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How To Build Muscle & Strength with a 20 Rep Squat Program

The 20 Rep Squat Program is a mentally and physically challenging way to pack on muscle and mass and strength. Here is how to do it and what it feels like.

I was looking for a program which would challenge me while targeting the weakness in my quads, as well as helping to build muscle. I am not an ‘advanced’ lifter competing on the world stage, but I felt that I was better than the grind and numbers I was seeing on squat days.

As someone who spends their time engrossed in Crossfit, weightlifting and powerlifting resources, I had read about Randall J. Strossen’s Super Squats (1989). It was based on an ‘old school’ routine which promised up to 30lbs of muscle gains, sending strength skyrocketing as well as being for the tough minded. All had great appeal.

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The Program

The program lasts for 6 weeks, and is structured around a day on/day off protocol. You can change which days of the week you train but try to keep to the day on/day off timetable to allow maximum time for recovery and growth. The original program recommends beginning with military presses to warm the body, but you may find it helpful to do a warmup and start each session with 1 set of 20 light squats, followed by the additional exercises as follows:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday:

  • 1 x 20 squats
  • 1 x 20 barbell pullovers
  • 3 x 15 bent over rows
  • 3 x 15 bench press
  • 3 x 15 military press
  • 1 x 15 stiff leg deadlifts

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday:

Rest Days

The Goal

The main aim of the 20 squats program is to gain size and strength across the entire body, triggering hypertrophy (growth) through progressive overload.

Every session that you squat, you will add 2.5kg to the bar, which amounts to a 7.5kg a week increase. More weight over time means increased stimulus, forcing your body to adapt and develop. Try to avoid going to failure. If you do hit failure at any point, start with the same weight for the next session and continue to progress from there. If you are hitting failure regularly then you may want to cut the sessions down to twice a week.

To find the starting weight for the squats, take your 5 rep max and subtract 2.5kg for every workout that you are planning to do over the 6 weeks. If you plan to do the recommended 3 workouts a week for 6 weeks, this would be 18 workouts. 18 x 2.5 = 45kg. So if you squat 150kg for 5 reps, your starting weight would be 105kg. After 18 workouts adding 2.5kg a time, you will squat your previous 5 rep max for 20 reps.

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