Program Review: Pins to Pillars

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The program ‘Pins to Pillars’ was written by Pavel Tsatsouline on Dragon  I don’t have the original article but here is the basic rundown.

Lifting 3x per week (preferably MWF or at least having a day between each session)
Exercise Selection: Squat – that’s it
Sets x Reps: 10 x 5 each workout
Program Duration: 4 weeks
Day 1 you start with 50% of your 1RM squat then increase the weight each workout but keep reps the same.
If your max squat is under 250, only go up 5 lbs each workout.
If your max squat is over 250, go up 10 lbs each workout.
Keep rest below 3 minutes between sets, preferably 30-90 seconds.

Here’s what it would look like for me- estimated 300 lb 1RM
Week 1
Day 1- 10 x 5 reps @ 150 lbs
Day 2- 10 x 5 reps @ 160 lbs
Day 3- 10 x 5 reps @ 170 lbs

The next week I would start at 180 lbs then go to 190 and 200 lbs, etc.  Total there should be 12 squat workouts going up to about 85% of your 1RM for 10 sets of 5 reps on the last workout.

This is program will probably not build massive strength but it will put some size on your wheels.


If your squat form sucks, this is not the program for you.  Get your squat right first and then try it.  This much volume, especially in the third and fourth weeks where the % is high, will only reinforce bad form.

Be conservative with your 1RM.  I really believe you would better served if you based your numbers off 90% of your 1RM.  In the sample I gave, instead of basing it off my 300 lb max, I would base them off 90% of that which is 270 lbs. 

If all you are concerned about is leg size then just rock out on the squats but this program could also be a great catalyst for full body growth as long as your regulate the intensity of the extra work and don’t compromise your recovery.  Before someone gets the big idea of trying to bench heavy after a day of high rep heavy squatting, forget about it.  If you want to take advantage of the anabolic hormonal environment created by the squatting, I would prefer to see someone doing push ups, inverted rows, dips, or pull ups after they get done squatting.  The first week you’re going to have some energy left over after squatting since the percentages are low and you may be able to do some benching or rowing but that energy will not be there in the second through fourth weeks which is why I recommend the body weight exercises.  You can still add some weight if you feel the need but pure body weight should work just fine.  Don’t worry about planning out sets and reps for the extra stuff.  Shoot for a total number of reps.  If you are hitting between 20 and 50 reps on those exercises then you should be on the right track.  Once you hit fifty total reps you can either add a little weight or stick to 50 total reps and try to do them in fewer sets.

Don’t skimp on the food while you are doing this either.  This program is going to incredibly metabolically demanding, especially if you are adding in some dips and pull ups to each workout.  If improving body composition is the goal and you limit your calories a little bit, eat the highest quality food you possibly can during that time.  Cut the breads, legumes and dairy in favor of yams, sweet potatoes, and fruit along with lots of veggies, nuts, and meat.

If you want to facilitate recovery, make a sled and drag it on your off days.  Don’t worry about trying to drag tons of weight, just pick a weight you can drag for 10-15 minutes fairly easy.  With a normal program I prefer heavier sled dragging but for this one lighter weight and longer duration will be better.

This is not a program that I would recommend doing often but it’s a great short term change of pace type program what can really illicit a lot of growth if done correctly.  I’m assuming though that every few people will actually finish the program let alone try it again if the do.

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