The Real Hatch Squat Cycle

For the last 20 years, the “Hatch Squat Cycle” has become synonymous with being one of the go-to programmed squat cycles that are known to be both brutal and successful for building leg strength.  

As a 17 year athlete of the legendary Gayle Hatch, I am here to finally set the record straight. This squat cycle is NOT even close to anything I have ever done in my career and is in no way, shape, or form a reflection of the true Hatch Squat program. 

Let’s first begin by describing who Coach Hatch is, and then we will delve into the true genius and masterminding of his squat program.  

Gayle Hatch’s contributions to Olympic-style weightlifting and strength training are quite considerable. Among Hatch’s many accomplishments are memberships in the USA Weightlifting and USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Halls of Fame. He served as Head Coach of the men’s 2004 USA Olympic Weightlifting Team that competed in Athens, Greece.  

Hatch’s club, the Gayle Hatch Weightlifting Team, has a tradition-rich program that has won 54 USA Men’s Olympic Weightlifting National Championships. Coach Hatch has also had athletes make three United States Olympic Teams and 12 World Teams. He has had more than 50 athletes selected to other U.S. international teams. 

Coach Hatch’s athletes were renowned for their leg strength during his dominant years in the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s.  So much so that coaches worldwide would continuously approach Coach Hatch, asking him for the secrets behind his squat program.  

In the early 2000’s Coach Mike Burgener approached Coach Hatch looking for an example of his squat cycle he used with his athletes.  At that time, Coach Hatch sent him this template, which consisted of reps ranging from 10 reps to 1 rep and squatting twice per week with both front squats and back squats performed on the same day.

The only similarity of this program to the true Hatch Squat program is that yes, we did perform back squats and front squats twice per week, and we also performed both back squats and front squats on the same day.  

That is where the similarities end.  

The volume and intensity were completely different and actually more simple than most would believe.  He sent this “squat program” to Coach Mike Burgener because he was very protective of his training philosophy and did not want his “secrets” floating around. That’s why he would continuously hand out templates like these and parade them as his own.  

The true Hatch Squat Program consisted of us squatting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and our High CNS days (aka Olympic lifts) were performed on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

These Tuesdays and Thursdays were known as our “Squat days” and would take us about an hour each day just to perform the squat portion of the lift.  After the squat was finished, we would proceed to other absolute strength exercises such as military press, push press, bench press, incline press, dips, curls, pull-ups, abs, and hyperextensions.

The beauty behind the squat program was its simplicity in nature and repetitiveness of it.  Coach Hatch never believed in squatting over 8 reps and would only program 8 reps once or twice per year, and these days were called “Bucket 8’s,” and they still haunt me to this day.

Coach Hatch also never allowed for any sets to be less than 3 reps.  He felt one rep or two rep max in the squat was not enough juice for the squeeze.  Therefore, the only reps we ever performed, outside of “Bucket 8” days (that’s a whole other blog in itself), were triples and sets of 5. 

Right, it seems so simple.  We also never performed sets of 4—only sets of triples and 5’s.  Whatever squat you were to perform first that day was to be your triple max.  After finishing triples on that lift, we would proceed to sets of 5 for the other squat lift.

We would go to the maximum every time we tripled on the squat, and the goal was to attempt a PR every week unless it was a deload week.

Here is the general breakdown of our template:

Week 1:

Day 1:

Front Squat: work up to a max triple.  Sets of 3 all the way up.  Your last sets should be: 70%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 95%, attempt new PR

Immediately following front squats, you would move to back squats.

Back Squat: 4×5  Whatever you worked up to on Front Squats, you would take 4 sets working back up to that weight, and the jumps would be done in 5% increments.

For example, let’s say you hit a new PR on your front squat triple that day, giving you a new 100%.  Your back squat would be these 4 sets of five at 85%, 90%, 95%, and 100% of that new front squat triple weight.

 

Day 2:

Tempo Back Squats (5 seconds eccentric lower) tripling up to 80% of your 3 rep max Back Squat with 4 sets above 70% of the prescribed weight for the day.

Immediately following back squats, you would move to front squats.

Pause Front Squat (3-second pause at the bottom position) tripling up to 80% of your 3 rep max Front Squat with 4 sets above 70% of the prescribed weight for the day

 

Week 2:

Day 1:

Back Squat: work up to a max triple.  Sets of the all the way up.  Your last sets should be: 70%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 95%, attempt new PR

Immediately following back squats, you would move to front squats.

Front Squat: 4×5  Whatever you worked up to on Back Squats, you would take 4 sets working back up to 80% of that weight, and the jumps would be done in 5% increments.

For example, let’s say you hit a new PR on your Back squat triple that day, giving you a new 100%.  You would then take 80% of this lift, and that would be the final weight you would hit on front squats.  Your front squat would be these 4 sets of five at 85%, 90%, 95%, and 100% of that prescribed weight.

 

Day 2:

Tempo Front Squats (5 seconds eccentric lower) tripling up to 80% of your 3 rep max Front Squat with 4 sets above 70% of the prescribed weight for the day

Immediately following front squats, you would move to back squats.

Pause Back Squat (3-second pause at the bottom position) tripling up to 80% of your 3 rep max Back Squat with 4 sets above 70% of the prescribed weight for the day

 

Week 3: Deload week

Front Squat: triple up to 70% of your max triple. Sets of 3 all the way up.

Immediately following front squats, you would move to back squats.

Back Squat: triple up to 70% of your max triple. Sets of 3 all the way up.

This would be the normal template we would follow year after year, and it never really varied.  The only variance would be every so often when we were in a deep cycle, and our CNS was holding up strong, we would add in another loaded week before the deload week, therefore, making a 4-week cycle instead of a 3-week cycle.  The four-week cycle would look like this:

  • Week 1: Perform a normal week 1 squat workout
  • Week 2: Perform a normal week 2 squat workout
  • Week 3: Perform a normal week 1 squat workout
  • Week 4: Perform a normal week 4 squat workout

Let it be known that we did squat every day as on the non “Squat Days,” we would perform exercises like squat cleans, squat snatches, Bulgarian split squats, step-ups, etc.

Also, as years would pass on this current “squat system,” the second day programmed each week was replaced by a light squat day, and then eventually, we only had one “squat day” per week.

Now I can imagine you being upset and wishing this long drawn out yearly cycle included many ups and downs in volume and a ton of variance.  His squat program’s real secret was that most of his athletes began training under him in their early teens on this exact squat program.

Over the years, they built a huge tolerance to squatting and built an incredible “base” strength to carry over to the Olympic lifts.  Imagine if you started squatting in this manner at the age of 13 and continued in this same pattern for over 7 years.  Your legs would be tremendously stronger.

With that being said, this program will still work no matter what age you are and current training status, but also understand that it will take a few weeks to get used to this volume. 

If you’re looking to try the “Real Hatch Squat Cycle” out for yourself, you’re in luck. We’ve created an excel template that will allow you to put in your max triple front squat and max triple back squat and calculate the numbers for you each week.

Each time you record a new triple record on either the back squat or front squat, simply just change those numbers in the template, and the corresponding numbers will change through the program within the weeks.

Grow those legs with The Real Hatch Squat Cycle

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