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How to Squat 315 LBS

Updated: Apr 17

There was a time in my life where squatting 315 pounds felt like an impossibility. I think back to the days in my high school weight room, blazing hot in the summertime, scared to do more than a half-squat with 185 pounds as I watched some of my mutant friends walk out 405 and bury it, their rear ends within a few inches of their achilles tendons before firing out of the hole and rising to the top.

Unracking 458 pounds at the Texas Power Bar Open in November 2023
Unracking 458 pounds at the Texas Power Bar Open in November 2023

The scene was a fun one, with a weight room blasting loud music, everyone screaming and chest-bumping, with the sweat, flexing, and intensity that only testosterone-oozing teen boys can produce. Even in the midst of all that, I was detached, wondering why not me? I had spent a whole summer in that weight room like everyone else, and the one before, and yet, I had little progress to show for it. I thought I was different, in the worst way. I thought myself inferior athletically. This idea hovered in my subconscious for quite a while. I wasn't mature enough to have a growth mindset, so I made irrational decisions that often stunted my progress. In my head, it was as simple as them being born strong and me... not.

It seems so silly now, having experienced these last 5 or so years. I wish I could go back and coach myself in the weight room. For one, I would have been a much stronger athlete, without a doubt squatting 315 and benching 225 before graduating, making me a much better player. Secondly, if I had done that as a teen that would mean I'd be stronger right now!

So how did I overcome my seemingly-inferior athleticism to squat 315? and then 405? and now be closing in on 500? Here are the things I had to teach myself to get there:

The Movement Pattern

The first thing I had to change was the squats themselves. We were taught to squat with our toes pointed forward, bar on top of our traps, with our eyes up at the ceiling. This is just not the way most people need to squat if they want to squat big weights. My teammates who were completing big squats this way are were either genetically gifted to squat this way, or, looking back, were naturally doing what I have learned to do now: The low bar squat.

High bar vs. low bar squats
Most people naturally select the high bar position, but I've found the low bar position (bar at the bottom of the traps) to be better for most, especially me.

In the low bar position, the bar is placed just below the insertion point of the traps. This spot is selected because it is at the top of the shoulder blades, which are retracted during a squat to form nice flat shelf for the bar to sit in.

Once the bar is placed appropriately, the lifter has unracked the bar, a much more effective squat can take place. The movement pattern is as follows:

  1. Inhale a deep breath to brace your core

  2. Unlock the knees and hips at the same time

  3. Push your hips back as far as you can

  4. Shove your knees out

  5. Drive your hips straight up out of the hole

This style of squatting feels much more natural to me, and most everyone I have ever coached. Pushing the hips back and knees out allows me to reach a much greater depth, and without any hip pain that had come along with 3/4 squatting with my toes forward. Had I learned this earlier, I would have saved myself years of frustration and made years of more PRs.

The Programming to Squat 315

I spent many years not only squatting wrong, but programming terribly. Actually, this may not be true, because I don't know that I followed a program at all for years. I spent a lot of time haphazardly "working out" and crushing myself on "leg day" with whatever rep scheme or machine was the flavor of the week. It is almost always true that following a bad program is better than no program, but by the time I got around to actually following programming, I was just as clueless. Switching rep schemes, no real model of progression, or way too rapid of progression stunted my growth.

Programming yourself for squatting 315 takes a very simple approach: pick a rep scheme somewhere in the ballpark of 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps, and progress it by 5 lbs a workout for as long as you can, then 5 lbs a week for as long as you can until you lift 315 lbs.

This approach works for just about anyone, because it is a small enough change that the body can adapt to it, and the approach is simple enough so that you can put your mental energy on what's important: executing the workout effectively.

Squatting with the proper technique and the right rate of progression can lead you to squatting 315. Once I figured out that adding incrementally more weight on the bar, sticking with a 3 x 5 rep scheme, and recovering appropriately led to huge gains, 315 became inevitable, instead of mythological.

The Recovery

To squat 315, there is some outside preparation that has to take place. This falls into two categories: eating and sleeping. The eating piece is fairly easy. To recover from your last workout, protein is a must. A practical number being 1 gram for each pound of bodyweight you carry. Eating1-1.5x grams per pound of bodyweight of carbs is sufficient in most cases, but if you're feeling lethargic eating that way, go to 2x. The point being: if you feel good in the gym and can make progress from one workout to the next, you're eating enough. Back when I was "not athletic enough" I was eating a lot of cereal as my post-workout snack, and drinking Mountain Dew all day long. No one is super athletic with that diet.

When it comes to sleep, do your very best to get 8 hours of sleep, for as many nights as you can string together while you're strength training. This means organizing your life to high enough of a degree that you can be in bed for long enough to sleep for 8 hours, and not consuming things that interfere with your sleep. Among these things include entertainment on bright screens, alcohol, caffeine, and sugary foods.

Better eating and sleeping = better gains, and that's really all there is to it.

The Time

The time frame varies for everyone, but following the steps above will speed up the process drastically. Consider the math:

If you are currently squatting 135 x 5, and can train Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week, adding 5 lbs a workout, that means you are 36 workouts away from squatting 315. That's 12 weeks! I wouldn't have believed it then, but I could have squatted 315 after one summer in the weight room and eating good.

Now, it doesn't always go that smoothly. Sometimes you hit a hiccup in the road, or your training gets interrupted by life. Maybe you squat 265 for 3 x 5 on Monday, and can't squat 270 for 3x 5 on Wednesday. This means a small adjustment to your squat training. You'll still squat 3 days a week, but you'll start to follow a heavy-medium-heavy lifting schedule, where you progress every other workout. This adds a few weeks until you can squat 315, but it's still less time than you might think.

The road to squatting 315 is hard, but doable for most everyone. There are factors that affect the timeline, such as age, sex, and athletic ability, but it is an achievable outcome. Focusing on this process can help you squat 315, and it might be quicker than you think.

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