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Joseph Alberga 04-01-2014 11:18 PM

20 rep squats
Hi all,

I've been scavenging the internet for a specific 20 rep squat program, but haven't really found what I'm looking for. I'm attempting to throw a curveball in my squat programming by mixing in heavy 20's for one of my two squat sessions per week.

I did my first 20 reps today using 260#. It made me want to crumble to pieces and it made me question the point of even training at all, but when I re-racked the bar, I felt fantastically exhausted and satisfied. After 5 minutes of rest I arrogantly tried 275# and re-racked after 8 reps... no regrets.

My questions: what percentage of my 1RM should I be using to do a set of 20, and what is an acceptable amount of rest time while holding the bar on my back during the set? At the 260# I did the first 10 reps steadily, but not quickly. The next 5 each had about 4-5 seconds between each rep, and the last 5 had a significant rest, between 6 and probably up to 10 seconds. Is that considered too much rest, and thus too much weight?

For what it's worth, 2 months ago I had a 1RM of 400# but I'm assuming my current 1RM is probably more like 385#.

Taking on all advice, thanks!


Bret Goldstein 04-02-2014 12:07 PM

Re: 20 rep squats
I seem to recall a book called "Brawn" written by a guy named Stuart McRobert who discussed this sort of a program. You might try looking for that.

I should note that there are a bunch of people that 100% disagree with his training methodologies.

Good luck.

Robert Fabsik 04-02-2014 12:25 PM

Re: 20 rep squats
Randall Strossen brought 20 rep squats back to the training world in the 90's with his book Super Squats. Basically the program was either 2-3 days of full body workouts. Squats done for one set of 20. Using your 10RM to get to 20 reps done as you described--almost rest pause fashion with the bar on your back. Then it was 3-4 more exercises for either sets of 5 or 10.

Dr. Ken Leistner is also a big fain of 20 rep squats. I think at around age 50 or so he did 405 for 20 reps at around 165, maybe lighter. He's a big fan of training to failure. He recommends training twice a week something like (warm ups not included):

Day 1
Squat 1x20
Stifflegged Deadlift 1x15
Bench press 1x6, 1x8
Weighted Chins 1x6, 1x8
Neck work

Day 2
Squat 1x20
Shrug 1x12, 1x10
Press 1x6, 1x8
Barbell Row 1x6, 1x8
Barbell Curl or Farmer's Walk

As mentioned earlier, Stuart McRobert is another fan. Note that most 20 rep programs that make you take it to the limit are abbreivated due to the demands.

20 Rep Squats will teach you intensity and knock you out. Make sure to eat and sleep. They will make you stronger especially in reps, but most have not gotten a big boost in their 1RMs.

Eric Montgomery 04-02-2014 12:38 PM

Re: 20 rep squats
A few years ago I did 5 weeks worth of a 20 rep squat program after I'd hurt my shoulder and couldn't do upper body stuff for awhile. I subtracted 80lbs off my 5RM and started there, squatting twice per week and adding 5lbs per squat day. Towards the end I was often resting 6-8 seconds between reps, and I would usually add in some RDLs and a quick conditioning workout then call it a day. If you keep that up for 8 weeks and eat/sleep enough, you'll be squatting your old 5RM for 20 reps.

Those 5 weeks led me right up to a PL meet which meant I had to recondition my CNS for maximal efforts rather than 20RM efforts, but after two weeks of getting used to weights in the 1-3RM range I found that my 1RM had increased by about 35lbs....not a bad gain for less than two months.

Matthew Meyer 04-02-2014 12:45 PM

Re: 20 rep squats
The Outlaw Way just programmed a few weeks of 20RM squats. Rudy suggested starting with 65-70% of your 1RM as a good place to start - it worked pretty well for me.

Not sure where this 20rm squat cycle is going, but I seem to responding pretty well so far, adding 5-10lbs per week (when directed to).

Blair Robert Lowe 04-09-2014 03:31 PM

Re: 20 rep squats
65-70% sounds about right.

Rob Poling Jr 04-09-2014 05:45 PM

Re: 20 rep squats
I had an issue of MuscleMag from the early 80's that had a bunch of different squat programs. They might have been from Strossen but can't remember. One 20 rep program would have you do 10 squats and then tense the quads for 10 seconds and then finish the remaining 10. You would keep the weight the same for each set. This wasn't my heavy day so I would only use about 135 due to the amount of reps and it allowed me to mix things up a bit.

Jim Denofa 04-09-2014 06:00 PM

Re: 20 rep squats
You guys might want to give this a shot. W/F/S

Tommy Dunaway 04-12-2014 09:19 PM

Re: 20 rep squats
I'm personally a fan of 20 rep squats having started doing them after reading "Brawn" probably 10 or 12 years ago. While some of McRobert's stuff is a little off (diet), I like his 20 rep program.

Basically, pick a weight you can do 12 times, but stop after 10. From there just do rest-pause till 20. Nothing mind-blowing, basically what it looks like you're doing. If its a weight you feel like you could've got to 13 reps with no pause - go up.

Will Hurst 04-18-2014 04:26 AM

Re: 20 rep squats
We ran the 20 squat program into our programming for about 7 weeks at my first box and saw some huge gains from our members. We started everyone at 60-65%, took a week or two for some of the guys with egos to realize that 65% was the correct starting point after they failed at 13-15 with higher % starting points.

Almost everyone was hitting around 85% for 20 by the time we concluded the program and most people PR'd there 1RM substantially. It's an effective program that I think fits well along side standard metcon programming. We only did it once each week.

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