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20 Rep Set Squats


Many years ago, I read an article in Muscle Media 2000 about taking your 10 rep maximum for squats, and forcing yourself to do 20 reps. The idea was that if you can do 10, the only obstacle stopping you from doing 20 is mental. This was to be your only workout for legs, beause after finishing you were not supposed to be able to do any more leg work even if you wanted.

I did try this back then, and it seemed to work, but my knowledge was fairly limited. Is there any science to back this sort of workout up or is it just a bunch of BS?


I wouldnt call it BS, but there isnt any science that I know of supporting this idea specifically (think of it as an extreme version of rest-pause training). Unless you count the thousands of people who have tried the program since it was "created" back around 1910.


By the way, it's called "Super Squats" and the best book on it is from ironmind. And yes I am an advocate of the program.


Well, I can't respond from the science angle. But I can respond from the practical application angle. 20 rep squats are the cornerstone of my bulk routine.

If you see me doing 20 rep squats, that typically means that it is day one of my bulk cycle. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has been as effective for me for putting on substantial muscle than 20 rep squats.

It's just like you stated. Pick a 10 rep max squat weight. And then rep it out for 20. How? When your legs are starting to shake at about 9 or 10 reps, take deep breaths in between each rep; you may need up to 5 or 6 seconds between each rep to recover enough to do another one; and then bang out another. Repeat this until you hit 20 reps. Then drop to the floor and try to collect yourself and not throw up.

I'm a masochist however. A lot of times, after that initial set I will bang out 2 more sets of 10 reps at a higher weight. And then I will do some one legged squats and leg extensions to polish it off. Oops, I almost forgot to add that I'll do a couple of sets of seated calf raises with multiple drop sets built into each one.

A lot of volume you say? Yes. But I will only do this on the initial day and then eat like a pig and sleep like a sloth. I won't repeat 20 rep squats the rest of my bulk cycle which typically only lasts 2 1/2 to 3 weeks tops due to CNS burnout. But let me tell you, when I go in for my next squat session during my bulk cycle I've immediately added major pounds to my squat number which equals more muscle.

I've done this over the last year or so averaging about 3 to 4 bulk cycles per year and I'm the largest I've ever been. 20 rep squats are not for the faint of heart, but they work oh so well.


I started doing 25 reps w/ 135 after my regular squat routine. Actually I went up to 140 last week. I'll try 145 this week. The first 15 are easy. I like em.

I did 30 one time with 185, but I train alone and for the 30 I had 3 or 4 guys screaming at me. It makes a difference. Closest I ever came to puking.

Also, I found out for this I needed a mouthguard as I tend to clench my teeth. My jaw and neck actually hurt afterwards.


I've done them off and on for years as a break from my normal powerlifting routine - particularly when I felt I needed a break from the heavy stuff, needed to challenge myself mentally, or like more recently, as a means to recover from a slight injury.

Their genesis is from the Super Squats program and was intended as a means to put on mass. I have never read that program all the way thru but my implicit understanding of that program was that the 20 reps were termed "20 rep breathing squats". I believe the program called for 3 gulping big breaths between EACH rep.

I point this out because for years, when I did 20 reps, I banged out reps at whatever tempo I tolerated - obviously quicker in the beginning of the set. However, I just started a 20 rep cycle very recently and decided to implement the "breathing" part.

Let me assure you of something; if you performed 20 rep squats prior without the breathing protocol, it is an entirely different animal! Your time under the bar with the breathing protocol is greatly increased. Keeping the bar positioned that long is a challenge and thus many have recommended the cambered or buffalo bar.

20 rep squats are great IMO. First, most trainees, myself included, have rarely gone to failure on squat reps - yet many of us know failure on other movements. Simply put, the squat is more mentally and cardiovascularly challenging than perhaps any other movement. Therefore, what you "think" is your 10 rep max is probably attainable for 20 with a big dose of mental toughness.

I would encourage anyone that has or is doing 20 reps squats that hasn't followed the breathing protocol to do so; it will make the 20 rep challenge immeasurably more difficult - I assure you!


Sound like major pause squats. Can I do those 3 big gulps at the top? lol.
(Actually by 22 or so the 25 sets i do, I usually have started sucking some air at the top between reps.)

God I love squats!


personally love 20 rep squats too, haven't done them in a while, but regardless of science it's one of those things that have been known to "turn boys into men"...


Science is a great thing and I admire all who dedicate their lives to "sport science." I don't pretend to know more about any topic than someone who dedicates their life to it. However, I absolutely know what works for me. Whether there is "science" behind it or not, 20 rep squats work!

They were the cornerstone of my own original bulking program.

I would only caution anyone who uses this powerful program that they should not "overuse" it. a six to 8 week program is long enough and might be too long for some.

I ate 6 times per day and consumed plenty of protein!


Of course there is. Sport science is just that - sports. Until there will be true 'hypertrophy science' I will argue that just about any scheme can produce muscle growth given the right circumstances.

As for the 20rep squat thing, I've never read the actual article. So what I did was figure out a weight that allowed me to be a lint away from failure on the twentieth rep. Sometimes it was 18reps, others it was 22, I couldn't get it right. Did two sets, one in the beginning and one at the end of the workout 2-3x/week.

My legs exploded pretty fast, I was shocked. Higher reps do the quads great justice apparently.


I can also vouch for the effectiveness of 20 rep squats. The program I followed a while ago was from the book and consisted of the following:

3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday):

3x10 BB Military Presses
3x12 BB Bench Presses
2x15 BB Bent Over rows
2x10 BB Curls
1x20 Breathing Squats
1x15 Deadlifts
Calf Raises
Crunches or Leg Raises

I experienced decent progress as far as hypertrophy was concerned, but felt rather drained after 3 or 4 weeks due to the lack of variety with regard to training parameters (all the program calls for is an increase in weight when all the reps of a certain exercise can be completed).

On a related note, the diet recommendations in the book were very old school to say the least (drink a gallon of milk, eat everything that doesn't bite back, etc.).

All in all, definitely an option to consider when bulking or looking for something different for a limited period of time.


I like to use the 20rep squat routine a few times per. year. IMO I believe the reason why most people quit this program is because it is too damn hard. I think choosing the weight you do for 10 reps and do 20 reps with that weight is too much for alot of people. Doing 20reps with your 10rep should be a goal to shoot for. I think by working up to that weight, your form may not suffer as much, especially during the later reps.


If you decide to use your 10 rep max, start taking three breaths in between each rep from the get-go. I used to do these the really old fashioned way . . . adding five pounds per workout. I swear, by the end I was under that bar for seveal minutes.


The key to Breathing Squats were that you must add 5-10lbs to the bar every workout. That's a big reason you can only do this workout 2x a week. So starting at 185lbs, at the end of 6 weeks you are doing 240lbs for 20 reps!!!


Well, I've been using it to rehab from a minor low back injury...started with 185 for 20 and that morphed into a three day per week program; first week was 185x20 on M, 225x20 on W and then 185x20 on F. M & F I did my regular squat assistance; GM's, GH raise, abs. Week two (just finished) was 225x20 on M, 275x20 on W and 225x20 on F (yesterday). Again, M and F did my regular assistance work. Next week I'm shooting for 315 M and F and 275 on W.

I'm mostly fast twitch so these are brutal for me. However, I find that it is far more cardio and "mental toughness" than anything. First, you don't want to start the set; Second, when you get to about 8 you think there is NO WAY you are going to make 20 and that is where the mental toughness thing comes to play.

By the way, my back has come along real well and all my muscles (hips, glutes, etc) are firing properly again. I was compensating all over the place prior. And, I did a stretch of ART therapy to get everything moving again :slight_smile:

I also think that 20 rep squats do not affect everyone the same way; if you are in good shape cardio wise, you are not fast twitch dominant, you may get 20 at or around a point near failure; if you're like me (powerlifter, fast twitch, cardio neglected) your cardio will bring you to the point of failure (perceived) cause I assure you - my legs had more reps at any of the weights I outlined, but my body and mind did NOT! :slight_smile:

Good luck to all who pass thru that valley!



wait wait wait...I can do 195lbs for 25 reps and its not that bad, but like..as someone said before if you do 185lbs for 20 reps, over 6 weeks when you add 5-10lbs to the bar over then by the 6th week you'll have 240lbs for 20 reps. I dont wanna say. THAT'LL NEVER WORK..but I'm a bit skeptical as if it would..because if it will work..then holy god damn I'm doing that..but I still do doubt that you would increase it by that much because thats like..ultimate strength right there lol



I wonder how well this would work using front squats instead of back squats?

Anyone tried it before?


I have and it's a whole other animal. Instead of your lower back quiting on you, it's your abs and obliques. And the amount of meat it puts on your vastus medialis is insane. Try it :slight_smile:


2x20 with 3min rests :wink:

Got that from Waterbury. Yup he's a bastard but it works.


how many sets of 20 would be effective? 2, 3?