Squats Are Foundational

The barbell squat is one of the staple exercises in the bodybuilding game.

The barbell squat is more responsible for building stronger and thicker quads than any other movement.  Squats have become synonymous with building great legs, especially the thighs.

Squats are an integral part of my training program.  I use them in cycles and offset them at time with other hall of fame level thigh builders like barbell hack squats. 

Squats are a key, foundational movement, but you can take them to the next level by utilizing a very underused bodybuilding technique: 1 and 1/4 reps.


the barbell squat

1 and 1/4 reps are a true game changer.

1 and 1/4 reps make every exercise you apply them too significantly harder.  They also force you to truly lock in your form and focus on each individual rep.  There is no room for lackadaisical lapses with any rep style, but definitely not with 1 and 1/4 reps.

To complete a 1 and 1/4 rep, you will perform a quarter rep in the hardest part of the exercise.  For example, with squats you would squat all the way down to the bucket, stand up a quarter of the way, squat back down to rock bottom, and then stand all the way up.  That completes one full dastardly rep.

You can apply quarter reps to almost any exercise.  But I’ll say from experience that they feel much more natural on pressing exercises like squats and bench presses in comparison to pulling exercises like chin-ups and rows.

No Squats Is A Problem

the barbell squat

Many natural bodybuilders show up on stage without a well-equipped lower body.

I’ve seen this phenomenon when I was just starting as an amateur 2011 and I’ve seen this as a pro.  The number of men and women, who lack quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves is astounding.

It’s different if you are working hard and you just have not had enough time in the game to grow.  That’s a normal part of growth in the natural bodybuilding game.  The problem is that some natural bodybuilders don’t like to train their legs because true leg workouts are hard and they create fear.

To maximize your physique on stage, you’ve got to train your legs.  You’ve got to accept the fact that true leg workouts are strenuous, difficult, and fearsome.  But in the same breath you have to accept that success requires struggle.

The Barbell Squat Workout

the barbell squat

This training session was a limbs workout as a part of the torso and limbs split.  This means that you train the arms and the legs in the same session.

The lower body exercises on this day were glute-ham raises, barbell squats, barbell hip thrusts, and dumbbell split squats.  Every single exercise I did this day was done with 1 and 1/4 reps.

The barbell squat was the featured move of the day.  If you are training in a progressive fashion, every workout has an exercise that you should be excited to dance with.  Whether you have the opportunity to move more weight or do more reps, you have a chance to make progress.

The first set was 240lbs and the second set was 245lbs.  I’m excited because there is so much more room to grow in the 1 and 1/4 rep barbell squat.  The weight I moved in this workout was the most I’ve done to this point with 1 and 1/4 reps.  My all-time best squat was 335lbs x 1 and 275lbs x 9.

And all of my squats are rock bottom and in the bucket.  Mobility and injuries may limit some bodybuilders squatting depth, but if you are healthy, getting to the bucket is where you need to be.  Rock bottom squats maximize your results, build mental toughness, and control your ego.  That 315lb bad form quarter squat becomes a 185lb-225lb rock bottom squat real quick. 

There are very few instances of total despair in the iron game like being on rep 12 of a set of 20 rock bottom squats and your legs are already cooked.  But the incredible feeling after completion, if you can complete it, is worth the pain.


When it comes to building thicker legs, you’ve got to spend time in the squat rack.

You’ve got to embrace the hard work.  The more times that you can successfully overcome obstacles, the more mental toughness you will build.

I’ll holla at you next time.
The People’s Trainer

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Barbell Bulgarian Split Squats (225lbs, 1 and 1/4 reps)


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[…] Squat: primarily hits the quads; little hamstring/glute […]



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