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The back squat has been hailed as the king of all lifts, and it’s worthy of that title for many reasons. But this is a king who rules with an iron fist, taxing the muscles and central nervous system of its subjects. 

That’s why most people will save this move for one, maybe two training sessions a week. That is unless you’re participating in the world’s largest knee-bending party, aka Squatober. 

Squatober is a free online workout program that has you squatting five days a week (Monday to Friday) for the entire month of October, leading up to a PR party on Halloween. 

If squatting five days a week sounds like hell, well, it is. But it’s also fun! I’ve participated in four Squatobers, each time upping my PR by at least 20 pounds. 

I’ll give you a little more information on this grueling strength training system, who it’s meant for, and some expert-verified tips on how to survive it. 

Let’s get to squatting! 

What is Squatober? 

Squatober is a free online training program designed by Aaron Ausmus, head strength and conditioning coach for the University of Southern California, and the masterminds at exercise equipment manufacturer Sorinex. In theory, it’s pretty simple: you squat five days a week, along with some upper-body exercises to maintain strength and muscle. 

There will also be days where you do deadlifts or bench presses right after squatting, which can lead to PRs for those lifts as well. 

woman doing back squat

As one might expect, it’s a lot harder in practice. As of this writing, I’m only on day six of Squatober 2023, and my legs feel like tree trunks. 

Here’s how it works: You start off with your training max, which is a weight you could comfortably lift with little to no warm-up. This is important—do not use your 1-rep max that you hit that one day you had great sleep and a banging pre-workout meal. 

The daily workouts are uploaded the day before (so Monday’s block is posted on Sunday) on the @soriex_squatober and ​​@penandpaperstrengthapp Instagram accounts, along with instructions on how to properly execute each workout.  

Here’s an example: 

Squatober sample workout

Seems pretty grueling, huh? This is exactly why you don’t want to use your all-time PR for this program. There’s a fine line between challenging yourself and going too hard, and with the squat already being a taxing lift, you don’t want to risk injuring yourself or failing the lift each time you step up to the bar. 

The weight and sets and reps vary throughout the month, leading up to a PR attempt on Halloween. 

An Online Community 

Squatober is more than just a workout program—it’s an online family. That may sound a little cheesy, but it’s true. 

If you follow the sorinex_squatober or ​​penandpaperstrengthapp accounts, you’ll see hundreds of people interacting with each other throughout the month. There are words of encouragement, jokes being cracked, and tips being shared on how to get through each day’s block. 

As someone who typically trains by himself, I love the sense of community on the Instagram pages. 

Should I Do Squatober?

If you’re wondering, “Is Squatober meant for me?” the answer is yes…well, maybe. Let me explain. 

Squatober has been done by people who are brand-new to the gym as well as weight room veterans. Not a fan of the back squat? You can do it with front squats or overhead squats as well, just use your training max for those moves instead of the back squat. 

The point is, this program can be done by anyone, but that doesn’t mean it should be done by everyone. If you have performance-specific goals, such as training for a CrossFit competition or bodybuilding show, then doing Squatober may not be the best choice for you. 

If your squat is decent but you need to work on your deadlift or bench press, I’d recommend finding a powerlifting program more suited for those moves. 

If you’re looking to increase your squat max or simply want to change up your training routine, then I’d say give it a go. 

Can I Do Squatober in a Home Gym? 

If you have the right exercise equipment (a barbell, squat rack, weight plates, dumbbells, and kettlebells would be the bare minimum), then yes. In fact, Garage Gym Reviews founder and overall buff dude Cooper Mitchell has been doing it in his home gym for years. 

“I’m such a fan of Squatober because it takes one of the best movements people can do, the squat, and has a world-class strength coach program training around it,” Coop says. “It’s also somewhat of a challenge, which is great for people who need added motivation and a goal to shoot for. I think nearly everyone could benefit from participating in Squatober.”

Is Squatober Safe?

I’ve received a wide range of reactions from people when I tell them I’m squatting five days a week, and quite a few have wondered if the program’s safe. 

I asked Kate Meier, GGR head of content, certified personal trainer, and USA Weightlifting L1 coach, what she thought about a general program that has you squatting five days a week.

“Mechanically, doing the exact same movement pattern five times a week could lead to overuse injuries in the long term,” Kate says. “Over the course of a month, and done at appropriate weights for your fitness level, it’s probably okay.” 

In general, she says, she isn’t opposed to squatting five days a week, as she herself squats three to four times a week. However, she generally recommends variation in squat movements, like split squats, lunges, front squats, etcetera. 

“I’m not saying that I’d tell someone to NOT do Squatober,” she clarifies. “If someone came up to me on the street and says they want to squat five times a week. I’d say, ‘Great, but do different variations.’ At the same time, if someone came to me and said, ‘I’m going to do Squatober because it sounds fun,’ I’d say, ‘Great! Have fun, fuel appropriately.’”

That said, I’d like to reiterate that Ausmus is a world-class strength coach who has worked with some of the best collegiate athletes in the world, so Squatober is a trusted program. Also, It should be noted that past programs have included days where participants front squat, rather than back squatting, but more often than not it’s a good old-fashioned back squat that’s on the menu. 

Tips on Surviving Squatober 

Think this program is for you? Here are a few tips from a Squatober veteran who’s also a certified personal trainer and certified nutrition coach (me). 

Fuel Appropriately 

The back squat is the No. 1 exercise for burning calories, according to studies1, due to the fact that it recruits most of the major muscle groups. Just as you need to refuel a car after a long road trip, squatting five times a week will require you to eat a large number of calories. 

While I can’t recommend a particular diet, I will say that you should focus on protein intake during this month because it will help repair the muscles that are broken down during each session. The general recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, but during this time, it might be a good idea to increase that to around 1.5 grams. 

Sleep

Sleep is always important, but if you want a successful Squatober, you need to make getting at least 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep a priority. Poor sleep is connected to lower testosterone levels, according to studies2, and that’s one hormone you need when leg day comes five days a week. 

Challenge Yourself, But Know Your Limits 

Squatober’s accessory lifts don’t come with percentages, so it’s up to you to determine what weight you want to use for moves like dumbbell curls, overhead presses, alternating lunges, and farmer’s carries. 

Most of these moves are done as part of a superset, two exercises done back-to-back, or even a tri-set, three moves done consecutively. 

Let me be blunt: Don’t ego lift on these moves. Find a weight that you can comfortably do for the prescribed amount of sets and reps that feels challenging on the last two reps. 

Stick to the Program 

There may be days when you find the workouts to be a little easy, and you may be tempted to increase the weight or do another few sets. 

DON’T DO THIS. 

The program is designed to have deload days, when you lift lighter weights, to prepare you for a more challenging session later on in the program. If you push yourself too hard, you risk not having the strength or energy to complete the scheduled lifts. 

Do the Accessory Lifts

Although back squats are the meat and potatoes of Squatober, there are also plenty of accessory lifts that focus on the upper and lower body. It’s important to do these exercises because they help minimize muscle and strength imbalances, and can also help you become a better squatter. 

And yes, there will be days when you’ll feel tempted to skip them because the squatting session was so rigorous. In those cases, take a quick break, hydrate, and put the work in!

Squatober FAQs

What is the Squatober program?

Squatober is a free online workout training program that has participants squat five days a week for the month of October, along with accessory lifts for the upper and lower body.

Is Squatober free?

Yes and no. Squatober workouts are free so long as you follow the program in real-time through the penandpaperstrengthapp and sorinex_squatober Instagram pages, but the workouts are taken off the social media sites at the end of the month. You can find each year’s Squatober program at penandpaperstrengthapp.com.

Who is Squatober Meant for?

Squatober is meant for anyone who wants to increase their back squat PR, is looking for a new workout program, or just wants to shake up their training routine. It is not meant for people who have performance-specific goals, such as CrossFit athletes or bodybuilders.

REFERENCES

  1. Reis VM, Garrido ND, Vianna J, Sousa AC, Alves JV, Marques MC. Energy cost of isolated resistance exercises across low- to high-intensities. PLoS One. 2017;12(7):e0181311. Published 2017 Jul 24. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181311
  1. Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Effect of 1 week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men. JAMA. 2011;305(21):2173-2174. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.710

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