a system where I only increase the stimulus if there is evidence that the body has fully adapted and progress has ceased. I’m able to gauge progress by periodically performing strength tests.

    One more thing. I’ve noticed a trend recently among many fitness writers. It’s almost as if postmodern relativism has crept into the field of strength training. These writers seem to think that all training philosophies are equally valid and what works for one person can be the polar opposite of what works for another. They avoid criticizing other programs, or even giving concrete opinions on matters that are of interest to the layman. These writers seem to be content in praising each other and their contradictory systems. Now, I’ve enjoyed Bret’s past articles tremendously, but I’ve noticed that some of his more recent articles are leaning in this direction. I hope he resists the temptation.

    P.S. Sorry for the rant, but I felt like I had to say it.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Evan, I try to be respectful, but I’m definitely not afraid to speak my mind. I have two upcoming TNation articles that are going to really ruffle some feathers. -Bret

      Reply
  10. Clement

    Hey Bret,

    I was reading about Matt’s comments on an explosive max vs a true competition 1RM. Doubtless, the explosive max doesn’t stress your CNS as much as the grinding max. In that case, wouldn’t it make sense that athletes could maybe gain from daily training using the explosive 1RM? Granted, they’d only be doing a single movement each day and not be performing any assistance exercises, but just for getting strong, this approach would work very well still, wouldn’t it?

    Reply
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  12. Nathan Meyer

    Awhile ago on TNation in an article titled “Why Bodybuilders are more jacked than Powerlifters” you wrote:
    Bret: “Bodybuilders tend to arrange their training sessions around targeting one or two muscle groups with multiple sets of several different exercises. Bodybuilders will then wait several days, and often up to a week, to work that same muscle group. Recent research shows that it takes up to seven days to fully recuperate from performing multiple sets of the same muscle group (Ahtiainen et al. 2011), and there’s evidence to show that exercising too often could result in decreased hypertrophy (Logan and Abernethy, 1996).”

    How does this fit with daily squatting? It seems most proponents argue that the good of daily squats comes in strength development–which of course makes sense as this O-lifters and P-lifters care about most.

    But–does this mean that daily squatting is bad for hypertrophy?

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Nathan – If seeking maximum hypertrophy I’d squat 2 times per week, not 5-7. It’s pretty clear that many of the adaptations from daily squatting come from the neural mechanisms that I mentioned in that TNation article. For inexperienced folks who lack neural coordination, they should squat more frequently to engrain motor engrams, but more experienced folks should squat less frequently if their goal is to maximize muscle cross-sectional area. For strength frequent squatting is king, but for hypertrophy I think natural lifters (not on steroids) should aim for 2x/week. Hope that helps, BC

      Reply
  13. Daniel Goulding

    Hi Bret

    In terms of loading would you go maybe 2-3 weeks heavy and 1 week light, or is it always heavy?

    Thank you in advance.

    Daniel

    Reply
  14. Henry

    Hi Bret, following shoulder tendonitis I have had a cortisone injection in my right glenohumeral joint. As pressing is off the menu for 3 weeks to be safe, I have thought about the possibility of squatting everyday to hold onto size and aim to maintain strength following the gh and test release that comes with heavy frequent squatting. What is your view on this? Accesory work wise I will be doing very little as I am trying to leave the joint alone and give it time but maybe just some arms as a guilty pleasure previously not a staple of my training? Many thanks, Henry

    Reply
  15. Chad

    Great post,am i right in saying that the heavy singles are mainly for getting use to lifting a single in a comp and then the back off sets are to add volume and get stronger? so if your not competing proberly wouldnt have to worry to much about doing singles?

    Reply
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  18. Braden

    Bret,

    Thanks for all you do. Of the posts and articles I’ve read from Broz and regarding Broz, there is some conflicting information about the back off sets. In fairness, he mentions that only a trained eye and a knowledgeable coach can properly prescribe the sets and reps after a max which may change based on the day, athlete, and/or countless other variables, but have you been able to decipher a general rule of thumb?

    Brfady

    Reply
  19. Nick

    Brett, I love squatting and do it frequently. However, I unfortunately feel it only in my quads and not my glutes. :(

    As a result my quads are very strong and my glutes are not. I only do front squats because back squats hurt my lower back. Is there any way get the glute activation in the front squats or should I squat less and do more posterior chain stuff?

    Reply
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