Programming Update: Back Squat Cycle


Most of you have noticed that we are back squatting more regularly than in the past by performing 5 sets x 5 reps every week. This will continue until we hit 12 exposures of 5×5 back squats.  At that point the cycle will culminate in a new 1 Rep Max (RM) test in the fall, after which we will change the set and rep scheme for back squats. We do not expect everyone to hit all 12 exposures over the summer, some may miss squats from time to time because of vacation or scheduling, ideally you manage to hit 8-10 exposures.

After only five exposures, you may be creeping up to your previous 1 RM and the squats getting increasingly more difficult to perform requiring more rest time between sets.  Some of you may have even been unable to complete all the reps last workout. This is okay, missed attempts happen from time to time.  We cannot add weight indefinitely and expect to increase our squats 250# in a year by adding 5# per week. Sometimes we have to take a few steps backwards in order to keep moving forward; all athletes do this by deloading the weights and, in our case, resetting our 5×5 at a lighter weight and continuing loading 5×5 in the same manner from a slightly higher starting point.

If for some reason you missed the memo and have been adding weight by feel or YOLO style every workout (by working to your heaviest possible set of five each week), we’ll reiterate that you should stick to the linear progression – slowly increasing the load over a longer period of time. Not only are you able to build strength and speed with your squatting by adding weight slowly, you are increasing your technical squatting ability by virtue of practicing many sub-maximal repetitions.

We encourage you to listen to your coach and stick to the prescribed weight for the 5×5 set, unless they instruct you to do so otherwise. Every time you take big jumps or do not stick to the weight for your rep scheme, you are actually sabotaging your future progress.  At first it seems as though it is too easy doing the same weights for all five sets, especially when you feel like you could do more.  If you are patient and stick with the prescription, adding a little more weight each week (5-10# depending on the lifter), you will see measurable gains by the end of the summer.


When you feel like your last 5×5 back squat workout took everything you had to complete, then it is suggested you perform a reset.  One indicator that you need a reset is that your last 1-2 reps each set (even your early sets) become very, very slow or a “grind” where you lose position.  Another indicator is that you fail or miss a rep, forcing you to drop down in weight for the remainder of your sets.  Finally if you are at 95% or at your old 1 RM for 5×5, it’s generally useful that you go ahead and reset.  If you are unsure of what to do, since lifters can miss a rep for all sorts of reasons: Ask a Coach!

To perform a reset: Instead of dropping all the way back down to 75% of your max, reset now to 80% of your old 1 RM and start from there. The importance of the reset or deload cannot be stressed enough. No amount of machismo or mental toughness can overcome your body’s physical limitations. 

We place a high importance on the back squat and getting stronger in our programming, as it has carryover to most all activities that we do in CrossFit.  Squatting will make you stronger physically and mentally. There will be some variations in the remainder of this squatting cycle, such as finding a 5 rep max or performing a max rep test after your 5×5. You will see overhead squats and front squats appear in other workouts during the week but the back squat will remain our main strength movement for the foreseeable future.

Lastly, the Beginners/All Levels have a 5RM test scheduled this Monday.  If you follow the Experienced WOD programming, please do not see this as an open invitation to test out your 5 RM.  (Ideally, you stick to one track of programming rather than cherry picking the workouts you like – most people make less progress when they switch back and forth between programs.) The reason for programming a 5 RM for Beginner/All-Level classes is that the majority of people in this class are relatively new to CrossFit and lifting.  They are going to see large changes in their maximal weights during their first year of CrossFit.  Therefore finding a new 5 RM can allow for a more accurate reset, which allows newer lifters to maximize their results.