The russian squat program is popular amongst weightlifters and powerlifters as a way to ramp up squat strength, but is it actually any good? In this complete russian squat programme review we’ll look at:
- Background on the Russian Squat Program
- Russian Squat Program Overview
- Russian Squat Program Explanation
- Russian Squat Program Accessory Work
- Russian Squat Program Calculator
- Russian Squat Programme Progression
- What about Your Other Training During RSR?
- Russian Squat Program Spreadsheet
- Looking To Get Strong Without the Headache?
- Modifying The Russian Squat Program
- Russian Squat Program: The Pros
- Russian Squat Program: The Cons
- Russian Squat Program Review: Does the Russian squat program work?
- Russian Squat Program Frequently Asked Questions
- Who is the russian squat Programme for?
- Is the russian squat routine for masters lifters?
- Can I Use the Russian squat program for Powerlifting?
- Is the Russian Squat Program Good for Hypertrophy?
- Russian squat program vs Smolov?
- How to Warm Up for Russian Squat Program?
- How often can you do the Russian squat program?
- Russian Squat Program Review Summary Infographic
- Next Steps
Let’s jump straight in.
Background on the Russian Squat Program
What is the Russian Squat Programme
The Russian squat program (or RSR for short) is roughly based on the USSR yearbook squat routines from the 1970’s, specifically the 1976 work “methods of developing leg strength“
It has you squatting 3 times per week for six weeks, with the aim of adding 5-10% to your squat max.
So on paper, it looks like a solid choice if you’re trying to bring up a struggling squat.
Russian Squat Program Overview
The overall structure of the russian squat program is a 6-week programme in which you squat 3 times per week. Here’s an overview in table format for easy reading:
Russian Squat Program Explanation
The russian squat program is six weeks long, and can be viewed as two strength training approaches used back to back.
- Weeks 1-3 are driven by increases in reps
- Whilst weeks 4-6 are driven by increases in intensity
Sets and Reps
The russian squat programme will have you using classic strength set and rep schemes.
- The typical workout will have 4-6 sets
- The typical reps will be 2-6
All of these will be performed at 80-100% of your 1 rep max.
Russian Squat Program Weekly Structure (Microcycle)
The russian squat program can look sort of complicated since it has lots of different set, rep and percentage prescriptions at play each week.
If you look closely though, I promise it’s actually pretty simple.
RSR just alternates between a ‘moderate’ workout and an ‘overloading’ workout in an A-B-A/B-A-B pattern.
So week 1 day 1 is moderate, day 2 is overloading and day 3 is moderate again.
Then in week 2 day 1 is overloading, day 2 is moderate and day 3 is overloading.
So you get this natural wave of push hard then back off.
Rest Between Sets:
The russian squat program uses a strict progression structure, which means that making your reps each day is the top priority, even if it means taking longer recoveries than usual.
Research shows that 3-5 minutes rest promotes better strength results than resting for anything less. In my mind, though, resting anything up 8 minutes is still totally acceptable to allow for full ATP recovery, especially between your final couple of sets on overloading days.
And yes, this means that your squat workout will take a long time. That’s the trade-off.
Russian Squat Program Accessory Work
The russian squat programme doesn’t prescribe any accessory work.
And, since muscle cross-sectional area (aka muscle size) is a key factor in strength for experienced lifters it would usually be a good idea to add in some accessory work.
HOWEVER, I’ve found that for most people RSR on its own is enough leg-focused training. By adding accessory work, you might strain your body’s ability to recover a bit too much, potentially limiting your strength outcomes.
Russian Squat Program Calculator
If you don’t fancy manually working out all your lifting numbers for each session, there are a few online russian squat program calculators you can use that will figure these out for you.
The spreadsheet I’ve linked further down will also auto-calculate these numbers for you too.
Russian Squat Programme Progression
The russian squat programme will have you progressing in two distinct ways:
- In weeks 1-3 you’ll progress by adding reps
- In weeks 4-6 you’ll progress by adding load
Weeks 1-3 russian squat programme overloading workouts
Weeks 4-6 russian squat programme overloading workouts
What about Your Other Training During RSR?
The russian squat routine is tough, especially some of the bigger overloading workouts. I would consider putting the rest of your training into maintenance for the duration of the programme.
So you can still keep deadlifting, benching, snatching, clean and jerking etc, but you might want to think about dropping the number of sets you perform, as well as the weights you use.
Russian Squat Program Spreadsheet
Trying to run RSR without a well-designed spreadsheet is a bit of a pain, so to save you the trouble, here’s a pre-formatted excel spreadsheet I found on reddit:
Looking To Get Strong Without the Headache?
If you want someone to take the thinking away and ensure your long-term progress, why not consider having me design a custom strength programme for you?
You send in your details, answer questions about your training numbers, goals, training history, equipment etc, and then I craft your program custom for you.
I also throw in a check-in each month, just to make sure that everything is working well, and to make any adjustments if needed. Learn more by clicking the link.
Modifying The Russian Squat Program
Russian Squat Routine 2 Days Per Week (Masters Programme)
If you don’t have the time, energy or recovery ability to squat three times per week, then there is a 2 day per week russian squat programme known as the russian masters squat programme.
In essence, it’s the exact same programme, only the total programme length is extended by 2-3 extra weeks. So instead of doing the programme for 6 weeks you’ll be doing it for 8 or 9 weeks.
Each week has:
- A day 1 – your ‘moderate’ 6 sets of 2 at 80%
- Plus a day 2 – your ‘overloading’ workout with either more reps or more sets.
The sequences of workouts are identical to what I’ve described above, they’re just more spaced out to allow for more recovery time.
Russian Squat Program for Bench
A popular variation is to run the russian squat program for your bench press. You use the exact same sets, reps and workouts, only you perform bench press instead of squats. As a coach, I actually like this approach a lot, and I’ve found that many lifters respond really well to three times-per-week bench pressing.
There’s even the Extended Russia Power Routine, which uses an RSR style progression for squat, bench and deadlift simultaneously.
Russian Squat Program for Front Squats
Whilst you technically can use the russian squat program for front squats, I would recommend that you only do so if you have a very comfortable front squat rack position, as the high frequency of front squats can place extra stress on your elbows and wrists.
I would even potentially use a cross grip for your front squats on ‘moderate days’.
Russian Squat Program: The Pros
Alright so now that we’ve covered the russian squat program in detail, plus some possible variations, here’s what I like:
- A solid, evidence-based structure
RSR uses rep additions to increase volume, and then reduces volume whilst ramping intensity. This gives it a classic linear or even block periodisation feel.
- Alternates ‘Overload’ and ‘Moderate’ Days
The use of alternating overload and moderate days mean that the Russian squat program has a natural flow of pushing hard then backing off, which is good for recovery.
- The russian squat program has plenty of conversation around it
Since the russian squat program is reasonably well known and has been around for ages, plenty of people have tried it and discussed it, which means that all you need to do is google:
– “russian squat program reddit”
– “russian squat routine results”
Russian Squat Program: The Cons
- The Total Weekly Volume Can Be Too High For Some People
The russian squat programme has you performing 16-18 sets of squats per week. Compare that to something like the texas method where you perform 6-9 sets, or 5/3/1 where you perform 3 main sets + 2 joker sets, and you can see that it’s close to triple the total workload! For a lot of people that’s just too much.
- Moderate Days May Not Provide Enough Recovery
Whilst I like the heavy-moderate-heavy approach, I think the moderate day could be FAR easier and still accomplish its purpose of not letting you regress. For example, 4 sets of 2 at 70-75%
- Hard to Do The Rest of Your Training Around It
Linked to points 1 and 2, you will most likely find it hard to properly train anything else other than squats. Since so much of your recovery resources, and your training time, is dedicated to squats, it can be difficult to simultaneously push your bench, deadlift, overhead press or olympic lifts.
Russian Squat Program Review: Does the Russian squat program work?
In my opinion, the russian squat program works, but only If you can embrace the grind of high frequency, high-volume squatting, and you’re someone with fast enough recovery rates to not run yourself into the ground with it.
Practically, there are other, FAR easier ways to increase your squat that have significantly less negative impacts on the rest of your training. So you might want to think of the Russian squat routine as a kind of last resort if most regular approaches aren’t working.
Russian Squat Program Frequently Asked Questions
Who is the russian squat Programme for?
The russian squat programme is for advanced lifters who need to increase their squat, but have not responded to more conservative methods (such as juggernaut 2.0)
Is the russian squat routine for masters lifters?
The regular russian squat routine is not appropriate for masters lifters, however, the Russian masters squat program is designed specifically for older lifters. It stretches the 6 weeks of RSR out over 8-9 weeks to allow for more recovery time in between heavy sessions.
Can I Use the Russian squat program for Powerlifting?
You can definitely use the russian squat routine for powerlifting, but you’ll likely have to reduce bench, and especially deadlift, training to maintenance.
Is the Russian Squat Program Good for Hypertrophy?
The russian squat routine is a poor choice for hypertrophy training. The high-frequency, high-volume squatting might add some size, but the overall rep scheme is too low, and there isn’t enough exercise variation for maximal muscle size development. If your main goal is bodybuilding, I recommend checking out my 4-day upper/lower split hypertrophy programme.
Russian squat program vs Smolov?
The main difference between the russian squat routine and smolov is that smolov is even higher in both squatting frequency and squatting volume. If the russian squat program is right at the border of what’s sensible, smolov is about a mile past that border.
How to Warm Up for Russian Squat Program?
I recommend taking 3-4 warm up sets before your main lifts for the day. For example, if you’re building to 6×3 @ 100kg. You could do:
- 5 reps @ 40kg
- 5 reps @ 60kg
- 3 reps @ 80kg
How often can you do the Russian squat program?
The russian squat routine is designed as a squat specialisation cycle to be run only as often as needed. Since you’ll likely have to put other lifts on maintenance, you should only follow RSR if your squat is significantly lagging.
Russian Squat Program Review Summary Infographic
We’ve covered a lot of info in this article, so here’s a quick TLDR summary infographic. It’s yours to do what you want with. Save it, print it, share it. It’s yours:
Alright, that’s enough reading for today, time to lift some stuff.
1) If you want more training tips, workouts and programmes, feel free to join my mailing list.
‘Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc, BA
Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.
His experience includes 8+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.
Freitas de Salles, B., Simão, R., Miranda, F. et al. Rest Interval between Sets in Strength Training. Sports Med 39, 765–777 (2009). https://doi.org/10.2165/11315230-000000000-00000