Okay before you all start sending me hate mail, no I haven’t totally gone crazy! For those of you who have a total disdain for the “volume” trainees that we share our gym time with, there is a version of High Intensity Training that incorporates high volume training into the mix. Commonly referred to as “Rest-pause training”, this style is really nothing more than high volume, low rep training taken to the extreme of reduced rest periods between sets.
My personal favorite in this category is the 20 rep squat, which is what I’m going to describe to you here. If you’ve never done these babies you’ve never really suffered! On top of that, I highly doubt that there is any movement more anabolic to the whole body than this.
The 20 rep squat style takes it’s roots in the beginning of the modern world bodybuilding back in the ’30s and ’40s. It didn’t really capture a lot of fan fair with modern trainees until recently however when trainers like Stuart McRobert and Dr. Randel Strossen started writing about them.
This long-forgotten movement was what the pioneers of our passion used to get themselves brutally big and strong. The squat and deadlift are for certain the two most important exercises in the natural bodybuilders arsenal. Together, when performed properly, they can create an anabolic drive in the human body which is nothing short of miraculous. If improperly undertaken, however, they can cause an equal amount of negative damage.
To start the 20 rep squat you load the bar with a weight that you could normally get between 10 and 12 reps within a normal fashion. This time though, you are going for 20 hard-fought reps! Un-rack the weight as you normally would and step back to clear the bar from the pins, keeping your form tight, chest high, back straight Now take 2-3 nice deep breaths and descend to the parallel position slowly (about 4 seconds negative movement).
Pause very briefly at the bottom of the first rep and drive back to the start position. That’s rep number one completed. Now at the top position take another 3 deep breaths at LEAST before descending again. Repeat this deep breathing between EVERY REP! This is what gives you the “rest” between reps that will allow you to complete the full twenty reps.
This whole process will seem relatively easy for the first three to four reps. After that is when the fun really begins. As fatigue sets in at around rep eight or so your traps, lower back, thighs, delts, and every other muscle in your body will begin to ache and may begin to tremble slightly. This is where your true will power will show. Can you fight the discomfort and keep pressing on? You will have to if you want to grow.
This is when you decide how badly you really want to be massive. After about rep 15 your lungs will begin to burn and you’ll be huffing and puffing like a freight train. You still keep pushing forward. By rep 20 you have begun to feel faint, the pain in your back and thighs becomes unbearable and you can’t wait to rack the weight just to get it off.
One final checklist for the main points:
- Take at least 3 slow deep breaths before every single rep.
- Keep form tight. Chest high, back straight, looking ahead, pushing from your heels on every rep.
- Slow down the negative portion of the rep. This helps build tension in the musculature involved in the movement.
- Be focussed and determined. You CAN do 20 reps if you really set your mind on it.
Rack the weight after rep 20 and feel free to collapse on the floor if need be. That’s it for your quad workout. Just one “set” consisting of 20 “mini-sets” making up the entire workout for your quads. Believe me, if you have done these correctly you won’t want to do another set. In fact, you may actually feel a little apprehensive about your next leg workout just thinking about the pain you are about to endure. God bless the iron.