20 Rep Squat Program – Introduction
The 20 Rep Squat Program: 3 short workouts a week to get bigger & stronger, faster than you think possible.
When it comes to strength training, it pays to follow a well-designed program.
Yes, you could just head into the gym and do whatever exercises you feel like, but that’s a very hit-or-miss approach that could severely undermine your progress.
Following a program means that, for every workout, you know exactly what you need to do on that particular day.
A well-designed program is your road map to training success!
A good program will ensure that you train all your major muscle groups equally and that there is a balance between training and recovery.
After all, you only get stronger when you rest.
It will include the best exercises for each particular muscle group and make the very best use of your training time.
But, which program should you follow?
There are dozens if not hundreds of proven programs to try.
Workouts that work
A few options include:
- 3×5 Starting Strength
- 5×5 Strong Lifts
- Westside Barbell Training Protocol
And, of course, you are free to design your own workouts or work with a trainer who will write one for you.
Regardless of which program you choose, it’s important to understand one thing: almost all of them work!
Unfortunately, even the best program stops working after a while because, in simple terms, your body gets used to it.
That means most lifters need to change their workout every 6-12 weeks.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a library of workouts you can call upon to ensure that your training is always productive.
That way, as one workout starts to lose its potency, you’ve got another program ready for your next training phase.
So, to that end, in this article, we’re going to tell you about a very famous bodybuilding workout – the 20-rep squat program.
What Is The 20-Rep Squat Program?
The 20-rep squat program is an old-school training system designed to increase muscle size and bodyweight quickly.
In fact, it’s usually only done for six to eight weeks at a time and often accompanied by a high-calorie diet.
Think of this as a bulking program.
The 20-rep squat program is often done in conjunction with the GOMAD diet, short for Gallon of Milk a Day.
Simply put, you get the extra protein and calories you need to recover and grow by drinking a gallon of milk per day.
This approach was popular during the golden age of bodybuilding and could help you gain muscle today, too, but only if you have no issues with lactose.
The 20-rep squat program has been around in numerous forms for well over a century, and one of the most popular variations is called the Super Squats program.
The premise of the 20-rep squat program is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy!
Three times a week, do a single set of squats for 20 repetitions, using a very heavy weight and then, after a brief rest, complete a short workout consisting of a few basic compound exercises for the rest of your body.
The squats themselves are done rest-pause style, which is sometimes called breathing squats.
Simply do as many reps as you can, pause for a few seconds, and then pump out a few more reps.
Keep going until you’ve done all 20 reps.
Each workout, your goal is to try and use more weight for the squats, even if that means adding just a couple of pounds to the bar.
Six weeks (and 18 workouts) later, you should be squatting a whole lot more weight, having also gained a significant amount of muscle mass along the way.
He put on 40lbs of muscles with the 20 rep breathing squat program
Sample 20-Rep Squat Workout
There are several interpretations of the 20-rep squat workout, and some are better than others.
This example is based on Super Squats, by Randall Strossen, which is arguably one of the most well-designed of the lot.
Do this workout three times per week on non-consecutive days, for example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Remember to spend a few minutes warming up before each workout by doing some light cardio and dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises for all your major joints and muscles.
Finish your warm-up with a couple of sets of progressively heavier squats.
The 20 Rep Squat Program based on Super Squats
20-Rep Squat Program FAQs
Do you have a question about the 20-rep squat routine?
We’ve got the answers you are looking for!
#1. What weight should I use for the squats?
Some 20-rep squat routines say that you should use your 10-repetition maximum and do 20 reps with it.
By taking short breaks between reps.
This is called the rest-pause method.
You are NOT allowed to re-rack the weight during your 20 reps, but you can stand and rest with the barbell on your back.
However, starting this workout with your squat 10RM is probably not a good idea, as you are more likely to stall if you go too heavy, too soon.
This will make your first few workouts a little more manageable.
However, by adding 2.5 to five pounds to the bar per workout, the weight will soon become heavy enough to challenge your muscles and your mental fortitude!
Micro loading with 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, or 1 lb fractional plates is particularly helpful for this heavy intensity program.
That way, you can continue to make progress every single workout, no matter how small.
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Hashi Mashi’s One Rep Max Calculator
Enter weight or reps
|% of 1RM||Weight||Reps|
Step 1: Select your units, pounds, or kilograms.
Step 2: Adjust the amount of weight and reps you tested with.
Warning: Do NOT attempt to lift the absolute max you think you can.
That’s the purpose of the one-rep max calculator, so you can estimate your one-rep max, not actually lift it!
See this article – One Rep Max Calculator; 5 Ways How to Find Your 1RM for more details on how to estimate your 1RM for the big compound lifts:
#2. Can I use different exercises?
The only non-negotiable exercise in the 20-rep squat program is squats.
They are the key to this program’s success.
That said, there are some variations that use deadlifts instead of squats, but, really, that’s an entirely different type of challenge.
While you could do deadlifts, you’d need to include a quad-dominant leg exercise elsewhere in the workout for balance.
Plus, doing high rep deadlifts could be risky for some exercisers as your body part that’ll probably fatigue first is the erector spinae, leading to a rounded lower back.
If you want to do dumbbell instead or barbell bench presses, or seated instead of bent-over rows, you are free to do so.
However, don’t add any more exercises to the program as that could soon lead to overtraining.
#3. I don’t have time or the energy to do three full workouts per week – what can I do instead?
Everything else is almost supplementary and, as such, can be cut back to the bare minimum when time or energy is short.
Here’s an abbreviated version of the 20-rep squat program that’s ideal for time-pressed exercisers:
An abbreviated version of the 20 rep squat program – HashiMashi.com
#4. How long does the 20-rep squat program last?
The 20-rep squat does not have a fixed duration.
Instead, you stick with it for as long as you can continue adding weight to the bar.
If you hit a plateau and cannot add even a couple of pounds to the squats for 2-3 workouts in a row, it’s time to switch to a new workout.
#5. Is the 20-rep squat program suitable for beginners?
While the 20-reps squat program is very simple, it’s not really suitable for beginners.
It’s very intense, involves squatting three times a week, and you’ll be pushing yourself to lift progressively heavier weights each and every workout.
This is very much an intermediate or advanced workout.
You also need to be an excellent squatter as you’ll be doing high reps with a heavy load, which will really test your technical proficiency.
If you are an absolute beginner in weightlifting, particularly squats, see the following articles to get started:
- How to Do Squats Properly With Or Without Weights
- One Great Beginner Squat Workout Routine for Powerlifting and Fitness
- Knees Hurt When Squatting? 5 Mistakes You’re Probably Making
- 7 Best Knee Sleeves for Squats, Weightlifting, Powerlifting & CrossFit in 2023
#6. How much weight can I expect to gain on the 20-rep squat program?
This is a tricky question to answer because there are several variables that will affect your progress.
However, it’s not uncommon to gain 15-20 pounds in 6-8 weeks.
Of course, your results will depend on your diet, genetics, and age.
But, if you fully commit to the program, you will definitely see rapid increases in your body weight.
However, remember this is a bulking program, so while you will build muscle, you’ll gain some fat too.
As such, you may need to adopt a cutting diet once you’re done with the 20-rep squat routine.
#7. Can I do the 20-rep squat program at home?
The 20-rep squat program is built around basic compound exercises.
There is no reason you can’t do this workout in a home gym.
However, you MUST do your squats in a power rack or squat rack, as hitting failure is a real possibility.
#8. Will the 20-rep squat program make me stronger?
While the 20-rep squat program will increase your strength, it’s not a powerlifting workout.
The reps are too high for this to be classed as a pure strength-building routine.
Instead, it’s more of a bodybuilding routine.
You will get stronger, but that’s a happy side-effect rather than the main objective of this type of workout.
A mother’s account of gaining strength with 20 Rep Back Squats!
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20-Rep Squat Program – Wrapping Up
The 20-rep squat program is part of strength training history.
Some of the most famous bodybuilders ever have done this workout, including Reg Park, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Steve Reeves, and Sergio Olivia.
Despite being over 100 years old, this workout is still popular and used by bodybuilders looking to bulk up fast.
However, despite its simplicity, the 20-rep squat program is brutal.
High rep squats with a heavy weight are enormously demanding, and you may even come to dread your next workout.
After all, each time you train, you need to use just a little more weight.
There is no such thing as an easy 20-rep squat workout!
That said, if you are mentally and physically tough enough, the 20-rep squat program can be very rewarding and could help you build muscle and strength faster than ever before.
So, if you are bored of your old (and easy!) workout routine, give the 20-rep squat program a try.
It’s a bodybuilding rite of passage!
Learn why bodybuilding is such an excellent workout for men over 50 + a bodybuilding program to follow in the following article:
And for more tips on body transformation, see Body transformation: The ultimate guide for the Fit Apprentice.