The TMPM Athletics Squat Program

The TMPM Athletics Squat Program

Starting in late November I decided it was time to become the strongest person to ever live. To do this I wrote out a 12 week autoregulated squatting protocol that would help me achieve the feat. Before starting the program I squatted 275lbs for 3 reps and in the final week I got it for 12 reps. Not bad. Here is the protocol.

Day 1Day 2
Week 11 x 3-5 reps – RIR 5
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 4
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 3
1 x 10-15 reps – RIR 5
1 x 10-15 reps – RIR 4
1 x 10-15 reps – RIR 3
Week 21 x 3-5 reps – RIR 4
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 4
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 3
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 4
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 4
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 3
Week 31 x 3-5 reps – RIR 4
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 3
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 2
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 4
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 3
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 2
Week 41 x 3-5 reps – RIR 3
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 3
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 2
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 3
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 3
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 2
Week 51 x 3-5 reps – RIR 2
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 2
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 1
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 2
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 2
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 1
Week 61 x 3-5 reps – RIR 2
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 1
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 0
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 2
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 1
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 0
Week 7Deload3 x 5 reps @ 60% top set from last week3 x 8-12 reps @ 50% top set from last week
Week 81 x 3-5 reps – RIR 4
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 4
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 3
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 4
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 4
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 3
Week 91 x 3-5 reps – RIR 3
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 3
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 2
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 3
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 3
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 2
Week 101 x 3-5 reps – RIR 3
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 2
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 1
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 3
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 2
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 1
Week 111 x 3-5 reps – RIR 2
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 2
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 1
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 2
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 2
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 1
Week 121 x 3-5 reps – RIR 2
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 1
1 x 3-5 reps – RIR 0
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 2
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 1
1 x 8-12 reps – RIR 0 
Week 13 – Testing Week (optional)Work up to a heavy but manageable single, 90-95% what you estimate for a 1RMWork up to a 1RM

About the Program

This squatting program is 12 weeks in length and is broken into two mesocycles. You will be squatting two days per week. On Day 1 you will be doing sets of lower rep, heavy squats and on Day 2 you will be doing sets of higher rep squats. This isn’t an easy program. If you are a true beginner it probably isn’t for you. If you are an intermediate or advanced lifter and want to try out something to improve your squat, give this a try. If you are fairly new to lifting but have competency in the squat and understand your own body and limits then it isn’t out of the question that you can handle this program. It will be a great learning experience at the very least. The reason I don’t recommend this program for beginners is because I find that the Reps in Reserve style of training utilized here is difficult for beginners to grasp. As I said though, a learning experience.

Reps in Reserve (RIR) and Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Using Reps in Reserve is my favorite way to add structure to my training for both hypertrophy and strength purposes. Following specificity, intensity is the 2nd most important factor to consider when training with performance or body composition goals in mind. In my opinion the reason many casual exercisers fail to see the progress they want is because their workouts fail to reach the intensity threshold required to achieve an adequate stimulus for muscular growth. When the concept of Reps in Reserve is used correctly, intensity is controlled for.

The concept of RIR is related to the amount of reps you have theoretically left to perform before you can’t do another rep.  For example, a true 1 rep max lift would be 0 reps in reserve because you would fail if you tried to do another rep.  As this number grows it gets harder and harder to estimate and it is best used between values of 0 and 5.

Rating of perceived exertion is measured on a scale from 1-10.  1 being very easy and 10 being the most difficult it can be. It is a subjective measure to rate the difficulty of a set. RPE is related to RIR in that RPE 10 is equivalent to 0 reps and reserve, RPE 9 is equivalent to 1 rep in reserve and so on.

Understanding RIR and implementing it into your training takes practice. The reason I don’t recommend this program for unsupervised beginners is because they rarely have the experience to know what a set with 4, 3, 2, or 1 RIR feels like. Zero RIR is an easy one. If you told a beginner or even many intermediate lifters to do a set of 12 reps with 3 RIR they would greatly underestimate what they could do. Lifting with intensity hurts and people give up on a set earlier than they should because they mistake total body uncomfortability with localized muscular failure. I do it all the time. I did it in Week 12 of this program. Training is hard. But learning where these thresholds are is important to performing this style of training correctly.

How to Perform each Set

The goal for each set is to hit the target RIR inside of the rep range that is defined. For example, if the set calls for 1 set of 3-5 reps at 4 RIR then that means you should choose a weight where you will hit 4 reps in reserve between 3 and 5 reps. As long as your set is between 3 and 5 reps and close to the 4 RIR target then you can consider it to be a good set. The purpose of having a rep range instead of exact rep target is to give you more wiggle room within the set. You will learn that this style of training requires you to be able to adapt on the fly. There will be many times where you will hit the front end of your rep range and already be at your RIR target. That’s perfectly fine. There will be other times where you will be at the backend of the rep range and feel like you have more than you’re supposed to left in the tank.

What do I do if I don’t hit the target RIR within the defined rep range?

This will inevitably happen. For example, if a set calls for you to hit 8-12 reps at 3 RIR and you do 225lbs for 12 reps and feel that you still have more than 3 reps left in the tank what should you do? Should you add another set? Does that set count? Should you go outside of the rep range? It is my recommendation that you still count the set as a working set but note where you strayed from the original programming. The ultimate goal should be to match the intensity that was defined for that set so try to always perform each set to the target RIR. If that means you have to go over or under the rep range listed, fine. Just make sure you document it so you know for the future.

What is autoregulation?

Autoregulation is a method of training that allows the exerciser to adjust their training to match how they feel that day. Using RIR to define intensity instead of a percentage of 1 rep max, like many strength programs, opens this possibility for adjustments. There are many factors that can influence your training on any given day. Your sleep, diet, stress, and fatigue to name a few. Writing these variables into a non-autoregulated training program is impossible. Many of you probably use autoregulation in your own training and don’t even know it.

Using autoregulation isn’t perfect and it will take some practice. Going off of how you feel is great if you have a solid understanding of your body and limits. The overwhelming majority of people will vastly underestimate what they can do while on the flip side a smaller percentage of people can punish themselves and suffer through pain to a detrimental level. Using an autoregulated program like the one presented is a way for you to gain a better understanding and learn your body, which is important as you progress in your training age.

What about the rest of my training? This is just squatting.

Correct. This program is geared toward only the squat. The rest of your training can be filled with anything else you wish to add just make sure you are able to recover in time for the days you are scheduled to squat. On your squatting days make sure you do a proper warm up and do your squatting sets first.

My Results

When I started this program I hadn’t squatted regularly in about a year. Being a bit detrained allowed for me to see fairly substantial results. PRs are few and far between for me know that I am a decade into training regularly. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I squatted 275lbs for 3 reps before I started the program and then that same weight for 12 reps during the final week of the program. 275lbs for 12 reps was a lifetime PR for me by 3 reps. On Week 12 Day 1 I squatted 325lbs for 3 reps, 50lbs more than I was able to get for 3 reps at the beginning. I mention this because while I did technically add 50lbs to my squat over the course of the program, I think it’s unfair to give all the credit to the program and not to simply being detrained before starting. I did set a lifetime rep PR but I didn’t attempt a 1 rep max squat at the end. I certainly feel as if I would hit a new PR but until I do, I can’t claim it.

A Few Notes Before You Start

In my opinion, sleep is the most underrated variable considered when it comes to training. Anecdotally speaking, I have seen the greatest leaps in progress when I was able to sleep ad libitum. It allows for proper and sufficient recovery especially when paired with adequate nutrition. Getting stronger doesn’t have to mean that you gain muscle mass but often times it is a welcomed side effect. Growing muscle without optimal nutrition is difficult to do. If you want to see the greatest results from this 12 week program, or any program for that matter, eating enough calories and protein is a must.

Best of luck if you decide to partake. Any questions you have can be left in a comment below and I will answer them ASAP.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. ryan stephenson

    Just squats, no accessories? Did you mix in HIT during the week?

    1. Josh Cortis

      Yes, this is just a squatting protocol. I fit in the remainder of my training around the squat days.

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