Lifting weights is as much a skill you practice as a task you perform. Whether you go to the gym to simply feel a bit better, add muscle to your frame, or bolster your strength, the inescapable reality is that resistance training is almost an art in and of itself.
When viewed through that lens, it does beg the question — can you kick up your frequency, or how often you practice your craft, and make substantially faster progress as a result?
The “Squat Every Day” protocol is, for better or worse, exactly what it sounds like. Some strength enthusiasts swear by making the squat as regular as brushing their teeth. But can clearing out your schedule and making the squat rack into a home really worth it? That’s for you to decide.
Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource.
What Does It Mean to Squat Every Day?
Fortunately, the premise of the Squat Every Day protocol isn’t exactly ambiguous. The idea is simple — every single day (or every day you’d normally work out), you perform some type of free-weight squatting movement. Most of the time, with a barbell.
The Squat Every Day brand is far from the first popular iteration of high-frequency training. The infamous “Bulgarian System” for Olympic lifting, popularized by weightlifting magnate Ivan Abadjiev in the late-20th century.
Under Abadjiev’s brutal, high-intensity system, Bulgarian weightlifters like Naim Süleymanoğlu (and many others) smashed record after record, making a very strong case for the merits of daily squatting along the way.
Beyond the scope of Olympic lifting, daily practice is commonplace across almost all sports on one level or another. And while squatting daily is certainly a heck of a workout, make no mistake — it’s also skillful practice of the movement itself.
What the Science Says
Before you embark on your daily squatting journey, you should know what the scientific literature has to say about the idea.
In essence, Squat Every Day is just a form of very high-frequency resistance training. Luckily, the research community has a lot to say on that front.
Frequency, Strength, and Hypertrophy
More is more, but only up to a point. Everyone has their own individual tolerance to resistance training — how you choose to meet that quota over the course of, say, a week, is mostly up to you.
Research on the topic of optimal frequency in training has mostly concluded that, as long as the total exercise volume is equalized, how many times per week you hit the squat rack isn’t that important, at least on a strictly physiological level. (1)
This idea also extends to the mechanisms of hypertrophy. Volume-equated studies have yet to demonstrate that training a muscle more often than about twice per to be of substantial benefit. (2)
However, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that doing something more often helps you get better at it. So, what gives?
Squatting a new personal record is a two-fold endeavor; your muscles and nervous system need to be physically strong enough to lift the weight, but you must also have enough technical mastery of the movement to perform it under significant duress.
Research on motor learning has confirmed that, even after you reach competency in a skill, additional practice sessions can help reinforce or engrain the technique as second-nature. (3)
This may partly explain why squatting more often can help you get stronger, even if you aren’t doing more weekly sets. Higher frequency makes you more efficient at expressing your strength.
Understand that “squat every day” and “squat as hard as you can every day” are not the same thing. If you have a certain tolerance to workload, you can divide it up into one or two large, tiring sessions, or several smaller and more manageable ones.
Literature on daily squatting protocols backs this idea as it relates to recovery, too. While hard rest is a good idea, carefully managing your daily workloads can help sustain the challenge of sinking your squats on a daily basis. (4)
It’s also worth noting that squatting every day doesn’t necessarily pose a significant injury risk, at least on a workout-to-workout basis. However, a majority of injuries in ailments in strength sports come from chronic overuse instead of catastrophic accidents. (5)
Therefore, daily squatting for an extended period of time may predispose you to a physical malady — but this is far from guaranteed.
How to Squat Every Day
Whether you want to squat daily as a means of getting stronger, adding muscle, becoming a better squatter, or testing your willpower, your primary concern should be making it safe and sustainable.
Squatting every day may sound alluring on paper if you enjoy training legs, but will be absolutely harrowing in practice, especially after you’re a few weeks in.
Start (Very) Light
You’re going to have to adjust to the physical (and mental) rigors of squatting daily. As such, you want as little in the way of that process as possible.
If you try to dive headfirst into Squat Every Day and work with weights that you only touch once or twice per week, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening.
Take it slow in the beginning — very slow. Reduce your working weights by as much as 50 percent or more in the first few weeks as you acclimate to the regime.
You should not be missing many, if any, reps during your daily sessions, especially early on. You’ll build back up faster than you think.
Keep Your Volume Low
If you typically squat, say, between four and six working sets twice per week, your weekly volume tolerance is between 10 and 12 weekly working sets.
If you were to suddenly squat on a daily basis and tried to maintain that same set-rep scheme, you’d exponentially up your total volume and possibly even hurt yourself along the way.
Instead, think about dividing up your total weekly workload across all the days that you squat. This will likely end up looking like as few as 2 or 3 sets per day in the beginning — or, if you’re going heavy, a single hard set.
Vary Your Exercises
Squatting every day doesn’t necessarily mean you have to perform the same style of squat each time you set foot in the gym.
In fact, varying your movement a bit might help with the monotony of the routine as well.
Most of your time should probably be spent on perfecting and performing your “primary” squat — if you’re a powerlifter, the low bar back squat is a prime candidate — but you shouldn’t be afraid to throw in some different movements here and there either.
While you might adjust to the difficulty of daily squatting faster than expected, lifting weights without multiple dedicated rest days per week will take its toll no matter what.
Your recovery habits, from sleeping properly to getting adequate nutrition, should be as impeccable as possible during your Squat Every Day experiment.
Limit Other Training
Squatting every day doesn’t necessarily preclude you from performing other types of physical activity. That said, you should probably dial back on your non-squatting endeavors for the duration of the protocol.
If, on a given day, you’re only performing a few working reps of squats, you can probably bang out an upper body workout just fine. But when it comes to your lower body work, start with just the squats and incorporate some smart, targeted accessory work as needed.
Sample Squat Every Day Routine
Squat Every Day isn’t a cut-and-dry template. There are plenty of different ways to tweak and tailor your approach to daily squatting such that it works in your favor.
This sample routine is aimed at any strength enthusiast who wants to dabble in high-frequency squatting. If you train for powerlifting, you’d likely want to make the low bar competition squat the centerpiece of your workouts. If you follow Olympic lifting, consider substituting in more front squats instead.
- Monday: Back Squat 3 x 3
- Tuesday: Back Squat 3 x 2, paused.
- Wednesday: Front Squat 3 x 3
- Thursday: Back Squat 1 x 3
- Friday: Back Squat 3 x 2, paused.
- Saturday: Front Squat 3 x 1
- Sunday: rest or bodyweight squats for active recovery.
As you can see, this protocol wouldn’t require you to perform the same squat for the same sets and reps every day.
However, the daily sessions don’t stray too far from each other. Volume is kept low throughout and tapers further into the week.
“Daily Max” Squatting
Note that some Squat Every Day plans also involve working up to a single “heavy” rep each day, and using that weight (which can vary based on how you’re feeling) as a guide for your subsequent back-off work.
This method of autoregulation requires more self-awareness of your own capabilities than a pre-written plan, but it does let you account for fluctuations in energy levels, mobility, and training aptitude.
It may also lead to tremendous increases in short-term strength, but you’re not likely to keep all those gains long after you return to a more sustainable program with lower frequency. (6)
Benefits of Squatting Every Day
Will squatting every day turn you into Tom Platz himself, or help you squat a new world record in your weight class? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean the protocol can’t benefit you at all.
Massive Short-Term Strength Gains
Dramatically dialing up your performance of one specific movement is almost guaranteed to make you much stronger in that movement — temporarily.
Not only is this evidenced in the literature surrounding Squat Every Day plans, (6) but high-level strength programs such as Smolov lean on this principle as well.
If you need to boost your squat strength as fast as possible and can tolerate putting other dimensions of fitness on the backburner, squatting every day will probably work wonders.
Just don’t expect all of those gains to stick around. Your body can adapt to almost anything, but once you remove the stressor, you may find it difficult to hold onto the strength gains you made.
Improvements in Technique
Squatting is a technical skill, just like deadlifting, snatching, or even playing a musical instrument. Turning up your frequency of practice, then, is all but guaranteed to help you become more confident and proficient with the barbell.
As long as you don’t lift too heavy such that it negatively impacts your technique, you should notice serious improvements in how you move during the squat by performing it on a daily basis.
Saves a Lot of Time
To gain respectable strength necessitates a long time spent in the gym. Traveling to the facility, going through your warm-up, and even working up to your top sets on the day all amount to hours spent in the weight room every week.
If your life or schedule can’t accommodate a 90-minute-plus strength workout twice per week, turning to daily squats might serve as a surprisingly effective short-term solution — particularly if you have a squat rack and weights at home.
Daily squat workouts shouldn’t take much more than half an hour to complete, depending on how thorough you like to warm up.
Tests Your Willpower (and Sanity)
You don’t have to squat every day just because you want bigger quads or a heavier Total. If lifting weights is a personal passion, you can test your mettle with the barbell by squatting every day.
Performing (essentially) the same movement, day in, day out, for weeks at a time will be as much of a mental marathon as a test of physical resilience. There’s no harm in using it as a barometer of your tolerance to the grind.
Drawbacks of Squatting Every Day
It may blow up your back squat, but those gains are almost certainly not without cost. Before you dive headfirst into the swamp of squatting daily, consider if the juice is worth the squeeze.
It’s Incredibly Monotonous
Even if the squat is your all-time favorite exercise, you may not love it so much on day 15 (or 50). When it comes to extreme training modalities like Squat Every Day, there’s little point in undertaking them as a half-measure.
Be willing to tolerate the boredom of it all before you get started. It probably won’t be a mental walk in the park.
You Must Neglect Other Movements (and Muscles)
You only have so much energy to work with every day. Having two heavy leg days per week is one thing, but squatting every 24 hours is another beast entirely.
The demanding nature of a daily squatting plan will likely require you to put other parts of fitness to the side. This could mean forsaking the deadlift for weeks at a time, or only hitting up the bench press once per week.
If you’re going to commit to a daily squatting plan, be willing to accept that you probably can’t push your limits elsewhere at the same time.
You (Probably) Won’t Keep All the Gains
In human physiology, the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID) principle describes how the body responds and adapts to certain external stressors.
For an extreme example, both the back squat and outdoor hiking tax your leg muscles, albeit in very different ways. There may be some carryover, but prioritizing one may not improve your fitness with the other.
The same idea exists with a protocol like daily squatting. You’re likely to receive significant temporary gains, but you may not keep that progress once you return to a more “normal” routine, since the imposed demand on your body would change.
If you want long term, sustainable strength gains, your training should be sustainable as well.
It Might Not Be Schedule-Friendly
Unless you’re a full-time strength athlete, you have to work your training in around your overall schedule. There’s a chance that, no matter how you slice it, daily trips to the squat rack just aren’t feasible.
In such cases, it’s probably better to cut your losses and train traditionally rather than make Squat Every Day into a half-measure. After all, it’s not called Squat Almost Every Day, Sometimes.
It’s Not (Technically) Any Better Than Regular Training
Barring extreme circumstances, you can’t really outsmart your own physiology. A tactical training overdose can, from time to time, induce serious progress, but doing so isn’t a healthy long-term approach to lifting weights.
Put simply, training volume is still the main driver of adaptation long-term, both for strength and size. Most of the scientific evidence concludes that frequency falls short once you equate for the amount of work you do.
Squat Every Day might be a short-term ticket to serious progress in some cases, but it isn’t a magic bullet for leg gains either.
Squatting every day is a rigorous, short-term training methodology meant primarily for developing max-effort leg strength.
Professional Olympic lifters and other strength athletes have used ultra-high-frequency training plans for years to boost short-term performance, but it isn’t generally considered a sustainable approach to weight lifting.
The general composition of a Squat Every Day regimen varies, but should look something like:
- Some form of bilateral, free-weight squat movement performed every day, or every day you normally exercise.
- A very low daily volume of squats, coupled with moderate to high intensities.
- Using either a pre-written plan for working weights, or relying on a one-rep “test single” to guide your back-off sets on each day.
- Most daily squatting protocols run for 4 to 8 weeks.
Squats on Squats on Squats
There’s some truth to that old saying, “find what you love and let it kill you.” If your one and true love in the weight room is the squat, squatting every day is right up your alley — as long as you’re smart about it.
Professional strength athletes have used ultra-high frequency training to kick themselves into overdrive for years, and the proof is in the pudding.
With a calculated approach, dedication to your nutrition and recovery, and more than a little mental fortitude, the back squat can certainly become a constant fixture in your day-to-day routine.
- Ralston, G. W., Kilgore, L., Wyatt, F. B., Buchan, D., & Baker, J. S. (2018). Weekly Training Frequency Effects on Strength Gain: A Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine – open, 4(1), 36.
- Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4897.
- Yamada, C., Itaguchi, Y., & Fukuzawa, K. (2019). Effects of the amount of practice and time interval between practice sessions on the retention of internal models. PloS one, 14(4), e0215331.
- Perryman, M. (2013). Squat Every Day: Thoughts on Overtraining and Recovery in Strength Training. Myosynthesis Books.
- Strömbäck, E., Aasa, U., Gilenstam, K., & Berglund, L. (2018). Prevalence and Consequences of Injuries in Powerlifting: A Cross-sectional Study. Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine, 6(5), 2325967118771016.
- Zourdos, M. C., Dolan, C., Quiles, J. M., et al. (2016). Efficacy of daily one-repetition maximum training in well-trained powerlifters and weightlifters: a case series. Nutricion hospitalaria, 33(2), 437-443.
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