New Back Squat Progression

CrossFit West Santa Cruz is starting a new back squat program today (Wednesday). It is a form of linear progression called wave style linear progression. The program consists of a nine week macrocycle (or mesocycle) and is divided into three 3-week microcycles. Each microcycle is exactly the same, just the weight changes. Each microcycle is 5-3-1.

Week 1=5×5 (5, 5, 5, 5, 5)

Week 2=5×3 (3, 3, 3, 3, 3)

Week 3=5×1 (1, 1, 1, 1, 1)

The first week is comprised of 5 sets of 5 reps. Each set is heavier than the last and culminates in a 5 rep max. The second week is 5 sets of 3 reps.  Each set is ascending weight and culminates in a 3RM. The 3RM should obviously be heavier than the previous week’s 5RM. The last week of each microcycle is 5 progressively heavier singles ending with a 1RM.

The second microcyle starts back with 5 sets of 5.  Your final 5th set should be heavier than your 5RM from 3 weeks earlier.  The next week is 5×3 and, again, your 3RM needs to be heavier than your first 3RM.  The final week in the second microcycle is singles and your 1RM is heavier than your 1RM from the first microcycle.

The final microcycle is the same as the other two, 5-3-1, just heavier.  The end result, on the final 1RM day, 9 weeks after the first 5RM day, is a big PR.

This program brings up a couple points. Firstly, you have to do the back squats. If you miss back squat day, the coach will let you make up the squats in the lieu of whatever movement the class is doing.  Open Gym on Sundays is also a chance to make up squat day. Secondly, you need to keep a record of your lifts–a training journal. You should be keeping one already, but if you aren’t for some inexplicable reason, start now.

Below is a beautifully detailed graph that I just whipped up on autocad to illustrate the 5-3-1 macrocycle (back squat) that I did a couple of  years ago. While the weights are pretty modest, the results are great.