20-Rep Squats: Can You Handle It?

My goal is to add 20-30 pounds of lean muscle tissue in a years time and then come back to strongman at a rock solid 220-230 pounds, with visible abdominals to boot! How am I going to do this? 20-rep squats!

I am taking a year off from all competitions. In fact, I am taking a whole solid year off. The goal is to add 20-30 pounds of lean muscle tissue in a years time and then come back to strongman at a rock solid 220-230 pounds, with visible abdominals to boot!

Gaining 20-30lbs Of Lean Muscle In A Year

To add this type of muscle in a years time, as a drug free lifter, is going to be a chore. Some may say it is impossible. It is going to require constant eating, sleeping, supplementation, and the right training method.

I did a lot of thinking about how I wanted to train. I have been lifting heavy for a long time with low reps, and this type of training has never given me much muscle mass. Yes, my strength has consistently increased, but I have not put on as much muscle as I would have liked.

I have also tried the ole' bodybuilder's program of 5-6 sets of 8-10 reps. Again, not much in the way of muscle mass was gained, but I sure did over train in a hurry! All that was left that I had not tried yet was HIT. I read as much as I could find about HIT from www.cyberpump.com and www.bodybuilding.com. It made sense to me.

Warm up thoroughly, then load the bar heavy and bust your ass to get 8-10 reps, focusing heavily on the eccentric portion of the lift. The weight has to be heavy enough that once you get to 8-10, you are zapped. You have completely fried the muscle.

This would make my workouts short and intense, and would, in theory, add muscle mass. Countless of articles I read backed all of this up. This sounded interesting. I am always up for a new routine, so I figured I would give it a try.

My program is set-up in a 4 day split. Day 1 is 20-rep squats/legs, day 2 is chest and back, day 3 is rest, day 4 is 20-rep squats and shoulders, day 5 is biceps and triceps, day 6 is rest, day 7-repeat.

The 20's!

As you can see, part of my training is the enigma known as the 20-rep squat. I squat 2 times a week, and both days are 20-rep squat days. The 20 rep squat is a whole new beast.

To me, it is "No Man's Land" as I have never tried to do them consistently and with heavy weights. To tell the truth, I have never had the balls to try it, and do it right. My attitude has changed.

When doing 20-rep squats, your entire day needs to be consumed by it. What does this mean? For me is means getting mentally prepared for what I am going to face. The 20-rep squat is a scary thing. You can't just go to the gym, load the bar, and go. You need to get there mentally or you are going to fail. All day long I think about squatting.

I visualize each and every agonizing rep. I rehearse it in my mind and attempt to numb myself to the coming pain. With the 20-rep squat, pain is inevitable. You cannot avoid it. The body reacts to uncomfortable situations in uncanny ways.

Pushing a heavy weight for 20 reps is something that your body is going to reject. You will hurt. You will get dizzy. You will feel faint. You will want to vomit. Your body may shut down completely and leave you on the safety pins (pins or a competent, alert spotter are an absolute MUST for this program!).

Be prepared for all of that. In order to stop the pain and torture, the body will start reacting, shutting down the pain. 90% of this will be mental. The mind is going to scream STOP! The mind will go before the body unless you are prepared to silence it.

Then, and only then, will you reap the rewards of the 20-rep squats. Focus or fail. The only thing that should stop you ever getting 20 reps is going down and being physically unable to stand back up. This WILL happen. You will get into the hole and your legs will simply stop working. That is fine. The next workout you simply load the bar to the same weight and go to battle again.

Now, let me take you through a 20-rep squat workout. First, I do something to get my core temperature up. This may be jogging in place or jumping rope. After that, I squat the empty bar for 10 and 135 for 10. I then start loading the bar 20-50 pound jumps, doing sets of 3-5 reps.

After 4-6 warm-up sets, I load the bar to the goal weight. I then find a good motivating song, chalk up, and get under the bar. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. The thinking is done. If you think once the bar is loaded, you will psyche yourself out. The time is NOW! Myself, I like to count in sets of 3.

Reps 1-3: Nice and easy. Is there any weight on my back?

Reps 4-6: Starting to feel it. Yes, indeed there IS weight on my back!

Reps 7-9: I am in pain. By the 9th rep, the mind is already telling me to rack the bar and stop the insanity. I truly believe that you must be in this kind of pain by rep 9 or 10 to truly get the effect of the 20 rep squat.

If you get to 9 or 10 and you aren't feeling much, INCREASE THE DAMN WEIGHT! By the 9th rep, your mind should be telling you that this was a damn bad idea.

Reps 10-12: My entire body is screaming out in agony. I tend to look slightly up when I squat so right in my view, on the wall, are the words, "DON'T YOU QUIT!" At this point, I am staring intently at those words. I am already sick to my stomach, and I am starting to wonder if I can get the next 8 reps.

Reps 13-15: Yeah. This was a damn bad idea. I am no longer counting in 3s but instead in 1s. Between each rep, I stand shaking with the weight on my back and breathing like a runaway train. The thought of quitting is overcome by me screaming DOWN! DOWN! DOWN! These reps came up very slow. 5 more baby! 5 more!

Reps 16-17: Very slow and agonizing. Breathing is forceful; heart is pounding a mile a minute. 20 is right around the corner. Just supporting the weight has become a chore. My entire body is shaking. I taste that protein drink as I burp it into my mouth.

Some of it comes out onto my shirt. I don't care. The garage could burn down around me right now and I would not care. I am steely eyed. I am ready. I will get 3 more reps. Do or die baby!

Reps 18-20: Disgustingly slow. My lower body is now numb. I am rising out of the hole but I can't tell. Everything is now painful. Even standing there with the bar, to breathing, to actually squatting. I can no longer tell the difference. Time is standing still.

This is the point were the weak stop and the strong continue. This is the battle that will win the war. The bar cannot beat me. I scream in agony as I rise out of the hole. While breathing, I swear, I spit, I puke. As the 20th rep locks out I have to fight just to get the bar back to the rack.

The Aftermath

When I hear that sweet sound of the bar touching down in the racks, I let go and collapse. I free fall straight to the cold concrete floor. I make no attempt to slow my descent. My heart beats so hard is shakes my body. My breathing is erratic.

The garage ceiling dances and swirls around me. I take deep breaths in attempts to get myself straight. If I am lucky, after 5 minutes I can make my way 5 feet across the room to my bench where I can sit. My heart has returned to normal but my legs are already radiating in pain. Another 5 minutes goes by and I am still sitting there, gulping water, and trying not to move my legs.

The rest of the workout is agony, and by the end, I am completely wasted. The 3 steps up my deck into the house are sheer torture on an already ravished body. My wife makes me a protein drink as I drag myself to the couch. Many times I sit on the couch for 2 hours in a coma like state as my lovely wife brings me a few meals. Sometimes I will fall asleep for a little while.

My entire evening is spent in a haze. I sit there with a smile across my face realizing that it will be real hard to walk for the next 2 days.

That, my friends, is a 20-rep squat workout.

I will let you know how it all goes. If anyone out there is looking to add some size, give this routine a try!