Inform an skilled lifter to do 20 reps of curls they usually’ll say it’s too simple. Inform them to do 20 reps of pull-ups they usually’ll say it’s too exhausting. Inform them to do 20 reps of squats and, in the event that they know their stuff, they’ll begin to tremble.
The 20-rep squat program has an extended and fabled historical past within the power and health group as a result of it emphasizes the fundamentals: the basic barbell again squat, loads of exhausting work, and a good quantity of psychological and bodily endurance.
This time-tested plan is usually known as “the squats and milk program” because of the considerable entire milk consumption usually thought-about half and parcel with the large leg train. Right here’s a have a look at how and why this training strategy has been a dependable staple for practically a century.
The 20-Rep Squat Program
In at this time’s age of fast fixes and coaching hacks peddled by on-line “fitfluencers,” it is perhaps exhausting to consider that one particular exercise program originated within the Thirties and continues to be promoted as a viable routine within the twenty first century. Nevertheless, that’s precisely the case with 20-rep squats. This system was first popularized again when Babe Ruth was calling his shot. It had a resurgence within the ‘80s and the plan continues to be a go-to answer for constructing dimension and power comparatively shortly.
Coaching within the Thirties
From 1914 to 1935, Energy journal, recognized informally as “America’s First Muscle Journal,” was a month-to-month publication. It featured health and vitamin recommendation collectively recognized on the time as “bodily tradition,” relatively than “bodybuilding” or “powerlifting” since these actions hadn’t but formally begun.
Mark Berry was the journal’s editor from 1927 till the its chapter in 1935. Berry was additionally an Olympic weightlifter and nationwide weightlifting coach for the 1932 and 1936 Olympic groups. He used the journal to advocate for, amongst different ways, high-repetition barbell squatting for including muscular bulk and strength.
The coaching program was constructed round one centerpiece train — the back squat — with only a few further workouts, primarily to handle the torso and arms. The sort of abbreviated coaching plan was carried out two or three days per week, permitting relaxation and restoration on the remaining days.
The minimalist coaching was complemented by high-calorie foods to gasoline muscle progress. Particularly breads, fruits, eggs, and good quaint milk. These primary staples had been typically obtainable to most households, whilst The Nice Despair rolled throughout the nation.
One of many first names related to efficiently implementing this mass-building routine was Joseph Curtis Hise, or J.C. Hise, a reader of Mark Berry’s work. Hise wrote Berry to announce his outcomes after diligently following the 20-rep squat program. Hise gained practically 30 kilos of muscular physique weight in 30 days, and would go on to be an modern and influential power icon in his personal proper.
Persevering with Berry’s work, coaching recommendation centered round high-repetition squatting could be echoed in fashionable health magazines over the a long time to observe. Most notable was Peary Rader’s Iron Man journal within the Nineteen Sixties, the place power advocate and columnist John McCallum would proceed preaching the protocol’s advantages. The coaching tides would possibly’ve ebbed and flowed, however the 20-rep squat program continued to be a mainstay within the weight room.
“Tremendous Squats” and the ‘80s Health Craze
The Eighties had been a comparatively wild time within the health world. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone made muscular physiques mainstream in Hollywood; legwarmers and leotards stuffed business gyms; and follow-along exercise videotapes made their means into houses.
Folks had been getting their coaching steerage from an array of newsstand magazines, VHS cassettes, and exercise books typically emphasizing aerobics and excessive calorie restriction. In a possible welcomed change of tempo, one e-book specifically hit the cabinets in 1989 — “Tremendous Squats” by Randall J. Strossen, Ph.D.
“Tremendous Squats” featured the eye-catching (although debatably correct) subtitle: “ Acquire 30 Kilos of Muscle in 6 Weeks.” This was a transparent testomony to the numerous positive aspects and comparatively brief timeframe generally related to the 20-rep squat program.
In his e-book, Strossen recalled the teachings of Berry, Hise, and people who got here earlier than him within the lifting world. He additionally re-introduced the 20-rep squat program itself, intimately, whereas presenting associated concepts such because the significance of correct food regimen, ample relaxation, and even a bit discussing the proper angle and mindset for the difficult routine.
Whereas loads of emphasis was positioned on the thrice-weekly coaching periods, simply as a lot dialogue was given to real looking goal-setting, monitoring progress, and constructing the self-motivation and psychological toughness wanted to finish all 20 repetitions.
Greater than 30 years since its first printing, Strossen’s e-book stays on the “urged studying” record of many power coaches, private trainers, and skilled lifters largely to its continued relevance and relevant classes.
The 20-rep squat program has just a few elementary, non-negotiable points in addition to normal rules that might enable a level of flexibility.
Performing a typical set of 20 repetitions is often a reasonably simple state of affairs. Whether or not it’s a push-up, lat pulldown, or dumbbell curl, you usually simply raise and decrease the load persistently till the set is accomplished.
Nevertheless, with the 20-rep squat program, you’re not merely performing a set of squats for 20 reps. You’re performing respiratory squats, so named as a result of deliberate, deep respiratory is a compulsory a part of the train method.
Quite than exhaling whereas exerting drive and inhaling as you decrease the load, or bracing your core all through the motion and shortly stealing a mini-breath between repetitions, a set of respiratory squats is finished with very intentional respiratory — absolutely exhaling and absolutely inhaling a number of occasions— between particular person reps.
This extends the general length of the set, retaining the load in your again for minutes at a time. An extended length set means your physique stabilizers are put by means of a very long time beneath pressure which can assist to set off systemic muscle progress. (1) Apparently, and maybe not surprisingly, trendy sports activities science analysis has validated the potential muscle- and strength-building advantages of this kind of mid-repetition resting protocol. (2)
As one would possibly count on, a number of permutations of respiratory squats have been tried through the years, manipulating the respiratory patterns with the loading and repetition efficiency. Two main strategies have remained.
Respiration squats may be performed with a number of deep breaths between every particular person repetition. This can be a extra conventional technique, in step with Berry’s authentic suggestion. After unracking the bar and organising your stance, take two or three deep diaphragmatic breaths earlier than performing the primary repetition. Upon locking out within the standing place, take two or three breaths earlier than performing the subsequent rep. This sample is sustained till 20 squats have been carried out.
This strategy is similar to the “cluster rep” technique and helps to keep up efficiency for longer length units. The set of “20 reps” can virtually be approached as 20 particular person repetitions (with out racking the bar between every repetition). This may help to make sure optimum method and focus. It additionally accommodates lifters of any power degree and may be carried out with any weight, not like the subsequent respiratory squat different.
Carry out a 10-repetition most raise with normal method, taking deep breaths from reps 11 to twenty. This strategy requires the lifter to load their 10-repetition max (10RM) on the bar and carry out an easy set of 10 reps with a typical respiratory sample. Upon reaching muscular failure, relatively than re-rack the load, the lifter stands within the locked out place and takes three to 5 deep diaphragmatic breaths earlier than performing an eleventh rep.
Upon lockout, take one other three to 5 deep breaths earlier than rep quantity 12. Repeat this grueling course of till you get up with the 20th rep, earlier than gratefully racking the bar. For a lot of lifters, this “do 20 reps along with your 10RM” technique is the tougher model as a result of it requires taking the motion to muscular failure earlier than persevering with the set one arduous squat at a time. It’s not unusual for lifters to easily be unable to finish all 20 repetitions with this strategy.
Whereas the barbell again squat is the coaching precedence of any 20-rep squat program, further actions are wanted to handle the remainder of the physique.
Sometimes these actions give attention to the higher physique with little to no added lower body exercises. Performing an extreme quantity of help workouts would enhance fatigue and reduce restoration potential with out contributing considerably to outcomes.
Within the early days of Mark Berry and J.C. Hise, the squat was complemented by the behind-the-neck shoulder press, barbell curl, and barbell pullover. This barebones plan allowed lifters to focus their vitality on finishing the squat portion at the start, with the supplemental workouts rounding out a really simplified “full-body workout” by coaching the chest, again, shoulders, and arms with the chosen workouts.
Strossen provided two detailed exercises in “Tremendous Squats.” The “primary routine” was fairly complete and included the behind-the-neck press, bench press, barbell row, barbell curl, squat, a pullover variation, stiff-leg deadlift, calf raise, and crunch.
The e-book additionally provided an “abbreviated program” for lifters who had explicit bother gaining physique weight on the expansive primary routine. This condensed program required merely the bench press, squat, barbell row, and a specialised pullover variation referred to as a “Rader chest pull” — primarily a standing, static/isometric train that mimicked the mid-point of a pullover.
The widespread thread with any help coaching was to primarily goal the higher physique with a “pushing” exercise, a “pulling” exercise, and a few kind of pullover. The pullover, specifically, was typically urged to “increase” the lifters’ ribcage. Whereas there’s no anatomical means for that to happen, the train does effectively goal the again, chest, shoulder, and triceps muscle groups, making it a wonderful alternative for general upper-body progress.
Two to Three Exercises Per Week
The character of the 20-rep squat program — full-body exercises performing the squat in every session — permits three concentrated coaching days with 4 days of relaxation.
For lifters with a poor recover capacity or those that carry out important bodily exercise outdoors the gymnasium (corresponding to a profession in handbook labor or enjoying rec-league sports activities), two coaching days may yield higher general outcomes.
This generally is a drastic change of tempo for these extra accustomed to coaching 4 or 5 days per week with a extra standard bodybuilding-style training split. Balancing high-frequency coaching (working the squat in every exercise) with ample general restoration is important for steadily recovering and rising throughout the course of the plan.
This depth of the 20-rep squat set is so excessive that many lifters come to comprehend, “for those who really feel like coaching extra days per week, you’re not pushing exhausting sufficient throughout the respiratory squats.”
GOMAD: Gallon of Milk a Day
The 20-rep squat program isn’t designed for lifters who need to get lean. It’s not even essentially for these trying to get into “bodybuilding form” by focusing on particular person muscle groups, or lifters who need to transfer heavy weights and hit new PRs.
20-rep squats are used, at the start, to achieve muscular body weight. That requires an abundance of high-quality calories to maximise restoration, progress, and efficiency within the demanding exercises. (3)
One keys to reaching the mandatory (arguably extreme) calorie surplus is a behavior promoted for the reason that program’s inception: ingesting a major quantity of entire milk each day, along with three hearty, well-balanced meals. Ingesting milk as an alternative of meals is a standard however extraordinarily counterproductive mistake made by some lifters new to this system.
Entire milk has long-been related to constructing muscle. (4) It’s full of extremely environment friendly protein whereas delivering usable carbohydrates and calorie-dense fat to spherical out an entire vitamin profile. It’s additionally a comparatively cheap means so as to add energy in comparison with entire meals sources.
Liquid energy (these which are drank relatively than chewed) are typically much less satiating, which may make it simpler for lifters to absorb sufficient energy when their urge for food would possibly in any other case be an impediment.
Berry’s preliminary suggestion was two liters (a half-gallon) every day, delivering 1,200 complete energy. Strossen took a extra drastic strategy, suggesting lifters start with a half-gallon every day and progress as much as one full gallon per day to help important progress.
Excessive-frequency squatting, high-calorie consumption, and constant exhausting work ought to be a dependable recipe for progress within the gymnasium. Right here’s what you possibly can count on once you push your self with the 20-rep squat program.
This program is inherently related to packing on kilos of muscular body weight. When the exercises are adopted and complemented by an abundance of energy, the dimensions shall be transferring up.
Whether or not you’re trying to go up a weight class in a sport or making an attempt to construct a base of muscle, 20-rep squats are one of the crucial difficult, and only, bulking routines the health world has seen in virtually a century.
Emphasizing a single raise — the again squat, within the case of the basic 20-rep squat program — is an efficient means to enhance power, method, and general efficiency of that train. Spending 4 to 6 weeks targeted on the again squat as your main decrease physique train ought to carry over to improved power positive aspects general.
The supportive muscle groups of your core and lower back additionally get recruited for high-frequency coaching. As they adapt, you’ll construct power and endurance together with the capability to tolerate a better workload, making them stronger stabilizers to hold over to different lifts.
This profit may not appear as obvious or goal as muscular dimension or power, however respiratory squats are infamous for constructing psychological toughness with every consecutive repetition. Whenever you’re standing at lockout, supporting the load throughout your higher again and taking every deep breath, you’re convincing your self you can full only one extra rep.
Repeating that optimistic self-talk rep after rep, and exercise after exercise, and week after week can have a net-positive impact in your general psychological strategy to challenges, within the gymnasium and outdoors of it. After some weeks of performing 20-rep squats, a “common” exhausting set of deadlifts or bench presses possible received’t appear as daunting in comparison with the battle of high-rep respiratory squats.
Whereas the 20-rep squat program has survived and thrived by means of generations of lifters, it’s not and not using a few inherent difficulty. Right here’s what to observe for earlier than tackling this long-established coaching plan.
Physique Fats Acquire
Any kind of “bulking” routine is usually related to a level of physique fats achieve. When you can’t essentially rush the method of muscle-building, you possibly can encourage it by offering your physique with an abundance of vitamins — notably energy and protein — to create new muscle tissue.
As soon as the speed of muscle tissue has been met, further vitamins shall be shuttled towards saved physique fats. That is typically seen as a “essential evil” when the aim is general muscular progress. Whereas the physique could solely be capable to construct as much as two to 3 kilos of muscle tissue per 30 days, a caloric surplus is an environment friendly method to obtain the top end result. (5)(6)
Earlier than starting the 20-rep squat routine, perceive that lean ab definition is neither the aim nor the top results of this system. Which may be a goal for a later date, however the 20-rep squat program itself isn’t a way to that particular finish.
Any kind of minimalist program — one which makes use of few workouts and/or few coaching days per week — will knowingly compromise on general potential improvement as it really works alongside a extra typically environment friendly coaching plan.
The 20-rep squat program isn’t for lifters trying to develop a essentially fine-tuned, solely symmetrical physique. It’s additionally not for lifters trying to goal muscle teams with a number of workouts per session for max progress in a particular physique half. In actual fact, sure muscle groups could go under-addressed within the short-term because of the comparatively restricted train menu of the exercise plan.
That is essential by design, for the reason that 20-rep squat plan focuses on the squat itself and solely a handful of further workouts for a number of weeks. It’s acceptable that the triceps or the abdominals or the calves don’t obtain direct coaching throughout the course of the plan as a result of the main target is on efficiently finishing 20 reps of the squat, a number of occasions per week.
Have been this system to be continued for a long-term, this might probably elevate noticeable improvement points. One good thing about the coaching plan being deliberately a short-term coaching section is that these developmental points by no means come to cross.
Able to sort out this time-honored coaching program? Right here’s a plan that’s fairly in step with Berry’s authentic routine. Use the unique respiratory squat sample — taking two to 3 deep breaths between every repetition within the standing, locked out place. Repeat the exercise three days per week, with a minimum of someday of relaxation between every session.
As a constant technique of progress, add 5 kilos to the squat every exercise. For instance, for those who carry out 20 reps with 185 kilos on Monday, use 190 kilos on Wednesday, 195 kilos on Friday, 200 kilos the next Monday, and so forth. In the event you fail to realize all 20 repetitions in a exercise, repeat the load for the next session till profitable.
The Basic Exercise
Again Squat 1 x 20
Pullover 1 x 15-20
Romanian Deadlift 2 x 10-12
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 x 10-12
Reverse-Grip Pulldown 3 x 10-12
Arduous Work At all times Pays Off
With practically a century-long lineage, calling the 20-rep squat program “a singular expertise” is an understatement. For some lifters, the routine is a ceremony of passage marking full-fledged entrance to intense weight coaching. For others, surviving just a few weeks of 20-rep squats is a bucket record merchandise to be performed for bragging rights, if not dimension and power. Whereas some health tendencies come and go, this reliable coaching plan will proceed delivering positive aspects for generations to come back.
If you wish to observe the letter of the regulation, then sure, barbell again squats are the standard alternative for 20-rep squats. If you wish to adhere to the spirit of the regulation, then any squat variation that permits you to safely push your self to your limits, and past, can be utilized with out sacrificing a lot (if any) progress.
In actual fact, J.C Hise didn’t use the basic barbell again squat for his spectacular transformation. He machined a slight curve to his barbell so it could sit extra comfortably and extra ergonomically alongside his higher again. A number of a long time later, the same “buffalo bar” or camber bar would change into a considerably commonplace barbell design permitting squatters to scale back shoulder pressure and enhance higher again stability.
Following his lead, utilizing a security squat bar or cambered bar for 20-rep squats would completely be acceptable. Workouts just like the front squat could also be problematic as a result of holding the rack place for the prolonged length will possible make higher again and core fatigue a limiting issue relatively than decrease physique power.
Equally, deadlift variations would possible trigger your grip and/or decrease again to be the primary muscle teams to fail, limiting your potential to securely obtain all 20 repetitions. Machine workouts just like the leg press or hack squat just about remove your higher physique solely, making them typically much less environment friendly as the main target raise of the plan.
Keep in mind that the aim of the milk is a cheap, nutrient-dense, meals that’s extraordinarily simple to get down. A full gallon is definitely not essential — Berry advocated for half as a lot.
Low-fat milk choices may very well be thought-about, so long as you issue within the comparatively diminished energy they ship. A half-gallon of skim milk delivers 720 energy in comparison with 1,200 energy of entire milk, with out buying and selling the standard protein content material.
Non-dairy options corresponding to oat milk, almond milk, or soy milk would additionally present considerably totally different nutrient ranges — most notably, the standard protein that’s indispensable for muscle progress however severely missing in lots of nut-based milk options. With out sufficient high-quality protein, your physique received’t have the literal constructing blocks wanted to restore and construct muscle. (7)
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- Tufano, James J.1,2; Brown, Lee E.3; Haff, G. Gregory1. Theoretical and Sensible Features of Completely different Cluster Set Buildings: A Systematic Assessment. Journal of Energy and Conditioning Analysis 31(3):p 848-867, March 2017. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001581
- Slater, G. J., Dieter, B. P., Marsh, D. J., Helms, E. R., Shaw, G., & Iraki, J. (2019). Is an Vitality Surplus Required to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy Related With Resistance Coaching. Frontiers in vitamin, 6, 131. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2019.00131
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- Thomas, M. H., & Burns, S. P. (2016). Growing Lean Mass and Energy: A Comparability of Excessive Frequency Energy Coaching to Decrease Frequency Energy Coaching. Worldwide journal of train science, 9(2), 159–167.
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- Tagawa, R., Watanabe, D., Ito, Okay. et al. Synergistic Impact of Elevated Complete Protein Consumption and Energy Coaching on Muscle Energy: A Dose-Response Meta-analysis of Randomized Managed Trials. Sports activities Med – Open 8, 110 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-022-00508-w
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