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The Russian Squat Routine for Masters

January 4, 2007 02:53 PM

The classic six-week Russian Squat Routine is legendary for giving a kick start to the squatter whose progress has stopped. What makes it so effective is the brutal and relentless wave loading of volume for the first three weeks and then an even more brutal wave loading of intensity the final three weeks. Two of the last three workouts are in the 95-105% 1RM range!

The original Russian Squat Routine is really designed for younger athletes: men and women at the peak of their athletic and recuperative powers. I've done the routine a few times over the years, but as I've hit middle age I've either had to dial back the baseline 1RM on which I base the routine or cut the routine short. The last time I did the cycle I hit on a formula that allows me to recuperate adequately between sessions and still finish the program with a new 1RM.

The original Russian program is a six week program and calls for lifting three days a week on non-consecutive days. My Master's version is an eight week program and calls for lifting 2 days a week: for example Monday and Thursday, Tuesday and Friday, etc. Allow a minimum of 48 hours between sessions and feel free to take 3 days off after the loading day. But don't slack?getting old isn't for sissies and even though this program is modified it isn't for sissies either?make sure to squat at least two days a week.

Here's how it works.

Take your current 1RM and subtract 20% from it. This will be your 1RM for the program. For example, if your best 1RM squat is 150kg, subtract 30kg and your 1RM for the Master's Russian Squat Routine is 120kg. If you don't know your 1RM max, I recommend you guess on the low side. Rest as long as you need to between sets. This program is intended for rock bottom Olympic style back squats. If you are a power squatter, subtract 15% from your 1RM to accommodate the difference in depth between the two styles. Belts and wraps are fine either style (we are Masters after all, use what you need to). Feel free to deviate from the written program and take an extra warm-up single or two as you ramp up to the work weights, especially for the loading days of the last three weeks.

Phase 1 - Volume: 4 weeks, squat twice a week

Workout 1: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 2 x 6 sets
Workout 2: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 3 x 6 sets
Workout 3: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 2 x 6 sets
Workout 4: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 4 x 6 sets
Workout 5: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 2 x 6 sets
Workout 6: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 5 x 6 sets
Workout 7: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 2 x 6 sets
Workout 8: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 6 x 6 sets

Phase 2 - Intensity: 4 weeks, squat twice a week

Workout 9: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 2 x 6 sets
Workout 10: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 85% x 5 x 5 sets
Workout 11: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 2 x 6 sets
Workout 12: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 90% x 4 x 4 sets
Workout 13: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 2 x 6 sets
Workout 14: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 95% x 3 x 3 sets
Workout 15: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 80% x 2 x 6 sets
Workout 16: 60% x 3, 70% x 2, 100% x 1, (105% x 1) (110% x 1)
(Attempts in parenthesis are allowed extra PR attempts if the previous attempts were clearly submaximal.)

Even in this lightened and more extended format, the Russian Squat routine is a killer. Cut back on the balance of your weight training to give your body all the recuperative energy it needs to come back between workouts. Eat plenty of good food. Listen to your body?this routine is not for everyone. If you start to break down then you should stop and reevaluate for a couple of days. If you are still game, back up a couple of weeks and take another running start. Ultimately, all routines are suggested guidelines. You have to adapt the routine to how your body responds and as we get older we need to be even more attentive and responsive to our bodies' warning signals. An eight week program is a suggestion?if you need 9, 10 or 12 weeks to get through this program to a new max, then that is what it takes.

If you make it through the routine as written with new maxes: congratulations! Not that you will really want to, but just in case you do I strongly urge you in no uncertain terms do not, I repeat, do not attempt to do this routine back to back or more than twice a year. It is a rough program and the risk of tendonitis and other overuse injuries is high if you try to repeat it. So don't. Maintain your squatting strength but do it by moving on to another routine. You could, however, apply this program to pressing or some other upper body strength movement. This is acceptable. But your legs and lower back will need a break and something different to do. Trust me.

Enjoy the program!

Randy Hauer, RKC is also a USAW Club Coach, Sports Performance Coach and athlete. As a GS athlete he has achieved three CMS rankings in the 24kg Long Cycle Clean and Jerk; one in the +90kg division one in the 90kg division and one in the 80Kg division. His athletic goal next year is to qualify for the World Masters Weightlifting Championships in the 85kg class, 50-54 age group.

Randy is currently in the process of setting up his own strength training company which will provide programs utilizing Kettlebells and the Olympic Lifts. He can be contacted at