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Squat: How many reps [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Apr 21, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Fitness equipment in gym for squat

Squat: How many reps

 It can be quite daunting to pick the right amount of repetition and sets when you start with the squat. here are some example templates which you should know and use to your own advantage. Always be mindful about your own goals and what is the best rep scheme to achieve them. If you are in doubt talk to your personal trainer or leave a comment below.

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Guide to reps and sets


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Five sets by five repetitions is a great way to start out for building strength. You pick 70 - 80% of your one repetition maximum and perform the 5x5 with 2 - 3 minutes rest in between. The 5x5 scheme is the core of a lot of programs like Stronglifts, Madcow and The Texas method. It is a proven way of building a good balance between muscle and strength development. If you are only getting used to the squat you might want to start off with 50% of your body weight for the scheme and work your way up. In the beginning, I am positive you can squat a 5x5 up to four times a week if you wish to. Once you progress to bigger weights that might not be the case anymore. You can still use a 5x5 scheme, but you might just do one session a week on the squat then. This usually kicks in when you start squatting somewhere between 1.5 to 2 times your body weight. 


The 10x10 scheme is also known as German Volume Training. With this template, you do 10 sets by 10 repetitions at 50 - 60% of your one repetition maximum. This is a great program to get a lot of blood into your muscles and make them grow. Therefore it is more suited to the needs of bodybuilders than powerlifters. Still, there will always be a never ending debate amongst lifters whether low repetitions at high load or more repetitions at lower load are better. If you ask me the big picture number to look at is how many tonnes you move a week for a certain muscle group and whether this is trending upwards or downwards. 


Three sets by three repetitions is the are to go with if you are mainly focused on strength. This will give you the kind of stimulus you need to push above and beyond in terms of strength but might not get as much blood to the muscle to pump them up as other rep schemes. With this setup, you usually work with 80 - 90% of your one repetition maximum. These session are over quick but demanding. Make sure you have a spotter around while thesafety setup is being taken care of. 


A pyramid workout basically combines the three concepts I have mentioned before. While with 5x5, 10x10 and 3x3 you keep the load on the barbell the same and increase week over week in a pyramid approach you increase the load within the session. Your first work set might be a set of ten at 50% followed by a set of five at 85% to finish the with a set of three at 95%. This enables you to get the best of all worlds. The drawbacks of this are that you have to switch the weights and therefore your workout takes a little more time and that you are less focused.

Descending load

In this workout, you will start with a high load in the 90 - 80% range and a set do as many repetitions as possible. From there you work your way down via 80% to 70% to 60%, 50%,40% and apply the same principle. This can be very interesting and challenging and i like to do this at the end of week to really give it my all and get me pumped.

Ascending load

Same principle as with the descending load. This is especially a good scheme when you are generally strong but have a habit of being lazy during your one repetition maximum attempts or sets of threes and twos. Working with ascending load will get you more used to grinding out those last couple of repetitions even if you are already fatigued. The ascending load scheme is more challenging than the descending so it is better suited for more experienced lifters.


AMRAP is the abbreviation of as many repetitions as possible. This is very popular and a good option for people who are not strong enough yet to work with a barbell or want to use the squat for losing weight. You pick a time of 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes or five minutes and then you do as many squats as you can within that window. Write down how many you were able to perform and try to beat yourself the next time. 


These are only a few of the examples of rep schemes which are out there and yu will have to find out what works best for your body and in relation to your goals. Most important is to have a plan before you start working out and set a goal to improve for these programs. Keep track of your progress and when you start to stall for longer than a month consider to change things up and try a different rep scheme. 

Further reading

Topics: Lift stronger, Squat, Powerlifting