How Many Times Per Week Should You Squat?

Over my 15-year powerlifting career, I squatted anywhere from 1-4 times per week. You might think that squatting more frequently is necessary in order to continue seeing progress. However, more is not necessarily better, and your squat frequency will change based on your goals and level of experience.

So how many times per week should you squat? Most powerlifters squat 2-3 times per week. By doing this, you’ll have more opportunities to hone your squat technique, as well as plan different training adaptations for each workout (strength, hypertrophy, power).

It’s important to understand that the exact number of times you squat each week can go up or down based on several factors. In this article, I want to explain all of the factors you should consider when determining your optimal squat frequency. I’ll start with reasons why you shouldn’t squat more often, and then discuss the reasons why you should squat more often.

You might also be interested in reading my other articles on: How Many Times Per Week Should You Bench Press and Can You Deadlift Every Day.

squatting per week

Reasons Why You SHOULD NOT Squat More Often

If you are currently squatting 1 or 2 times per week, then this would be considered a low training frequency where you would have the option to increase it.

Before automatically assuming that you need to squat more frequently there are some compelling reasons why someone might choose not to. Understanding these reasons will allow you to assess your own individual training context before making a decision to up your squat frequency or not.

Here are six reasons to stick to your current squat frequency:

Don’t Fix What’s Already Working

If you’re still improving given your current training split and squat frequency, then don’t change your program.

It should be fairly easy to tell if you’re making progress with your squat.

As a novice or intermediate level lifter, you should have a measurable increase in strength over the course of a 6-12 week timeframe. If your strength is going up over that time period, even if it’s 5-10lbs, then your current training context is working for you and you shouldn’t change anything.

Some people might think they’re not making progress in the squat because it’s not fast enough. For example, some people might not be happy when their squat increases 5-10lbs. However, consider the fact that if you increase your squat by 5-10lbs every 12 weeks then after a year you’ve put 20-40lbs+ on your squat, which is a meaningful amount of progress to make.

Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that if you double your squat frequently, that you could double your rate of progress. That’s not how your rate of adaptation works.

In my article on How To Squat With Long Legs I mention that you may not want to increase your squat frequency.

You Still Have Opportunity to Increase Your Volume

If you haven’t maximized the amount of squat volume you can handle within a single workout, then you may want to consider bringing up your squat volume for that workout first, before increasing your overall training frequency.

A key driver for both strength and hypertrophy is the amount of training volume you accumulate.

Training volume is the product of your sets, reps, and load (Volume = Sets X Reps X Load). For example, if you squat 3 sets of 4 reps at 200lbs then your training volume is 2400lbs.

Most novice and intermediate lifters will want to increase their volume over time. However, if you can continue to increase your squat volume within your current training frequency, then there may be no need to also increase the number of days you squat per week.

Using the example above, if you could keep adding another set or rep, or increase the load, to the original protocol of 3 sets of 4 reps within your single workout, then you still have the resources to maximize the amount of squat volume without increasing frequency. Don’t increase the frequency until the volume of a single squat workout becomes unmanageable, i.e. the combination of the sets/reps/load becomes too challenging.

Check out my article on How To Get Back Into Powerlifting After a Long Break

Squatting Is Not Your Main Priority

The number of times you dedicate to a single exercise each week will determine the overall training focus and priority. If you want to do a well-rounded program, which includes multiple exercises and qualities of training, rather than specializing in squats, then leave your squat frequency the same.

If you do not have an explicit focus to improve your squat strength and/or technique, then you might want to consider not increasing your squat frequency.

Think of it like this: pretend you’re a basketball player and you need to get better at free-throw shooting. To get better, you increase the amount of free-throw shooting practice from one to 5-times per week, and you spend 30-minutes after each practice doing so. After 12-weeks, you’ll certainly develop better motor skills and improve your accuracy in getting the ball in the basket.

However, perhaps you’re already a strong free-throw shooter and have solid technique. If that’s the case, spending an increased frequency in the movement will not make you a better overall basketball player.

This is exactly how you should be viewing the exercises you do in the gym. You need to assess your areas of priority and where you have room for improvement.

Related: Can You Squat and Deadlift In The Same Workout?

You Don’t Have The Time or Resources To Increase Frequency

If you have limited time to train then increasing your squat frequency might not be possible given your available resources.

A lot of us do not have the luxury to spend more time in the gym and/or train additional workouts per week.

If you can only workout 3-times per week for 60-minutes then you’ll need to prioritize your training within a fixed number of available resources. The decision to increase your training frequency for a single movement will naturally bump the priority for something else.

Even if you are in a position to prioritize the squat, and you were okay bumping the priority of another exercise, you might not be able to do so because of your training split limitations (i.e. you only have 60-min 3-times/week to workout).

If that’s the case then you’ll just need to ensure that the squat workouts you already have in your training split are fully maximized within your current abilities.

You Have Injuries or Are Prone To Injuries

If you currently have injuries that impact your squat negatively, or if you’ve had a squat injury previously, then you might want to consider keeping your frequency the same or even reducing it.

With a higher training frequency, you’ll have a greater amount of stress on your tissues and ligaments. This is not to say that your body can’t adapt to this increased level of stress. In fact, in most cases, you will adapt positively But if you’re injured or have had an injury due to squats previously, then your ability to recover or adapt from the extra stimulus might not be as effective when compared with a healthy individual.

The goal of training should be to remain as healthy as long as possible. So you should only increase squat frequency when you’re free from any pain or injury, and you’re confident there’s no risk of re-injury.

Related: How To Fix Elbow Pain Low Bar Squatting (8 Solutions)

You Have A Competition Coming Up

This point may not apply to all readers, but if you’re a competitive powerlifter or athlete, then you’ll want to consider how close you are from competing before increasing squat frequency.

A general rule of thumb is not to make any big changes or try anything new in your training program within 6-8 weeks of competing. This is because you haven’t tested whether an increase in training frequency will have a positive or negative outcome on your strength and performance.

Therefore, it’s too much of a risk to increase squat frequency at this time and it’s recommended that you leave your training frequency the same until after you compete.

Reasons Why You SHOULD Squat More Often?

Now that you understand the reasons why you should not increase your squat frequency, I want to discuss the possible scenarios of when it would make sense to increase the number of squat workouts per week.

Here are 7 reasons why you should squat more often:

number of times squatting per week

You’ve hit a plateau in squat strength

If you have not seen any progress on your squat after several months of hard training, then increasing your squat frequency could be a tool to overcome this plateau.

It’s important that you don’t confuse the ‘rate of progress’ with a ‘strength plateau’.

If you’re a beginner trainee with less than two years of strength training experience, you can expect to see gains in strength much quicker than an advanced trainee with over ten years of experience. As someone new to the gym, you can’t continue to progress at the same rate of progress forever though. At some point, your progress will slow and this is normal.

Therefore, how do you know if your progress is slowing versus plateauing?

You need to assess your strength over the course of the medium to long term. If you’ve been stuck at the same squat numbers for 4-6 months, and you’ve been training reasonably hard over that timeframe, then this is a strength plateau. In this case, consider increasing your squat frequency.

You’ve maxed out your training volume on your current split

If you’ve kept your training volume static over the course of a long period of time (4-6 months), and your squat strength has plateaued, then those two factors might be correlated.

As discussed earlier, your training volume is an important driver of both muscle gain and strength. If your training volume does not have the ability to increase within the capacity of a single workout then you’ll need to increase how many days you squat to keep progressing your volume.

So rather than having all of your squat volume on a single workout, you could consider increasing your squat frequency to 2-3 days/week and start splitting your overall volume across these additional workouts. Over time, this will allow you greater opportunity to increase your squat volume, which may lead to greater increases in strength.

You want to improve your squat technique

If you want to improve your squat technique, then increasing your squat frequency will give you more time to practice the movement pattern.

The squat is like any other sport skill that you want to improve. You can’t expect to improve your sport skills if you are only practicing them once per week. Could you imagine a basketball player who wanted to get better at free throws only practicing free throw shots once per week? It would be very hard to progress in that sort of scenario.

The same rationale applies to the squat.

You need to have sufficient practice at squatting to learn how to improve the skill. The biggest lesson that squatting more frequently will teach you about technique is ‘what makes a bad rep’. If you don’t know what a bad rep looks and feels like, then you can’t begin to improve your technique.

You want to prioritize squatting over everything else

If you have the explicit goal of increasing your squat strength above all else, then increasing your frequency will allow you to improve both your technical competence and training volume.

You can decide, for example, that for the next 12-weeks you’re going to increase your squat frequency from once to three times per week in order to give a boost to your squat strength.

In fact, a study showed that over a 12-week time period, high-frequency training increased strength slightly more compared with low-frequency training.

With that said, it’s unclear whether the high-frequency approach is sustainable in the long-run, and you may not want to prioritize squatting forever.

Therefore, after the 12-week period, you can then decide to bring your squat frequency back down to once per week to focus on a more well-rounded program. But increasing your squat frequency in the short-term can have a measurable impact on your short-term squat strength.

Your training is boring and you want to try something new and different

If you feel like you’re lacking motivation in the gym, you might want to try something out of your comfort zone that challenges you in ways that didn’t previously. Increasing how many times per week you squat might be the challenge that motivates you to enjoy training again.

I know for myself, if I do the same program over and over again training becomes monotonous. After a while, even if the training program is allowing me to get stronger, I can lose interest in my workouts.

If this happens, then you should switch your program immediately. Increasing your squat frequency, especially if you’ve never done it before, can provide a new challenge that keeps you engaged with your workouts.

You want to experiment with different periodization strategies

There are some periodization strategies that assume you’re training your lifts multiple times per week, so if you only squat once per week you won’t be able to implement them.

Periodization is the long-term approach you take to manipulate certain training variables (sets, reps, load, rest, tempo, exercise selection, etc). One approach to periodization is called Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP).

DUP is the strategy of focusing on different training outcomes within the same week. For example, within a single week, you might have some days that are higher reps and lower intensities and other days that are lower reps and higher intensities.

For example, a DUP split could be:

  • Day 1: Focused on hypertrophy (4 sets of 10 reps at 65% of 1 rep max)
  • Day 2: Focused on strength (4 sets of 4 reps @ 85% of 1 rep max)
  • Day 3: Focused on power (4 sets of 3 reps @ 60% of 1 rep max)

As you can see, if you are only squatting once per week, a DUP approach to periodization wouldn’t work. So if you want to experiment with different methods, such as DUP, then you will need to increase your training frequency.

You’re far away from competition

If you’re a powerlifter or competitive athlete, and you are currently in the ‘off-season’, then this would be a good time to experiment with increasing your squat frequency.

Increasing your squat frequency when you are far away from competition is advised for three reasons.

First, you can train without having the risk of getting burnt out. If you increase your squat frequency and start to feel under-recovered the consequence is low because you aren’t expected to perform at your best like you would during the competitive season.

Second, you can experiment with how your body responds to an increased frequency in order to gauge its effectiveness. If you find you’re recovering and getting stronger, the increased frequency might be something that you implement more long-term.

Third, during the off-season, you’re likely going to do higher volume workouts anyways, and increasing your squat frequency is the easiest way to accomplish this.

Sample Training Splits For Squat

Here are examples of training splits for squats, whether you want to train one, two, three, or four days per week. These examples also serve as a good template for how you should increase your squat frequency.

Squat 1-Day Squat Training Split

If you only have one day to squat each week, I would do 2-3 sets of barbell back squats and then 2-3 sets of a squat variation that targets your weak points. Take a look at our article on “Squat Accessories” to get ideas for different squat variations.

Day 1:

Barbell Back Squat
2-3 sets of 3-5 reps
75-85% of 1 rep max

Squat Variation
2-3 sets of 5-8 reps
60-70% of 1 rep max

Squat 2-Day Squat Training Split

If you have two days to train squats then you can experiment with having a day focused on high volume and the other day focused on high intensity.

Day 1 (high-intensity day)

Barbell Back Squat

3-4 sets of 1-5 reps

85-95% of 1 rep max
Day 2 (high-volume day)

Barbell Back Squat

3-4 sets of 6-10 reps

60-70% of 1 rep max

Squat 3-Day Squat Training Split

If you have three days to train squats then you can take the two-day split above and then add the third day focused on ‘weak point training’, which would include a squat variation specific to your area of development. In order to determine ‘your weak point training’ check out our article on muscles used in the squat.

Day 1 (high-intensity day)

Barbell Back Squat

3-4 sets of 1-5 reps

85-95% of 1 rep max
Day 2 (weak-point training)

Choice Squat Variation

2-3 sets of 4-8 reps

60-75% of 1 rep max
Day 3 (high-volume day)

Barbell Back Squat

3-4 sets of 6-10 reps

60-70% of 1 rep max

Squat 4-Day Squat Training Split

If you have four days to train squats then you can take the three-day split above and then add a light fourth day of squats, which would act as a recovery workout.

Day 1 (high-intensity day)

Barbell Back Squat

3-4 sets of 1-5 reps

85-95% of 1 rep max
Day 2 (weak-point training)

Choice Squat Variation

2-3 sets of 4-8 reps

60-75% of 1 rep max
Day 3 (high-volume day)

Barbell Back Squat

3-4 sets of 6-10 reps

60-70% of 1 rep max
Day 4 (recovery day)

Barbell Back Squat

2-3 sets of 3 to 5 reps

65-75% of 1 rep max

Final Thoughts

The number of days you squat each week will depend on your current level of experience and goals. Not everyone will be able to squat more frequently, which doesn’t mean that you can’t still see progress. If you’re in a position to squat more frequently, then make sure to do so only for a short period of time (12-weeks) before assessing whether the new training split is working or not.