05 Feb The ‘Tom Platz’ High-Rep Back Squat Routine
That’s a word that comes to mind when I think of the ‘Tom Platz’ High Rep Back Squat Routine.
I’m not sure if legendary bodybuilder Tom Platz invented it or not, but he sure made it more relevant.
While there are many variations of the high-rep back squat (HRBS), the bottom line is the program involves squatting for high volume with moderate to preferably heavy loads.
HIGH-REP BACK SQUAT ROUTINE = SQUATTING HIGH REPS + HEAVY WEIGHTS
To build muscle mass, heavy weight (intensity) plus high reps (volume) seems to be the most effective means.
We’ll cover some of the ways to use the HRBS in a programming approach, but first let’s cover why even do the HRBS?
WHY DO HIGH-REP SQUATS?
High-rep back squats have been notorious for rapidly building full body muscle mass.
The simple reason to use the HRBS is because bigger muscles produce more force, therefore hypertrophy training should be used as a strategic phase for any athlete or serious fitness enthusiast in a long term training approach.
Strength and hypertrophy are important for athletes (sport dependent) and for all of us.
I go deep into the “why” in my book, The Edge of Strength.
BIGGER MUSCLES PRODUCE MORE FORCE
Training for true strength and training to maximize size are distinct training phases, although you will get stronger by building muscle and vice versa.
The HRBS program is just one effective way to put on serious body mass.
Ask any coach and they all agree that the back squat is a proven way to add size, and not just in the legs.
If we consider the mechanisms of hypertrophy, it comes down to 3 things:
- Muscle damage
- Metabolic stress
- Mechanical tension
These 3 mechanisms create cellular and physiological responses to promote muscular growth.
I’ll save the specifics of these stimulus for an upcoming article, but here’s what you need to know right now – the HRBS facilitates these mechanisms to a very high level.
In other words, the HRBS promotes muscular growth.
Whenever I think of the HRBS, one person always comes to mind.
Tom Platz, who is known for his radical approach to training, as well as his leg development as a top level bodybuilder.
It’s been reported that he would perform sets up to 50 reps (and even beyond).
You have to check out the short video below to see the demonstration of power and the extent of performing one set of the HRBS by Tom.
Granted this is “superhuman” level, this is amazing to watch as he performs 23 reps with 238 kg (~525 pounds).
Here’s the video of Tom’s infamous “squat-off” with Dr. Fred Hatfeild.
And, make sure to take notice of the depth of the squat here.
Pretty amazing, huh?
I remember reading Never Let Go by Dan John and his story about squatting 300 pounds for 61 reps.
Yes, these are extreme examples of the HRBS.
What I’m talking about is simply performing “higher-rep” sets than the typical.
When I say “typical,” I mean sets of 10-12 reps which are often used as a standard in bodybuilding training cycles.
Here’s some examples of HRBS regimens to consider.
HIGH-REP BACK SQUAT PROGRAM EXAMPLES
How can you use the HRBS in your training?
Once again, make sure you understand the WHY before doing something like this.
And if you’re a more novice lifter, consider this carefully before implementing any variation.
The Klokov Example.
Olympic weightlifter Dmitri Klokov has a famous quote that goes something like this.
“Do I do cardio? Yes, I squat sets of 10 sometimes. Like 275 kg x 10.”
And, to do the conversion, 275 kilos equals 606 pounds.
Yes, this is the “typical” sets of 10, but when you’re doing heavy weight like this, well that’s another story.
How many sets in an example like this?
3 to 5 would be my answer.
Tom Platz Example.
Going back to Platz, I’ve seen examples of some of his regimens which included something like this:
- 2 sets
- 35-50 reps
- 7 minute rest period
- 2-3 weeks
- Once per week is high volume (as above)
- The second leg day in the week would be 3-4 sets of 10-12
- Intensities? It depends. Tom was reported to do high volume work with 225 to 350 range.
This is NOT something to start out doing from the beginning, so don’t misunderstand this point.
You’ve got to be rational here.
There is a “break-in” period of 1-2 weeks when beginning any high rep squat program, so make sure you’re used to squatting for 10-12 reps before you’d ever go higher than that.
The above example is very aggressive, even radical.
What you’ll notice is that this type of training is only done for a short time period and the high volume training is done only once per week.
This is critical to understand.
A more “reasonable” approach to the HRBS might be something like this (after the break-in period, of course).
Example #1 (Hard Effort Day)
- 2 warm up sets x 10
- 1 “medium” set x 10
- 1 set (~60-65% RM) x 20
- 1 set (~65-70% RM) x 15
So, here you have a few sets to warm-up and work up to, then the 2 high rep back squat sets.
Why 20 then 15? Good question.
I like to do the hard set first (20 reps), then do one final set with slightly less volume.
You can always do the 2nd set at 20 reps, if you’re feeling strong that day.
Keep in mind, 20 reps of a loaded barbell back squat is hard, very hard.
Yet another example is something like this, which is more geared towards strength with a high-rep set to conclude the session.
Example #2 (Hard Effort Day)
- Warm-up set x 10
- 65% x 10
- 75% x 6
- 80% x 6
- 85% x 3
- 85% x 3
- 75% go to exhaustion
I’d approach this a couple of ways with the 2 examples from above.
I’d perform a hard day and a medium day, where the hard day is one of the examples from above and the medium day would look something like this (and just to be clear, this programming example would call for squatting twice per week).
- 2 warm-up sets at light weight
- 3 sets only of 8 – 10 using medium intensity, progressing up to strong but “comfortable” set of 10 on the final set.
This is just an example and there can be many ways to effectively program the HRBS into a hypertrophy phase of training.
Let’s wrap this up.
First, make sure you understand why you would use the HRBS in the first place.
Hopefully, I’ve outlined the reasons why to consider this in this article.
And don’t forget that hypertrophy training is essential for many reasons (ex. health and metabolism, aesthetics, and to get stronger).
Second, make sure you know how to use this effectively into a progressive program.
For example, this is something that has to be used with considerations to avoid overreaching or overtraining.
The HRBS is a part of the Barbell Bodybuilding program – which is just about ready for “primetime.”
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