Not for the faint of heart, doing one set of 20 reps of squats is one of the most demanding – and shortest – workouts that you’ll ever do.
The squat is the King of all exercises, and whether you do the body weight version, back squats with a barbell or front squats with dumbbells, squats should be a regular part of your routine.
However, the 20 Repetition Squat Workout is most certainly not for everyone due to the mental and physical requirements. To get the benefits from this workout you’ll have to have a decent amount of experience training heavy with the squat, working in the 5-repetition range for 3 to 5 sets.
For the uninitiated, working with this 5 reps, 3-5 set scheme is not a simple matter of just using a weight slightly heavier than you’d use for sets of 10 reps, and performing 5 reps. Working in this range requires that you use a weight challenging enough so that the there’s almost no way you could do a sixth rep. This is not a workout for an inexperienced lifter.
The goal for the 20-rep workout is to do one set of 20 repetitions with a weight that you’d be hard pressed to do for 3 sets of 5 reps. That’s it. Over the course of 5 or 6 workouts you will progress to the point where this is possible.
The first time you do the 20-rep squat workout pick a weight that you could perform for 3 sets of 10 reps and do one set of 20 reps. When you do this workout warm up properly but at the same time do not waste energy. When I prepare for this workout I take no more than 3-minutes to do jump rope or some calisthenics, some dynamic flexibility exercises and then get into my squat warm ups.
For example, if you’re using 225-pounds for the 20-rep set, the warm up progression would go like this; unloaded bar and 135-pounds for 10 reps, 185-pounds for 5 or 6 reps, 225-pounds for 1 or 2 reps. Then go for your set of 20 at 225.
When doing your set of 20 you don’t want to crank it out at top speed. Be somewhat deliberate, breaking the 20 reps into smaller sets of 10, 5, and 5. Of course you aren’t racking the bar once you get started, but after each of these smaller sets take 2 or 3 full, deep breaths before moving on. This strategy will be even more important as you go up the ladder and start using heavier weight.
After the set get on a treadmill and walk at about 3.5 miles per hour for 5-minutes and then do some dynamic flexibility exercises. If you don’t have access to a treadmill or other cardio equipment, you can do jumping jacks or jump rope for a couple of minutes. This cool down routine will go a long way to minimize post-workout soreness.
Once you’re into the cycle of using this routine there are a couple of things to keep in mind. On the day that you do the 20-reps you won’t do anything else other than your warm up and cool down. Because of the demands this workout places on your body, only do this workout 5 or 6 times and give yourself at least 9 or 10 days in between sessions. Trust me, once you get in about 3 weeks, you’ll need the rest. Also, if you’re going to do dead lifts or other lower-body emphasis exercises in between 20-rep sessions, cut way back and do no more than 60% of the weight that you’d normally do. The only lower-body exercise that I do during this phase is dead lifts.
With each 20-rep workout add 10-20 pounds, as you see fit. Using the 225-pound starting point as an example, you’ll if you follow this progression you’ll wind up in the 275-325 pound range for your last workout. Anywhere in that range is impressive.
There are probably not too many people who are bold enough to give this workout a try. It’s incredibly difficult from both the mental and physical standpoints and takes a ton of discipline to get through. The benefits that are derived from following this program go beyond traditional measures, and are tough to quantify under any normal means.
Give the 20-rep workout a try and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I promise.