All You Need To Know About ‘How Much Should I Squat’
You may be wondering, how much should I squat?
One of the most confusing parts about lifting is determining how much you should lift for each exercise. I can imagine that you are likely lost when it comes to choosing how much to squat. You’re probably thinking, is this weight going to be too light and won’t help me get results. Or is this weight too heavy and I am going to end up being crushed and rushed to the ER.
Neither options are appealing.
But what if there is a third option? What if you could learn how to determine how much you should squat and remove the guess work out of the equation?
Well you’re in luck. In this post I am going to show you how to calculate how much you should squat and some strength standards for women, so you can see what you should be striving for.
By the end of this post, you’ll be able to confidently select weights that will help you get results and not squash you like a bug.
Ready to rumble?
How much should I squat?
To figure out how much you should squat, you need to determine your one rep max first.
The mighty one rep max.
Your one rep max is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one rep. The one rep max is a popular way to estimate how much you should be lifting for each exercise and rep range.
How to calculate your one rep max
To calculate your one rep max, select a weight you think you can squat for 10 reps with good form.
Use the amount of reps you were able to complete and compare it to the chart below to determine the percentage of your maximum.
Take the weight you lifted and divide it by the percentage to determine your estimated one rep max.
For example, let’s say you think you can squat 80lbs for 10 reps. You start the set and realize you can only squat 80lbs for 7 reps.
When you look at the chart, you see 7 reps equals to 82.5%. So, you take the 80lbs you lifted and divide it by 82.5% which gives you 97lbs. Voila you have your one rep max.
Using your one rep max, you can calculate how much you should be squatting for different rep ranges.
This is only an estimate so you may need to make adjustments.
Don’t forget, the weight you select should be challenging, so if it feels like you are breezing through the set then you need to choose a heavier weight.
Female lifting standards
If you don’t want to figure out your one rep max yourself, here are some charts with one rep max estimates for different bodyweights and fitness levels.
These are estimates, which means you may need to make adjustments based on how easy or difficult it is. If the weight is too heavy and you are squatting with poor form, lower the weight until it is still challenging but you can squat with good form.
You’ll have to play around and see what weight works for you. These strength standards are based on various factors and it is impossible to accurately predict how much you should be lifting since the standards are based on data collected from 1000’s of women.
Look for the one rep max that correlates to your weight and fitness level and then use the chart above to calculate how much you should lift based on the amount of reps you want to do.
For more strength lifting standards you can check out this awesome tool.
Squats: The beginner, the badass, the bold
Squats have become synonymous with butt building.
You want a bigger butt? Squat.
You want a toned and tight butt? Squat.
You want to build an Instagram following? Squat.
And although squats aren’t technically the best exercise to build your glutes, they are fantastic for overall muscle building and strength development.
And who doesn’t want to be a strong badass babe?
There are a bunch of different types of squats, each requiring different equipment, foot placement and technique. Some squats are more suitable for beginners and others are reserved for veteran lifters.
So where to start?
Well first you need to learn how to perform a basic squat.
How to perform a basic squat
Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
Step 2: Lower your butt down like you’re going to sit down on a chair.
Step 3: Once you reach parallel or as close as you can get to parallel, push up through your heels to straighten your legs and return to the starting position.
Tips for good form
Keep your core tight
Keeping your core tight will help you balance and push through the sticking point(the point of most resistance) of the movement.
Keep your chest up
The squat is not a deadlift or a good morning so it should not be performed with your body bent over. Keep your chest up and your head neutral and looking forward.
Sit your booty back
Sit back into the squat, this well help prevent you from extending your body over your toes too much.
Keep a neutral spine
Keep your back straight, no hunching or arching.
If you are having trouble with a basic squat, you can perform box squats instead.
With a box squat, you follow the same steps as a basic squat except when you descend you need to briefly sit down or touch the box or bench.
Box squats will help teach you how to sit back into the squat instead of squatting with your body extending way over your toes.
Continue doing box squats until you think you’ve learned how to squat correctly, then move onto basic squats and see if you can squat with the correct form without the bench or box. If not, continue practicing with the box squat until you’ve learned how to squat with good form.
Before you move on to any other squats, you need to learn how to do the bodyweight squat with correct form.
As the name implies, you are only squatting with your bodyweight, no barbells or dumbbells added.
The key to mastering the technique of any exercise is to practice. Over and over again.
Once you have mastered the bodyweight squat you are ready to move onto the goblet squat.
It is important to master the basic squat because if you squat with heavy weights and poor form you could injure yourself.
The goblet squat follows the same movement as the bodyweight squat except you are holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your body. The goblet squat is the next exercise you should practice after the bodyweight squat. It will prepare you for the beast that is the barbell squat.
The barbell squat
The barbell squat or barbell back squat is the most popular squat in the lifting community.
The barbell allows you to add weights on which makes progressive overload easier to implement and track.
Unless it causes you pain, this exercise should be a staple in your training routine.
Rep and set recommendations
For endurance training you should be doing 2- 3 sets for 12 or more reps. Use the chart above to determine how much you should lift for 12 reps.
For hypertrophy, perform 3 to 4 sets of 6- 12 reps. Once again, use the chart above to determine your load.
To build your strength, 2 to 6 sets with 6 reps or less.
These sets will be challenging because you will be lifting much heavier weights.
Most lifters tend to do a combination of strength and hypertrophy sets since it is important to build your strength as well.
When to add more weight?
So now you know how to select your starting weight for a squat. But what about when you’ve become stronger? How do you know when you are ready to squat more?
Follow the 2 by 2 rule.
If you can complete 2 extra reps of squats per set for 2 sessions, then you are ready to increase the weight you are squatting.
But by how much should you be increasing?
Try to increase your weight by 5% -10%. So, for example if you are squatting 50lbs add another 2.5 to 5 lbs.
Sometimes adding weight according to these percentages may not be practical because you may not have the exact plates/dumbbells available.
If that is the case, then go to the next available plate/dumbbell combination.
It may be more than a 5% to 10% increase on what you are currently lifting. So, if it is too heavy, drop the weight back down and increase your reps instead. If you feel you can add an extra 2 to 4 reps to your sets then continue in that fashion until you are able to lift the next plate combination.
Get the blood flowing
Before you do any kind of squatting, it is important to warm up beforehand. You can warm up with any kind of cardio for about 5 to 10 minutes. The aim is to get your muscles warmed up and the blood flowing. You do not want to exhaust yourself so do not choose something like HIIT as a warmup. You can also warm up for squats specifically, by doing a set of squats with only the bar and no weights.
Phew! There is a lot to digest here. So to simplify it, this is what you need to do next. First make sure that you can perform body weight squats with good form. This is crucial for when you start lifting heavy.
Once you’ve got your form down move onto determining your one rep max or use the one rep max from the strength standards. Whichever you’re more comfortable with. Lastly, select your training method: endurance, hypertrophy or strength.
And voila, you’ve got your reps, sets and load all figured out.
Time to kick ass and take names.
Don’t forget to check out the freebie library for some awesome guides and cheat sheets.
Happy lifting goddess!
Anna is a certified personal trainer and fitness coach with a passion for weight training and snacking.