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How To Squat Big Weight

[Piece Written for Natural Power and Muscle Magazine, download your free copy here]

” Drive through the earth.”

“Make the plates jump.”

“Accelerate as fast as possible.”

“Explode all the way up.”

You’ve heard the cues to squat big weight, but what do they actually mean? More importantly, will they teach you how to squat big weight

For a big squat you need to be strong AND explosive-– one without the other leaves much to be desired in the rack and on the playing field. 

Problem is training both is complicated. You need to develop speed, speed-strength, power and maximum strength qualities to reach your potential and keep your chicken legged’ squat off the safety racks. Don’t worry, it’s not as complex as it sounds, at least not after you read this. Miss out on these methods and you’ll be stuck in mediocrity; however, if you work hard you’ll explode through plateaus and finally learn how to squat big weight.

 Force Velocity Curve



Don’t worry, it’s not your eleventh grade math class. The force velocity curve is a hyperbolic graph that shows the relationship between force and velocity, an inverse relationship between weight (force) and the velocity (speed) that you lift the weight. The heavier the weight the slower movement (absolute strength);conversely, the lighter the weight the faster the speed (speed) of the movement. These qualities make up opposite sides of the spectrum, with speed-strength, strength-speed, and power making up the middle of the curve. force velocity curve for squats, How to Squat Big weight, speed squat, big squat,  How to squat big weights Photo Credit: elitefts.com

To squat big weight  multiple qualities must be trained to minimize weak points and optimize the nervous system to fire all on cylinders. If either end of the curve is neglected performance will suffer. You can’t train solely maximum strength if you want to be your strongest and you can’t train solely “speed” to be explosive.

Qualities on the Force-Velocity Curve

Maximum Strength: Here’s the heavy lifting, generally 85%+ maximum effort for multiple sets of 1-5 five reps to build maximum strength. Going heavy is vital to developing a big squat, but avoid shitting a kidney and missing reps. Missing reps overtaxes your nervous system, leaves you weaker, and wrecks your confidence. Hit reps the you know you’ll make and yourself for the occasional max-out attempts.

Strength-Speed, Speed-strength and Power: Speed-strength and strength-speed are synonymous with power: They both produce a super-high power output compared with their longer duration, lower velocity counterpart maximum strength. Compare a tractor trailer and a Ferrari— It’s great to have a ton of horsepower, but for high-performance it’s best to generate horsepower rapidly.

Power= Work/Time

In this case explosive barbell exercises are best using loads between 30%-85% for multiple low-rep sets is best. (Baechle & Earle, 2008). Maximum power is achieved through moving moderate loads at high velocity with loads of 40-60% 1-rm. For a big squat speed squats are ideal for power development, technique practice, and increased work capacity. Brace hard, use a rapid, yet controlled descent and explode out of the hole.

With lower resistances speed-strength is addressed with an emphasis on velocity of movement against a small load. This could be a sled sprint with 10% bodyweight, light jump-squats, or single leg plyometric.

Speed: Pure velocity is the key and exercises like un-weighted box jumps, broad jumps and  sprint work. If a big squat is your focus then jumps are the best option because they match the mechanical movement of the squat and have minimal risk compared to sprints.

Your best choices are broad jumps, vertical jumps, and box jumps to increase your rate of force development and explode through stick points.

[Side Note: If you’re an athlete that requires speed for on-field dominance there needs to be a premium placed on it. In this case intense movement skills like acceleration and top end speed should be the first priority in your training, not lifting maximal weight.]

Squat Pattern Velocity Movements:

For developing a strong, explosive squat the intensities on the force velocity curve must be trained. Not every quality must be trained in each training session, but all need to be addressed. Squatting twice per week allows you to do just that with one heavy and one speed session. Separate these sessions by at least 48-72 hours for full recovery.

Here are the best exercises for the squat pattern in the Force-Velocity Continuum: It’s simple– contrary to what Tracy Anderson says,  if you lift foo-foo weights your body won’t surpass it’s minimal essential strain. The SAID principle states that specific adaptations occur based on the imposed demands.  You must train each quality of the strength curve to minimize imbalances and develop balanced strength, power, and speed.

Speed: Box Jump, vertical jump, broad jump

Speed-Strength: Dumbbell or Vertimax jump squat

Strength-Speed: Speed Squats with 40-75%

Maximum Strength: Squat singles at 85-95%+

Targeting the squat pattern with multiple sessions per week while addressing force-velocity spectrum leads to greater gains in power, strength, and explosiveness.

The Workout

[Download Natural Power and Muscle Magazine for the workout and articles from Nate Miyaki, Eric Prush, Tony Bonvechio,and JC Deen

Day 1: Speed-Strength+ Maximum Strength

Dynamic Movement and (optional) movement skills

1a. DB Jump Squat 3×5

1b. Plank 3×45 sec

2a. Heavy Squat 5×2-3 @ 85-95%

2b. lateral band march x8

3a. Bulgarian Split Squat 3×8-10

3b. Palloff Press 3×12

4. Sled March/ Prowler Push

Day 2: Upper Body Push/Pull

squat big weight, how to squat big weight

Day 3: Strength-Speed + Speed

Dynamic Movement and (optional) movement skills

1a.Broad Jump 3×5

1b. Side Plank 3×30 sec.

2a. Speed Squat 5×3-5 @40-75%

2b. Fire Hydrant x8

3a. Barbell RDL 4×8-10

3b. BW Glute Bridge 4×12

4. DB Walking Lunge 2-3×8-12

Day 4: Upper Body Push/Pull

Wrap Up

It’s not typical for most to squat more than once per week, but neither is being strong, shredded, and athletic.

At some point you’ll plateau and gains stop getting results so easily. When it happens it’s frustrating and leaves you searching the “interwebz” for answers. This plan teaches you how to squat big weight– with multiple sessions, fluctuating intensity, and training multiple qualities to achieve rapid gains in explosive strength and power.

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Big Biceps Biceps Blueprint

Admit — you want bigger, more jacked arms. Pipe cleaners be damned. 

You’re not alone. Poll hundreds of dudes and you’re unlikely to find anyone satisfied with their biceps development. Dudes do multiple workouts delegated just for their biceps, chasing the famous predator handshake, yet they never get close.

What’s the problem?

biceps blueprint

It’s simple, too much focus on isolation exercises. Those 5 exercises done for 3 sets 12 to pump your bi’s aren’t getting it done. Really, they’re probably the last thing you need.

Rather than give a complicated run-around I’ma provide a Blueprint to get you sleeve-splitting biceps.

Get Stronger

You must focus on getting stronger at compound exercises. When I say compound movements, I mean exercises that involve multiple joints, allow you to use the most external load, and give you the most bang for your buck. Squats, deadlifts, cleans, presses, rows, and pull-ups should be the focus.


Building strength is the biggest step towards building muscle, and the body likes to grow in proportion.  Adding weight to the bar stimulates the body to grow, creating a stimulus and foundation for optimal development… like errrg… for the biceps.

In addition to your squats, deadlifts, and presses heavy pulling exercises like the chin-up and supinated bent-over row will emphasize your biceps. Supinating your grip – having your palms facing up places greater muscle building tension on those pythons.

High Frequency

When it comes to skill acquisition high frequency is best.

Bach Performance Big Biceps

For example, If you’re trying to learn a new language what works best:
Practicing one day per week for two hours, or 30 minutes six-days per week? 

I’d assume you’d say  six-days per week, rather than one.

Building your body is no-different. 

Pick a few exercises per day to hammer the biceps, rather than a 1-day blitzkrieg. The consistent stimulus will challenge the biceps to adapt and grow, while the volume will be low enough each day for optimal recovery.

Isolation and Varying Reps

Isolation exercises are needed for maximal biceps growth. When programmed in concert with heavy, compound lower body and upper body work isolation exercises will add extra size to the arms.

But hold the phone. We need cover some basics.

There are two primary ways to categorize muscle fibers in the body–fast twitch, and slow twitch. Fast twitch muscle fibers are primarily used during explosive, requiring high intensity exercises. These muscle fibers rely primarily on the phospho-creatine system for muscle contractions.

Slow twitch muscle fibers prosper in longer-duration, lower intensity exercises.  These muscle fibers rely on glycolytic and oxidative energy systems

 to maintain muscular contractions.

Going any deeper into these systems is outside the scope of this article, so here’s the cliff-notes version.

Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers= High intensity strength and explosive exercises, generally 8 or fewer reps with a significant load. Think compound strength exercises. 

Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers= low-moderate intensity exercises lasting a longer duration under moderate load. Think timed sets, chasing the pump, and isolation exercises like curls. 

To maximize muscle growth all muscle fibers must be attacked. That means heavy weight with low reps, moderate weight with moderate reps, and low weight with high reps are part of the game plan.

Multiple sets between 2-8 reps performed as explosively as possible will stimulate fast-twitch muscle fibers. Focus on proper form and maximal weight *without form breaking down. Rest should be sufficient for heavy weight, at least 90 seconds.

*Note:This emphasis on perfect form is termed technical failure.

Slow twitch muscle fibers don’t respond as well to high intensity exercises, but thrive in higher-rep endurance exercises. To fatigue slow-twitch fibers higher reps that require oxygen as an energy source are required.This means longer duration sets that provide the “burning” sensation in your muscles fit the bill.

Isolation exercises work best for pumping the biceps specifically, the slow-twitch fibers. Sets between 10-20 reps with incomplete rest are best. My favorite exercises are fat-grip barbell curls, hammer curls, incline dumbbell curls, zottoman curls, and cable curls.

Yes,  you will still be chasing the pump. I’ll let Arnold Schwarzenegger explain.



By hitting all rep ranges more muscle fibers are stimulated, creating maximal muscle growth.


The Workout

Woah. So how do we put all these concepts together?

Don’t spend the entire winter on getting huge arms. You need to get strong first, remember?

Choose a few 4-6 week periods throughout the next few “blast” the biceps and make them grow. This will “shock” the muscles and then allow a time period for recovery and growth.

Here’s a sample 3-day total body workout program to build big, sleeve splittin’ biceps. 

Day 1:

1a.Barbell Deadlift 5×3-5

1b.Plank x30-60 seconds

2.Chin Up 5×4-8 reps (Low/Moderate Reps, high load)

3a.Dumbbell Bench Press 3×10-12

3b.Dumbbell Walking lunge 3×10-12

4.Dumbbell Biceps Curl 4×10-15 (moderate/High Reps, moderate load)

5. Move, Do Conditioning for the love of God

Day 2:

1a.Barbell Bench Press 5×5

1b.Glute Bridge x30-60 seconds

2.Barbell Supinated Bent Over Row 5×4-8 reps (Low/Moderate Reps, high load)

3a.Barbell Biceps Curl 3×10-12

3b.Dumbbell Step Up 3×8-12

4. Dumbbell Hammer Curl Curl 4×10-15

5. Move, Do Conditioning for the love of God

Day 3:

1a.Barbell Front Squat 5×5

1b.Side Plank x30-60 seconds

2.Dumbbell 1-Arm Row 5×8-12 reps  (moderate, moderate-high load)

3a.Push Up 3xMaximum

3b.Lateral lunge 3×10-12

4a.Incline Dumbbell Curl4x10-15 (moderate/High Reps, moderate load)

4b. ab wheel rollouts 4×8-12

5. Move, Do Conditioning for the love of God


Big Biceps

Wrap Up

Despite what the fitness-bullies say, proclaiming that you want to have big, veiny-triumphant arms isn’t silly, non-functional or immature. Those critics are just frustrated at their own lack of success stretching shirt sleeves.

Remember, just because jacked biceps is the goal doesn’t mean your programming should consist of 39 different curl variations.

Your biceps won’t grow if the rest of the body isn’t strong and stimulated to grow. Apply what you’ve learned in this blueprint and start stretching shirt-sleeves.


P.S. for your own highly individualized biceps building program contact me here.

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photo credit: Will Scullin via photopin cc

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