How Many Times in a Week Should You Squat?

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
October 30, 2022

Weightlifters squat on average twice a week, while most beginners do it once weekly, and some even skip it altogether. However, increasing workout frequency allows one to improve on squat techniques and squeeze other squat variations in separate sessions that may benefit lower body strength and mass.

An increase in squat routine frequency also provides room to adapt more aspects of muscular training into a workout program, such as hypertrophy, endurance, power, and strength. In addition, splitting a squat routine allows for adjustment in volume and intensity that may reduce muscle fatigue and faster post-workout recovery without impacting the rate of gains in strength and mass.

Benefits of Increased Squat Routine Frequency

Squats are not just for athletes. It is a crucial compound exercise to learn and perform regularly to improve strength and mobility in walking, jumping, sprinting, and other activities.

barbell full squat

Furthermore, it helps strengthen the lower body muscles, especially the glutes and quadriceps. Other muscles activated by doing squats are the hip flexors, hamstrings, adductors, calves, rectus abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae.

Improvement in Squat Techniques

The squat looks relatively easy to perform, but it is a complex movement to master. It requires strength, balance, joint flexibility, and coordination of different muscle groups to execute that perfect form to prevent injury and maximize gains in mass and strength. 

full squat side view

Lifting lighter weights utilizing proper form is always preferred over incorrectly performing a workout with heavier weights. Although the rate of perceived exertion is more significant with the latter, it may not necessarily benefit the muscles the squat is supposed to engage. 

The most apparent reason that an appropriate lifting form is essential is to prevent the risk of injury. For example, improper execution of a squat leads to incorrect alignment of the body, subjecting the muscles, joints, and tendons to erratic and unmanageable stress.

barbell squat back view

Another reason is that proper form helps maximize recruitment and activation of the targeted muscle groups promoting better muscular development.

Increased squat frequency allows for more repetitions to be completed each week, which helps to teach the muscles how to coordinate their movements for a more fluid action demonstrating proper form.

Utilizing Squat Variations on Separate Sessions

There are at least 40 squat variations available to add to a routine. These variations were designed for diverse applications such as rehabilitation and injury prevention, greater mobility and flexibility, better balance and coordination, isolation of a particular muscle group, and greater recruitment of lower limb muscles.

front squat

Utilizing different squat variations makes a routine more interesting. For example, some squat variations better engage a specific muscle group, and others activate the most number of muscles and provide the greatest maximal force to improve strength and promote hypertrophy.

However, adding a few or several more variations to an existing squat exercise on a once-a-week basis may be too taxing and cause excessive muscular fatigue.

In a study by Kubo et al., they concluded that: "The results suggest that full squat training is more effective for developing the lower limb muscles excluding the rectus femoris and hamstring muscles."

olympic squat

While in another study by Marchetti et al., they recommend performing an isometric squat at 90° (parallel squat) to maximize neuromuscular recruitment of the knee and hip extensors. Other studies have also shown similar results of different activation rates on different muscle groups while performing different squat variations. 

Anderson squat

Adapting squat modifications that increase the engagement of additional lower limb muscles would be highly beneficial. If you're having trouble moving beyond a plateau or want to make more rapid progress toward your goals, consider using a workout plan that spreads out these variations on a 2-4 weekly frequency.

Adapting More Aspects of Muscular Training 

When deciding to hit that bar for a squat workout, athletes, bodybuilders, and even average gymgoers have varied reasons and objectives for training a particular way. These goals may be related to any or all of the four main components of muscle training: muscular strength, muscular power, muscular endurance, and muscular hypertrophy.

These aspects of muscular training have different intensity and volume requirements. It would be too difficult to fit all of them in a single squat session. Depending on the goals of an individual but a workout can be designed to utilize two, three, or all aspects of muscular training by increasing frequency.

For example, day 1 of the week could be allotted for strength training, day 3 for power, day 5 for hypertrophy, and so on.

Muscular Hypertrophy

Muscular hypertrophy is the process by which the cross-sectional area of muscle fibers increases together with the volume and mass of the muscle. Due to increased load on the muscle, inducible substances like IGF-1 are activated, leading to hypertrophy.

Muscular Power

Muscular power is the ability to produce maximal force coupled with speed, which is required for those explosive actions in sports, work, and other activities. It is the most power generated in the quickest amount of time during a specific movement.

Muscular Strength

Muscular strength is the capacity to produce the most significant amount of force within a single contraction, such as when lifting a weight that could previously only be lifted once before having a brief pause.

Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is the capacity of a muscle or group of muscles to sustain repeated contractions against a force over an extended period.

Faster Post-Workout Recovery by Equating Volume with Frequency

Based on the individual's goals and traits, several essential factors must be taken into account when planning a resistance training workout program. These elements include workout volume, frequency, and intensity.

Intensity

The highest amount of weight lifted for one repetition is known as the 1RM, which stands for "one-repetition maximum." The term refers to the heaviest weight a person can successfully lift only once using proper form.

Intensity is not about how beastly one gets during an exercise, but rather it is the maximum weight used in an exercise expressed as a percentage of a person's 1RM. Another method to quantify intensity is the maximum number of repetitions a person can complete for a specific set using the weight designed (% of 1RM) for that exercise.

Frequency

The quantity of workout sessions in a specific time frame is referred to as frequency. Specifically, how many times a week a particular muscle group is worked out. Unfortunately, many weightlifters follow low-frequency (once-a-week) regimens with high volume and high intensity, resulting in severe muscle fatigue and longer post-workout recovery.

Volume

The overall amount of work performed is measured as volume, computed by multiplying sets by reps and weight. For instance, if a person squats 100 pounds for ten reps over five sets, his total session volume is 5,000 pounds.

Several studies have shown that high-volume routines produce a more significant amount of muscle fatigue when compared to high-intensity sessions. By equating volume to additional workout frequency or "split," as weightlifters commonly refer to it, muscle fatigue can be reduced in every session, leading to shorter recovery periods.

Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength

A study by Ochi et al. has demonstrated that two sets of 12 repetitions (at 67% 1RM) performed three times a week were less strenuous and equally or more effective for gaining muscle size and strength in untrained subjects than six sets of 12 repetitions performed once a week. 

In a review by Schoenfeld et al., they stated that: "When comparing studies that investigated training muscle groups between 1 to 3 days per week on a volume-equated basis, the current body of evidence indicates that frequencies of training twice a week promote superior hypertrophic outcomes to once a week. It can therefore be inferred that the major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to maximize muscle growth."

The results have great significance in program design, where individuals can choose their desired frequency by equating volume over the number of times they train a muscle group. These findings would significantly benefit those who squat with high volume and intensity once a week, resulting in a more extended recovery period.

They may split their routine volume into twice or thrice a week, resulting in a reduction in muscle fatigue and a shorter recovery period without compromising gains in muscle hypertrophy and strength.

Final Thoughts

In implementing an increased frequency of performing squats, it is critical to understand factors that may affect commitment to such changes. As with volume and intensity, an increase in workout frequency must be done gradually to avoid overtraining and discouragement from the individual.

Aside from increasing squat frequency, better gains may be reaped from utilizing other squat variations. These variations challenge the target muscles differently and may be spread out through each workout session to avoid excessive fatigue and overcome a plateau.

References

1. Kubo K, Ikebukuro T, Yata H. Effects of squat training with different depths on lower limb muscle volumes. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019;119(9):1933-1942. doi:10.1007/s00421-019-04181-y

2. Walker S, Davis L, Avela J, Häkkinen K. Neuromuscular fatigue during dynamic maximal strength and hypertrophic resistance loadings. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2012;22(3):356-362. doi:10.1016/j.jelekin.2011.12.009

3. DA Silva BVC, Branco DBT, Ide BN, et al. Comparison of High-Volume and High-Intensity Upper Body Resistance Training on Acute Neuromuscular Performance and Ratings of Perceived Exertion. Int J Exerc Sci. 2020;13(1):723-733. Published 2020 May 1.

4. Marchetti PH, Jarbas da Silva J, Jon Schoenfeld B, et al. Muscle Activation Differs between Three Different Knee Joint-Angle Positions during a Maximal Isometric Back Squat Exercise. J Sports Med (Hindawi Publ Corp). 2016;2016:3846123. doi:10.1155/2016/3846123

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
Inspire US serves as an informational hub for people looking to start their fitness journey.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information being shared is for educational purposes only. You must consult with a medical professional before acting on any content on this website.
Copyright © Inspire US 2022