12 Week Early Intermediate Squat Routine

12 Week Squat Routine for Early Intermediates

There will come a point in your training that you will not be able to progressively overload. This means you will not be able to simply add 5 pounds to the bar every time; it just gets too heavy.

After deload weeks, eating extra food, and really dialing in on your form, you’re going to hit a brick wall…

This squat routine will help you get stronger.

Goal Of This Workout

This is a 12 week squat routine and alternates between heavy and light weeks and will help you get your squat up.

Diet and Nutrition Tips

By now I think you know what works for your body and what doesn’t, but here are a couple of tips:

Eat a lot – This routine is going to take a toll on your nervous system so eat up.

This is not necessarily a diet you have to be bulking to use, but being in a calorie deficit is going to make this that much harder.

Recovery is key so eat plenty of nutritious foods and get plenty of sleep.

Recommended Supplements

Without a good diet, supplementation is mostly a waste of money. I will be the first to tell you to spend money on some good meats than a jug of protein.

For those who have their diets in check, here are the supplements I would use with this routine.


MTS Nutrition Clash

I personally like apple mango, but all flavors are good. This is a great blend without too many stimulants.


MTS Machine Whey Protein: 5lbs

This is in my opinion the best tasting protein on the market. Period. Great blend with no secrets, no amino spiking, and it is some of the best in the industry.

So far I’ve had Red Velvet, Cookies and Cream, and Key Lime. All are A+.


MTS Nutrition Machine Fuel

Drinking BCAAs while you train and drinking some at night or throughout the day is a great way to use this supplement. Machine Fuel tastes great and can easily replace one of your flavored drinks.


Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine

I have a review of Optimum Nutrition’s Creatine and it’s a tried and true supplement. It will help with performance and recovery. I highly recommend this.

Cardio and Conditioning Schedule

Conditioning is one of the most important things you can work on to improve your lifts, endurance, and stamina. Improving conditioning also improves life out of the gym.

This particular routine focuses a bit on conditioning, core strength, and mobility.

Once you start lifting relatively heavier weights, you’re going to start breaking form because of muscle weaknesses, lack of conditioning/muscle endurance and mobility issues; so lets address them here.

Warming Up

For your pre-workout warm up, start by walking for 3 minutes and follow-up with a 30 second balls-to-the-walls high intensity sprint. Finish off with 90 seconds of walking.

This “shock” is going to prime your body to train hard and helps get your core body temperature up.

Post Workout Conditioning

I’m not big on citing research materials and I sure as hell am not interested in doing the scientific leg work, but doing high intensity interval training will help improve your muscle and strength gains.

The Plan:

  • 5 minutes brisk walking
  • 30 seconds jogging
  • 30 seconds walking
  • 30 seconds sprinting
  • 30 seconds walking
  • 45 seconds sprinting
  • 1 minute walking
  • 1 minute jogging
  • 1 minute walking
  • 30 seconds full sprinting
  • 1.5 minutes walking slowly tapering down to finish

Cardio and Conditioning Tips

This sounds like some special formula but it isn’t; this is a template, if you don’t follow it exactly, you’re fine.

What I want to make you aware of is warming up and priming your body for high intensity training.

Don’t get stuck on the numbers, if you have poor conditioning, add longer walk (resting) periods and strive to recover faster.

Workout Schedule

Since you can plug this into almost any routine to replace your leg and squat movements, this workout is designed to be run once per week.

Percentages Breakdown

By now you should know or have a good idea what your squat’s 1 rep max is. This is what you are going to calculate your lifts off of.

  • Week 1: 5 x 75%, 5 x 80%, 5 x 85%
  • Week 2: 7 sets of 5 reps @ 70%
  • Week 3: 4 x 77.5%, 4 x 82.5%, 4 x 87.5%
  • Week 4: 7 sets of 4 reps @ 72.5%
  • Week 5: 3 x 80%, 3 x 85%, 3 x 90%
  • Week 6: 7 sets of 3 reps @ 75%
  • Week 7: 5 x 80%, 5 x 85%, 5 x 90%
  • Week 8: 7 sets of 5 reps @ 75%
  • Week 9: 4 x 82.5%, 4 x 87.5%, 4 x 92.5%
  • Week 10: 7 sets of 4 reps @ 77.5%
  • Week 11: 3 x 85%, 3 x 90%, 3 x 95%
  • Week 12: 7 sets of 3 reps @ 80%

To clarify:

Take your 1 rep max and multiply it by the percentage. IE: (315*.85) = 265 which would be 85 percent of your 1 rep max.

  • Note: That actually is 267.75 but round down to the nearest weight you can put on a bar.

If your squat 1 rep max is 315 and you are starting your first week, this is what you would do:

Week 1: 5 x 75%, 5 x 80%, 5 x 85%

  • Set 1: 5 reps @ 235
  • Set 2: 5 reps @ 250
  • Set 3: 5 reps @ 265

Week 2: 7 sets of 5 reps @ 70%

  • Set 1: 5 sets @ 220
  • Set 2: 5 sets @ 220
  • Set 3: 5 sets @ 220
  • Set 4: 5 sets @ 220
  • Set 5: 5 sets @ 220
  • Set 6: 5 sets @ 220
  • Set 7: 5 sets @ 220

It’s not rocket science but it will take some time to get the calculations done. I highly recommend doing all of the computations one day and write them down in a log so all you have to do on that day is go smash the weights. Don’t screw around with your phone in between sets; it’ll just ruin your focus.

12 Week Squat Routine for Early Intermediates – Assistance Exercises

Along with the squat sets from above, there are some assistance exercises to do for each week.

For odd-numbered weeks (heavy training) you will be doing the Heavy Training Days exercises. For even-numbered weeks (light training) you will be doing the Light Training Days exercises.

Heavy Training Days – Odd Numbered Weeks
Leg Press410
Walking Lunges320
Leg Curls38
Stiff Leg Deadlifts38
Light Training Days – Even Numbered Weeks
Leg Press420
Leg Extensions320
Leg Curls320
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts315

Workout Tips

Focus on form – Not being able to stay in the groove is the difference between doing a PR for reps or failing on the first rep.

Stick to the plan – Until you are comfortable programming your own workouts and making progress, I don’t recommend always going by “how you feel.” On light days, do your work and get out; on heavy days do your work and get out.. do not add more reps just because you feel good.


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10 thoughts on “12 Week Squat Routine for Early Intermediates”

  1. I know this was published in 2015 and it’s now 2018 but I have a question!

    Do you base the calculations on the same 1rep Max for the entire 12 weeks? In other words if my 1 rep max squat is 140kg before I begin week 1 of this plan do I still base the percentages in week 12 on that same 140kg 1 rep max I did before week 1?


    1. Once you calculate your weight in the beginning, you base your numbers off of that. Once you get your original number, that’s what number you use throughout. 140*.75 for 75% and 140*.9 for 90%.

      This weight that is under your rep max is in a strength building state. That is, your nervous system will get more efficient and you’ll build the necessary muscle to do more work. Once you complete the workout, you would want to reassess and then calculate a new number if you wish to run the routine again. You can run this for as long as you’d like… if it’s not broken, don’t try fixing it.

      Hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.

    1. Yes, although I would invite you to play around with the volume and see what works best for you. I know that many of my clients and myself like to have more volume with chest.

      This is a basic periodization technique.

  2. Is this programming structured so that you are only working on the squats one day per week? That just seems a little low for a 12 week program. Super curious about this.

    1. Your recovery is where your strength and muscle building come from, not simply doing a squat movement :)

  3. Cutty – Background: I’ll be 62 in a couple of months, 6’0″, Wt. 195 lbs.. After taking over 20 years off from lifting started again about 4&1/2 years ago. Since then have competed in 4 bench only and 3 powerlifting competitions. Actually doing pretty well in competitions for my age. My questions: (1) Is this an appropriate squat program for someone with my age and experience level ? (2) The 315 lbs. 1RM example you give is my current 1RM. However I question, for example in week 1, whether I can get 5 reps at 85% after doing 5 reps at 75% and 5 reps at 80%. Can the sets be reversed and do, for example 5 reps at 85% then 5 reps at 80% and then 5 reps at 75% with the same level of confidence that I can get acceptable gain in 1 RM at the end of the 12 weeks?

    1. Congrats on your progress, it goes to show that age is just a number. This program works well for someone in your situation because it’s not a huge drastic change, but the calculations are where it’s at.

      What do your normal sets look like? I’ve not had anyone ramp down, as it is hard to warm up, get to the top set, and then drop back down into lower weights. I would recommend pulling your 1 rep max back to 300 and start from there. That will give you the confidence to push, without pushing too far.

      I will say, with some extra care with programming and being strategic with when you increase your lift, you could still see gains without needing to complicate the process. I would stick with 12 weeks of pulling back your work weight and then add five pound each week as you progress. The trick is to not “test” your 1 rep maxes.. that’s what the powerlifting competitions are for. They slow your progress and really take a long time to recover. If you’ve been working with heavy weights close to your 1 rep max frequently, your progress can suffer as well.

      You could also focus on weak points and try to improve any flaws in your form to build a stronger squat. Also, check out building a bigger squat. I think you would be able to gain from this routine or from checking out your form, dropping weight, and making another run for it.

  4. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly ! You asked about my training sets. Well, I sustained a partial tear of my right hamstring tendon about the middle of 2017 doing back squats and then again the same tendon doing deadlifts in March of 2018. So spent quite a few months over the last year and a half just trying to rehab my leg. In about mid June 2018 I started squatting again. What I did was work up to a single at I think it was about 250 -260 lbs (don’t have my log book with me at the moment). Then would drop 25 lbs and do 4 sets of 2 reps, then drop another 25 lbs and do 3 sets of 4 reps. eg. work up to 1 x 260, 4 x 2 x 235, 3 x 4 x 210. After done with back squats would get on hack squat machine and do 4 or 5 drop sets. I added 5 lbs each squat workout to each set until hit a single at 315 lbs a week before last meet on Oct. 27th. I was squatting one day then 4 or 5 days later deadlift, then 4 or 5 days later squat again with bench/shoulder days and back/biceps days in between, so was squatting only once every 8 to 10 days.

    I read the article you suggested. Good fundamental advice and tips. I think I’m going to print it off and read it read it every few weeks to remind me to practice good habits and technique rather than poor habits and technique !


    1. Sounds like you’ve been putting in the work! You may want to see how you respond to more volume. I usually try to steer clear of anything under 5 reps unless I’m specifically peaking for an event.

      The tips help remind you how something very small can make a huge difference. Let me know how you progress. Make sure to prehab/rehab and keep those tendons healthy. They may respond well to a lighter weight with higher volume.

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