T Nation

High-Rep Squat Experiment for Weight Gain


I have been interested in giving a 20-rep squat program a try for a few years, so I am currently doing exactly that and want to log my progress and experiences here. Unfortunately, I didn't get the bright idea to use this log until halfway through the program, so I will be posting a month's worth of historical information, and then will log all my remaining workouts from here on.

I will note that my main goal is to put on mass for rugby. I have always been weaker in the squat than deadlift, and rugby is a sport that rewards a strong squat, at least for forwards like myself. Ideally I would like to go into this next fall season weighing upwards of 230 lbs. For those that know the game, I typically play flanker or 8, but am contemplating a move to lock.

A quick overview: I am doing a slightly modified version of a traditional Super Squats 20-rep squat program. I am following the below 2-day split model, lifting 2-3x weekly and adding weight as possible to the assistance lifts. I say 2-3x weekly because I will take extra rest if I feel I need it.

Day A:
Warm up
1x20 back squats (adding 5 lbs. each workout as I am able)
1x15 Straight Leg Deadlift (mainly for a stretch after the squats)
3x8 Bench press
3x5 pullups

Day B
1x20 back squats (adding 5 lbs. each workout as I am able)
1x15 Straight Leg Deadlift (mainly for a stretch after the squats)
3x8 Dips
3x8 Bicep curl

My beginning stats on 02Jun2013:
Age: 29
Height: 6'4", 183cm
Weight: 212 lbs., 96 kg
Bodyfat: unsure, somewhere between 10 and 15%. I will post pics as regularly as I can.
Lift maxes weren't measured. All I wanted to do is gain weight and get stronger, I will measure this by my progress on this program. i.e. if I can squat 185 for 20 reps at the beginning, and 275 for 20 reps at the end, that is a success.

Next entry will be my workouts and progress thus far.


I drafted this program to last 18 workouts, based off traditional Super Squats programs that run 3x weekly for 6 weeks. I am anticipating taking 6-8 weeks to complete the program. I originally started 27 days ago on 02 June, below are my workouts so far. I have also been weighing myself every 15 days or so, and will record weights as I have them.

1 of 18. 02Jun2013 Body weight= 212
Squat: 1x20, 185
SLDL: 1x15, 135
Dips: 3x8, BW+25
Bicep Curl: 3x8, 60

2 of 18. 05Jun2013
Squat: 1x20, 195 (+10)
SLDL: 1x15, 135
Bench: 3x8, 185
Pullup: 3x5, BW

3 of 18. 08Jun2013
Squat: 1x20, 200 (+5)
SLDL: 1x15, 135
Dips: 3x8, BW+35 (+10)
Bicep Curl: 3x8, 60

4 of 18. 10Jun2013
Squat: 1x20, 205 (+5)
SLDL: 1x15, 135
Bench: 3x8, 185
Pullup: 3x5, BW

5 of 18. 12Jun2013
Squat: 1x20, 210 (+5)
SLDL: 1x15, 135
Dips: 3x8, BW+35
Bicep Curl: 3x8, 60

6 of 18. 17Jun2013 Body weight= 218 (+6 lbs!)
Squat: 1x20, 215 (+5)
SLDL: 1x15, 135
Bench: 3x8, 185
Pullup: 3x5, BW+25 (+25)

7 of 18. 25Jun2013 (long layoff- I was at a music festival)
Squat: 1x20, 225 (+10 lb. jump here, was feeling good)
SLDL: 1x15, 135
Dips: 3x8, BW+35
Bicep Curl: 3x8, 70

8 of 18. 27Jun2013
Squat: 1x20, 230 (+5)
SLDL: 1x15, 135
Bench: 3x8, 190 (+5)
Pullup: 3x5, BW+25

Moving forward, I will start logging my workouts real-time. So far I have been very happy with the results. I am closing in on about 8 lbs. of mass gained in a month, and I haven't put on an appreciable amount of fat. My squat numbers are moving up smoothly and I feel much more solid on the bench, dips, and weighted pullups.

I have been eating a crazy amount of food. I typically eat a large breakfast, drink a high-calorie shake from 9-10am, big lunch, 4pm snack, large dinner, post-wo snack, etc. It is interesting how much you learn when you actually get into the gym and go after a demanding program like this. The secret so far seems to be eat every healthy food you can, and get good sleep and you will be stronger next workout. I know, this is not a revelation to anyone, but I never realized just how sound that advice is.


This was a long weekend out of town visiting friends. This means that I didn't eat nearly as much as I typically would. I also went 4 days between workouts. Stupidly I skipped lunch today and felt dizzy during the warm-up. I decided to power through and make up for it with a huge meal after the workout.

I also weighed myself today, coming in at 221. This is up only 3 lbs. from the 17Jun, but I think I am a bit dehydrated and carb depleted. I noticed that I am looking a good bit leaner than I was 2 weeks ago. This is my hint to up the calorie intake as cutting is not the point right now!

Today's workout:
9 of 18. 02Jul2013 Bodyweight = 221 (+3 lbs) up 9lbs total
Squat: 1x20, 235 (+5)
SLDL: 1x15, 135
Dips: 3x8, BW+35
Bicep Curl: 3x8, 70

The squat felt pretty strong, although I was getting very dizzy towards the end. I attribute this to not eating enough today. I felt surprisingly strong on the dips as well, and I am going to add 5 lbs. next workout.

So far this program is working out very well. Rugby pre-season practices start next week, so I will likely be scaling back to 1-2 workouts a week in order to keep a calorie surplus. Pre-season practices for the next week will be 2x weekly, ball skills and conditioning. Obviously this isn't ideal when trying to gain weight, but so be it. I will just have to be better about getting calories in.


Today's workout:�?� 
10 of 18. 08Jul2013
Squat: 1x20, 240 (+5)�?� 
SLDL: 1x15, 135�?� 
Bench: 3x8, 190
Pullups: 3x5, 25

This felt really heavy today- 255 was my 5-rep max, so I am close to that now for
20 reps. I am going to push the bench up to 195 next week.

Organized pre-season rugby conditioning starts tomorrow, so I will need to increase the
calories quite a bit too make up for all the running. I am hoping to hit 226 lbs by the end of the


I am a few days late updating my last workout, which was on Sunday 14July. My rugby team's pre-season conditioning workouts have now begun, which consist of 2 hours of hard running and bodyweight work on Tuesday and Thursday. I had been avoiding cardio in general while working on weight gain. With these conditioning practices, weight gain has been slower, although still progressing. I am focusing more on the weight I am using while squatting. If I can get to 275x20 by the end of this program, mission accomplished. If I get to 230 lbs. (~105 kgs.) then all the better!

A few thoughts on this program.
-This is mentally tough. It plays mind games with you when you are walking up to a weight you have never squatted for more than 5, when you are planning to squat it for 20. I like to think that I am only squatting 135. If I focus on this, I can trick my mind into believing it and the weight "feels" much lighter.

-Get someone to count your reps. While you should keep a count in your head, at rep 16 or 17 you will be unsure where you stand: "am I at 16, or 15?" etc. I had a guy in the gym yesterday watch and tell me when I had 10 reps left, 5 reps left, countdown from 5. It helped a lot.

-With rugby starting I am backing down to 2 weight sessions a week. I am trying to make Friday and Sunday those days. I only have 7 of 18 workouts left, so I hope to finish around the 2nd week of August.

-I have wanted to quit this program more than a few times. I justify it in my head by saying it no longer fits my goals (it does) or that it is too much with rugby (it isn't). I force myself to go to the gym and knock out the next workout. You know what? Immediately after I remember that this is an amazing program, and it has given me more results in size and strength gains that ANYTHING I have ever tried. I like many others, have struggled with program ADD in the past. I will finish the workout no matter what. At some point, finishing what you started matters even more than the physical results. 90% of rugby is mental.

Sunday's workout:
11 of 18. 14Jul2013 Bodyweight = 223 (+2 lbs) up 11 lbs. total
Squat: 1x20, 245 (+5)
SLDL: 1x15, 135
Dips: 3x8, BW+40 (+5)
Bicep Curl: 3x8, 80

The next workout is planned for Friday, 19July. It will be tough with 2 hard days of rugby conditioning between now and then, but you can always squat 20, even if your brain wants to think otherwise!


12 of 18 sunday 21Jul2013
Squat: 1x20, 250 (+5)� 
SLDL: 1x15, 135� 
Bench: 3x8, 195 (+5)� 
Weighted pullups: 3x5, 25

It has been tough to get these workouts in with rugby conditioning, but I am sticking with it. I am hoping to get workouts in Saturday and Monday. I will say that it is amazing that I am now pumping out 20 reps of a weight that I couldn't even squat 2 months ago. That's a strong gain.