In the context of the gym, suffering through a workout means growth. If you really want to reach that next level, you’re going to have to push yourself. There’s no way around it, it’s a fact of training. 20 rep squats are the answer if you want tree trunk size legs.
It’s really fucking hard.
Why 20 Rep Squats?
The premise around 20 rep squats is you pick a weight you would do for 12 reps but squat for 20 reps. Sound intense? Because it is.
It will promote hypertrophy muscle growth due to the sheer volume you’ll be doing. Just like feeder exercises, it forces blood into the muscles resulting in mind-blowing pumps.
20 rep squats are a great exercise to build muscle endurance capacity. What that means is that it will help promote muscular endurance, allowing you to lift for longer periods of time.
You’ll be forced to reinforce good squat posture and even better motor patterns.
Warming Up for 20 Rep Squats
Warming up is going to be crucial here and I’d spend more time warming up here than lifting. Injuries increase when a proper warmup is neglected.
Banded X Walks
Start with Banded X walks, check them out here:
You’ll want larger and longer resistance bands here. The ones that most use would be too small. Here are the ones I recommend found on Amazon:
X Band walks will help you warm up your adductors, found on the inside of your leg. Squats are secretly an adductor exercise, so it only makes sense to warm up your adductor muscles.
But why should I care…..
Adductors and abductors both help you maintain a neutral pelvis as you walk, and even when you squat in the gym too.
For example, if your left adductor is weaker or tighter than your right, this can cause a hip shift. Your hips will move as a way to compensate for the tight muscle, shifting the load (the goddamn barbell on your back) and increasing your risk of injury.
Strong abductors and adductors help prevent knee valgus, which is your knee caving inwards during squatting. Knee valgus can occur when your adductors (inside of the thigh) are stronger than your abductors (outside of the thigh).
Knee valgus can lead to knee problems, ACL tears and IT band syndrome if not addressed properly.
Foam Rolling Your Legs
Just like rotator cuff exercises, I find that most people spend too much time foam rolling before and after exercising. While there are some studies showing general improvement in training performance when foam rolling, it is just a tool to use. It can work for some, but not for others. As of writing this article, there is no concrete evidence showing the guaranteed benefits of foam rolling.
However, just like any muscle tissue, your legs can benefit from self-myofascial release. To put it simply, fascia is the connective tissue that connects muscles together.
Over time if you are inactive or perform poorly in certain planes (eg, overuse on one side versus the other), fascia can become “stiff” and immobile.
Myofascial release can help by releasing contracted muscles and increasing blood circulation throughout the body. Direct pressure is applied to certain muscle groups or individual muscles to help the fascia return to its normal, fluid state.
Foam rolling your vastus lateralis (outside part of your quad), hamstrings and glutes help your body increase blood circulation, thus priming you for exercise.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time foam rolling either, as long as you make it a normal part of your routine. You can foam roll your leg for 1-2 minutes per muscle before warming up, so there’s no excuse for not foam rolling.
Here’s the foam roller I recommend, it’s compact and found on Amazon:
How To Add 20 Rep Squats To Your Workout
After spending time warming up, you’re ready to squat hey? Here’s how to add 20 rep squats into your routine:
- Keep a week or two leading up to 20 rep squats light. You don’t want to fry your CNS a week before adding something intense to your program
- Working sets should be around 60-75% of your 1 RM (eg, if your 1 rep max for squats is 305lb, that would mean working weight between 183lb-228lb)
- Rest times are whenever you’re feeling you’re good to go (not out of breath, energy ready to go, etc)
- Add 20 rep squats for no longer than 6 weeks into your current workout routine (any longer and your CNS will be fried)
- Twice a week is most likely enough volume that you can sustain. Keep other leg exercises at low volume for the duration
- Make sure to eat enough beforehand (tons of carbs) and hydrate during your workout sessions
Chances are you’re going to be sore as fuck after 20 rep squats. Hell, for most people bodyweight squats are difficult enough!
Recovery is going to be crucial here because if you’re sore for too long, it’s wasted time that could have been used to lift instead.
Starting with your diet, ensure you’re hitting your protein goals (1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight). The amino acids in the protein you’re digesting will help you in the recovery state and repair muscle tissue, and most importantly promote new muscle tissue growth.
Check out my other article on the best tasting protein powders. (there’s no use buying protein if it tastes like dirt)
Quality sleep will be absolutely required here since the muscle growing process is when you’re sleeping, not working out. If you get crappy sleep, you get crappy growth! During deep sleep, your body will secrete human growth hormone (HGH) which aids in muscle growth and regulates your metabolism.
A supplement like ZMA will help you with better sleep, which means better recovery! Better recovery means better strength and better gains of course.
Adequate energy (calories) will have to be accounted for too, especially carbohydrates for energy. You might want to consider eating in calorie surplus from the sheer amount of exercise volume (sets and reps) you’ll be doing.
I would recommend adding foam rolling to your post-workout exercises, as it can aid in recovery and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Muscle soreness will most likely still occur (unless you’re a robot), but it can be lessened with adequate recovery protocols and foam rolling.