The Four Squat Workout

Posted on 27 Jan 2011 09:50

By Ashiem Matthn

A little over a year ago, Eric introduced me to the concept of The Four Squat Workout. Sounds intriguing, right? He borrowed the idea from Jim Schmitz, former US Olympic Weightlifing coach.

It involved doing the Overhead Squat, Front Squats, Back Squat and a Half Squat all in one workout! Later, Joe Weir adopted the Anderson Half Squat in place of the regular half squat. A regular half squat with the bar in back can be used but the Anderson Half Squat is our favorite here at GUS.

The Theory Behind Exercise Selection

The idea is to go from a lighter, but more challenging exercise, to a heavier, but less challenging exercise. We could use the word technical to non-technical to describe this, in that the overhead squat requires more 'finesse' than the front squat, which requires more finesse than the back squat, etc. However, none of these lifts are very technical at all; they are actually very simple. Suffice it to say that the overhead squat presents more of a challenge to most and then the front squat presents more challenge than the back squat, etc. In other words, you go from a “difficult” exercise to an “easier” exercise. To put this in even simpler words: you go from doing an exercise with greatest Range of Motion (ROM) to least ROM. What this enables you to do is progressively increase the weight as the workout proceeds – the bar should never actually get “lighter”. In practical terms, this means you go from your lightest to your heaviest squat within one workout.

The four exercises which make up the Four Squat Workout are:

  1. Overhead Squats
  2. Front Squats
  3. Back Squats
  4. Anderson Squats

Back Squats

We don’t have an article on how to perform back squats out here at GUStrength but the guidelines for Back Squats and Front Squats are very similar. For Back Squats:

  1. Place barbell on your back – Some people like to use a high-bar position while other prefer a low-bar. Regardless of which you choose, you need to be comfortable.
  2. Take a comfortable slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width stance.
  3. Squat DOWN between your legs – do not picture squatting behind. Just Squat straight down while maintaining your bar position and general back tightness.

Anderson Squats

Joe’s done excellent job at writing this exercise description: Anderson Squats and Anderson Half Squat

For all purposes of this workout, we are referring to the Anderson Half Squat article/description.


The trainee must perform all four exercises in the right order:

  1. Overhead Squats
  2. Front Squats
  3. Back Squats
  4. Anderson Half Squats

There are 4 sets per exercise. The primary rep-scheme is 5, 4, 3, 2. However, a single can be performed instead of a double on the last set.

The technically oriented might recognize this setup for each exericse as a type of waved sets. Performing each set of an exercise with less reps load, such as 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, is in fact a standard way of doing waved sets. Here, however, instead of increasing the weight on the same exercise for each successive "wave" we use progressively heavier squat variations for each new wave.

Putting It All Together

You have four squat variations: Overhead Squats, Front Squats, Back Squats and Anderson Half Squats. They are arranged in order: from least technically difficult, lightest to heaviest. The Anderson squat being used instead of a regular half squat (bar in back) does add a bit more difficulty to the end but the weight should still increase and the ROM is reduced significantly. Anderson squats require concentration to perform consistently more than they do "skill".

This isn’t the same as a bodybuilding workout – we’re not just going from light to heavy but from a more technical lift to a less technical lift while maintaining the same class of exercises – all four exercises are squat variations so the intrinsic “movement” is maintained. This allows us to lift heavier and at a much higher workload than would have been possible should we just go straight to the heaviest squat. The previous exercises allow a large degree of acclimation. They also allow a great deal of exposure to the "squat" while lifting at a very high percentage of maximal throughout.

The 4 squat workout can be done once as a standalone squat workout or can be progressed over two or three workouts by simply adding weight across the board.

4 Squat Workout Video

This page created 27 Jan 2011 09:50
Last updated 22 Jul 2016 16:21

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