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Best Squat Workout For Strength: Heavy Weight Vs. Lighter Loads To Failure
The squat is the best leg-developing exercise because of its remarkable capacity to simultaneously activate most of the major muscle groups within the lower body, generating tremendous muscle growth and strength.
Michael J. Rudolph, Ph.D

While all of the muscle-building capabilities from squatting are fantastic, there has been some uncertainty about what training protocol elicits maximum strength gains while performing the squat. One of the more complex, yet seemingly simple, questions asked when assessing the capacity of a certain training approach to build strength is simply how many repetitions should be performed and at what intensity level.

TRAINING INTENSITY FOR SIZE VS. STRENGTH

The typical training approach for maximal squat strength utilizes approximately 80 to 90 percent of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) within the repetition range of two to five, while using 75 to 85 percent of your 1RM within the repetition range four to 12 is usually employed to preferentially stimulate muscle hypertrophy. Heavier weights augment strength principally by inducing greater neuromuscular activation of fast-twitch muscle fibers, which contract more quickly than slow-twitch muscle fibers, producing more power.

The increased activation of fast-twitch muscle fibers from high-intensity training ultimately leads to greater strength gains. On the other hand, higher-volume training more specifically amplifies muscle growth, in large part by increasing muscle time under tension, which increases metabolic stress— encouraging muscle hypertrophy.

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November 2019

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