Use the Deadstop Squat to Overhaul Your Strength: An 8 Week Program

Progressive overload is as old as Milo himself. If you don’t know the story of the mighty Greek, everyday he would carry a baby bull up to the top of mountain. There it would drink and eat, growing bigger each day. As the bull matured Milo got stronger, but never struggled as the bull only got a little heavier each day. After years of walking that mountain path, the bull was fully grown and Milo was strong as hell, or at least that’s how the story goes.

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Outside of legend, progressive overload is used in weight rooms around the world with great success. Typically the variable you’re aiming to progress though is weight as Milo did, add a kilo each week and watch the personal bests roll in.

But there is another less discussed way — instead of adding weight each week, why not increase the range of motion?

This isn’t a new idea, but it seems to have died along with it’s progenitor, strength legend Paul Anderson. Anderson was famed for digging a hole in his garden and squatting in that. Each week he’d add a little dirt to the hole, thus increasing the range of motion.

To revive this method, though, you don’t need a shovel. Instead all you need to revive this method is an adjustable squat rack and a lot of discipline to stick it through. The weight does not change throughout the entire 8 week program, the only variable is the starting position of the squat.

The Deadstop  Squat

Normally the squat starts with an eccentric phase, you lowering yourself down to parallel or below and then the concentric phase as you stand the weights up. Like with the bench press, the eccentric phase allows you to use the elastic energy you generated from the descent to power yourself up out of the hole.

For this program, though, we turn that notion on its head, starting with the bar in the bottom position of the lift, instead of the top. Removing that ‘bounce’ not only allows you to push hard at a lighter weight but also will build incredible static strength. (If you’re a strongman, these types of squat need to become a staple, as you’ll often squat to boxes in competition.)

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Start each rep explosively as possible, with the aim to get the bar off those blocks as quickly as possible. The descent, however, wants to be the polar opposite, slow and controlled to the very end. Think of every rep as a deadstop — not only will this save the equipment a battering but will also provide the best results.

If your gym has jerk blocks or an adjustable power rack, then these squats are a dream to set up. Set the pins or blocks to the required height and squat away. If however you find yourself training without either of those then you need a little imagination and a combination of boxes and plates.

The Program

During the eight week program below, you’ll be squatting twice a week, one heavy and one light. The heavy session will focus around the Deadstop squat, with the range of motion increasing by 10 degrees each week.

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The second session is centered around speed work, moving through a full range of motion with lighter weights to ensure that you stay both explosive and comfortable hitting depth.   

You’ll notice that I haven’t written in any upper body work; this is to be done in separate sessions. If time allows, I’d recommend one upper pressing session and another working on pulling, if pressed for time this could be condensed into one session.

Week One

Session One

  • Deadstop Squat 5 sets of 3 @ 110% to 20°
  • Trap Bar Deadlifts 8 sets of 2 @ Heavy
  • Weighted Carries and Accessory work

Session Two

  • Speed squats 8 sets of 2 @ 50%
  • Pause squats 5 sets of 3 @ 40% (5 second pause)
  • Walking Lunges and Accessory Work

Week Two

Session One

  • Deadstop Squat 8 sets of 3 @ 110% to 30°
  • Deadlifts 8 sets of 5 @ Moderate (Double overhand no straps)
  • Weighted Carries and Accessory work

Session Two

  • Speed squats 8 sets of 3 @ 50%
  • Pause squats 6 sets of 3 @ 40% (5 second pause)
  • Walking Lunges and Accessory Work

Week Three

Session One

  • Deadstop Squat 8 sets of 3 @ 110% to 40°
  • Trap Bar Deadlift 3 sets of 10 @ Moderate
  • Weighted Carries and Accessory work

Session Two

  • Speed squats 5 sets of 3 @ 60%
  • Front squats 5 sets of 5 @ 70%
  • Walking Lunges and Accessory Work

Week Four

Session One

  • Deadstop Squat 8 sets of 3 @ 110% to 50°
  • Deadlifts 3 sets of 3 @ Heavy
  • Weighted Carries and Accessory work

Session Two

  • Speed squats 8 sets of 3 @ 60%
  • Below parallel box squats 5 sets of 3 @ 50% (2 second pause)
  • Walking Lunges and Accessory Work

Week Five

Session One

  • Deadstop Squat 8 sets of 3 @ 110% to 60°
  • Trap Bar Deadlift (Low Handles) 5 sets of 12 @ Moderate
  • Weighted Carries and Accessory work

Session Two

  • Speed squats 5 sets of 3 @ 65%
  • Front squats 10 sets of 2 @ 75%
  • Walking Lunges and Accessory Work

Week Six

Session One

  • Deadstop Squat 8 sets of 3 @ 110% to 70°
  • Deadlifts 3 sets of 3 @ Heavy
  • Weighted Carries and Accessory work

Session Two

  • Speed squats 8 sets of 3 @ 60%
  • Below parallel box squats 5 sets of 3 @ 50% (2 second pause)
  • Walking Lunges and Accessory Work

Week Seven

Session One

  • Deadstop Squat 8 sets of 3 @ 110% to 800°
  • Trap Bar Deadlifts 10 sets of 2 @ Moderate
  • Weighted Carries and Accessory work

Session Two

  • Speed squats 5 sets of 3 @ 70%
  • Front squats 5 sets of 5 @ 80%
  • Walking Lunges and Accessory Work

Week Eight

Session One

  • Deadstop Squat 8 sets of 3 @ 110% to 90°
  • Deadlifts 3 sets of 5 @ Moderate
  • Weighted Carries and Accessory work

Session Two

  • Speed squats 10 sets of 3 @ 40%
  • Pause squats 5 sets of 3 @ 40% (5 second pause)
  • Walking Lunges and Accessory Work

Week Nine

  • Rest and retest squat 1 rep max.

You can learn a lot from the lessons of the past, and this program is absolutely no different. The combination of deadstop squats and speed work will leave infinitely more comfortable in the bottom of the squat and stronger throughout the entire movement.

This may leave you tempted to run the program again with your new max, but I’d strongly advise against it. There’s an old adage that goes, “Everything works but only for so long,” and this is no different. By all means, though, keep the deadstop squat as one of many tools at your disposal.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

About the author

Christo Bland