How to Progressive Overload Squats (with Examples)

Leg day is one of the most important parts of the week. If you want to optimize your strength and endurance goals for your lower body, implementing progressive overload with squats will improve the process.

Preparing for progressive overload with squats is to master the form. It is especially vital when doing squats to practice good form so that you may prevent any potential back, leg, or knee pain in the future.

On the same note, stretching is key. Squatting is a heavy compound movement, meaning all body parts involved should be warmed up well.

Include dynamic stretching before each squat day to ensure joints and muscles are warm. After squats, you’ll want to do static stretches to avoid cramps and pulled muscles.

How to Progressive Overload Squats

Progressive overload on squats can be done by increasing the weight, intensity, volume, or duration. Doing progressive overload on squats with proper form will help you push your body to adapt and garner quick gains in the upcoming weeks and months.

You need a strong upper back to improve your performance at squats. A good strength program should include various types of exercises such as pull-ups, chin-ups, band pull-offs, and seated rows.

Having a strong upper back will allow you to maintain a more stable posture while under the bar.

Overloading Through Squat Weight

One of the more common ways to go about increasing lower body strength and size is progressively increasing squat weight. This is a good option for those looking to get over a weight they are plateaued at.

To stay on track in your progressive overload, many people like to think of a weight they are aiming to reach by a certain time. Below is an example of someone who can squat 225 for 10 reps with a 1RM of 285. Their goal is to reach 285 for 4-6 reps in a month.

If we are following the guidelines of increasing weight by no more than 10% each week this is an example of a pyramid workout for the month:

 Set 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
Week 1225 x 10235 x 8245 x 6255 x 4
Week 2235 x 10245 x 8255 x 6265 x 4
Week 3245 x 10255 x 8265 x 6275 x 4
Week 4255 x 10265 x 8275 x 6285 x 4

Incrementally increasing weight by a specified percentage each week pushes the body to complete the same rep range at a 10-pound weight increase. This increases your 1RM and helps you reach your goals.

Overloading through Squat Sets & Reps

While increasing weight is meant to increase strength and size, increasing reps and sets are meant to increase endurance and muscle tone.

Progressive overload through weight usually follows a regime of 3-4 sets by 2-10 reps. On the other end, progressive overload through reps and sets usually look for 4 or more sets with 10-20 reps.

Examples of rep or set increase:

  • 4 x 12
  • 4 x 15
  • 5 x 15
  • 5 x 20

This type of workout is popular among athletes as it may put less strain on your leg muscles while still helping you maintain your strength and increase muscle stamina during the season.

Overload through Squat Intensity

Adding intensity through progressive overload gives the unique opportunity to increase both lower body strength and endurance. Squat intensity can be achieved through many facets:


Squat until failure, then decrease weight by 20-30% and continue until failure again. This can exert a lot of energy so it may be smart to use it as your last set.

Set 1185 until fail >> 135 until fail
Set 2185 until fail >> 135 until fail
Set 3185 until fail >> 135 until fail
Set 4185 until fail >> 135 until fail


Set 1185 x 10
Set 2205 x 8
Set 3225 x 6
Set 4185 until fail >> 135 until fail >> 45 until fail


Use squats and another lower body exercise to perform back to back. An example of this is immediately moving from squats to lunges, or something as simple as moving from barbell squats to bodyweight squats.

 Squat to dumbell lunges
Set 1185 x 10 >> 30 x 10
Set 2195 x 8 >> 35 x 8
Set 3205 x 6 >> 40 x 6
Set 4215 x 4 >> 45 x 4

Active Rest

A simple way to keep your heart rate and intensity up during leg day is to keep moving during your rest times. Stretching, a quick plank, or walking around are possible examples.

Overload through Squat Workout Duration

Squats are a cornerstone of a good leg workout because they allow for high variability in your exercises. Lengthen your leg workout by adding different squat variations to avoid your body getting comfortable with the same workout.

  • Front squats
  • Goblet squats
  • Pistol squats
  • Bulgarian split squats

Recommended Protein for Progressive Overload

Squatting itself uses a great deal of energy, this mixed with a progressive overload routine is bound to deplete high amounts of energy. Replenish and prepare your body with an adequate amount of calories and macros to ensure progress with progressive overloading for squats.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends those who engage in high-intensity workouts such as heavy squatting should eat a range of 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

While overloading with squats is great for reaching your gym needs, diet is a big factor in how quickly you will see growth and progress.

How frequently to Progressive Overload on Squats

More than likely, progressive overloading on squats will result in some muscle soreness. This is typical in heavy compound movements, making it as important as ever to recover properly.

Squats mainly target hamstrings, quads, and glutes. Be aware of soreness in joints as this may indicate the need for recovery. This includes hips and knees.

It’s important to understand recovery time if you wish to include progressive overload squats on a weekly basis. For recovery time in between sets keep times between 60-90 seconds, unless you’re overloading through intensity. In this case, shoot for 30-45 seconds.

If you wish to improve your squat routine, determining a progressive overload strategy can go a long way.