20 Rep Squat Program


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Conquest of the 20 Rep Breathing Squats Routine

by Silver

I believe many have dumped the use 20 rep squat to early on in their training because of refusing to play the mind game that heavy breathing squats require.

There are a couple of tricks that I'd like to share with you that may seem familiar and others that are hopefully novel. This isn't too show off how ingenious I am (even though I am), but instead my intentions are to instill the atmosphere were one begins to seriously think how to conquer the weight and therefore how to conquer your workouts. Hopefully such an environment will yield other novel ideas that you can share with me soon.

Tricks of the Trade: 1. Glimpse 2. Silence 3. Concentration

1. Glimpse. After I've done my warm-ups for a planned squat, lets say 355 x 20, I load the bar to 405, take it off the racks and step a little away as if I plan on squatting with it. But instead I just stand their for about ten seconds assuming correct squat form that I would use if I was ready descend (refer to the article How to Squat the John Black way : as taught to Gymbo Harmath by John Black). You may have difficulty pushing the bar off the rack and standing correctly with it but it prepares your lower back and shoulders for the type of position you want them to maintain throughout the set, especially when you're standing between reps and taking in large gulps of air. But there's obviously a mental benefit to be achieved by this. When I lower the weight of the bar from 405 to 355 (my planned poundage) and take the bar off the racks, I immediately feel an illusion of lightness that forces me to question why the hell am I squatting with such a light weight. Of course as you progress through the set this illusion will fade, but I think this initial mental outlook will provide a good foundation for completing the set. I've found that if I begin the set afraid of the weight, then chances are I will fail to get twenty reps.

If you're afraid of your lower back not being able to handle such a sudden overload even though you're supposed to just stand with it, you can stand for ten seconds with the weight you plan on actually squatting with which I've found also beneficial.

2. Silence. Ten minutes before your set you must refuse any piece of conversation even if its from your father or from the hottest chick or dude on the planet. If you have to sit in a corner of the gym or place your hands over your ears to block out any disturbances then so be it. Within the next ten minutes you have to quell your fears and muster up some adrenaline. You have to remind yourself why the hell you're in the gym in the first place, why will heavy squats benefit you, and why are you doing something as conventionally insane as twenty reps with such a monstrous weight. What's your goals; what do you plan on looking like or what kind of strength do you want. How hard and long did you're hero (maybe Anderson, Park, Pearl, etc.) have to work to achieve his/her size/strength. Imagine the upcoming set; how will each rep feel, how will you sound, and how quickly will you rise from each rep. What will breathing heavily ten times between reps 19 and 20 feel like? This visualization can and should be something you do the night before but now its for real. Try to complete the set in your head before you make your body do it so that you complete the actual set with the sense that your simply reenacting a task you easily took care of just a while ago.

3. Concentration. Here's a technique that I've found to be very useful. Lets say you're close to squatting with 150% of your body weight for twenty reps or anywhere after that. While you're writing down the poundages you plan on lifting in your log the night before (hopefully you do this) write down in bold letters the poundage you want to lift for twenty reps for squats on a post-it. Then the next day in the gym, after your warm-ups, put the post-it up at about head height and use it as your physical and mental focal point during the entire lift. When you're on the seventeenth rep and you donut feel you go on, remember what that number up there means, remember how much more you want to surpass it. Remind yourself that this is just the starting point in terms of poundage.

And when you knock out those last three reps with all the huffing and puffing of a pregnant woman in labor everyone standing around you in shock will understand why that silly guy in the corner put that little piece of yellow paper up in the first place.

When times get tough, as they have with me, I like to break up the twenty reps into four parts. If any of you remember from Super Squats, Strossen basically breaks it up this way. You have the first five reps which should flow smoothly, then you're breathing maybe two breaths (or whatever) between each rep for reps 6-10. Then you have to muster up a great deal of mental and physical strength between reps 11-15 accompanied with profoundly deep breathing. Reps 16-20 are where you fail or gain and so you give your lungs all the air and your body the rest they need to pull it off. Then you're thankfully done. But personally I cant get under a heavy bar with the thought that I have to do this twenty times; my mind fails before I've even begun. So what I do is take four post-its and write down on the first one, for example, 355 x 5 (big bold letters of course), I take the second and write 355 x 10, take the third 355 x 15 , and finally take the fourth and write 355 x 20. You might want to enlarge the size of the number with each consecutive post-it or change the color of your pen so as to give the aura of the mounting climax of reaching twenty reps.

Now the next day the same silly guy in the corner posts FOUR of these dinky little yellow pieces of paper. He has broken up the set into four distinct parts each with rules of their own. His head shifts from left to right as he progresses to the next group and on. Mentally he's not thinking about trying to squat 355 x 20 but instead he's just trying to get these next four off, and then onwards. This way you have a visual representation of how far you've gotten through the set. You know where you will stand if you give up now; you will not be able to crumble up all four post-its in victory but instead in guilt. You can also try the technique while doing some of the deadlifting variations, and if you plan on doing very low reps, let's say three, you can break it up with three post-its. But I wouldn't use it on every lift, eventually it will lose it's magic; leave it for the big lifts, or your weak exercise.

Now here's the ultimate trick using post-its. I must warn you though that it should be used with a squatting weight that represent the end of your cycle; if you pull this weight off then you should feel you have no reluctance taking a break from the weight room before you're next cycle. It follows along the same ideas as the ones above except you use twenty post-its (now you have a real reason for shopping at OfficeMax). Write down the weight you plan on using on each of the Post-Its leaving equal space on the bottom to right down a number from 1-20. Or you could just fill up the whole post-it with the number, not the weight you're using. Go in the gym and arrange the twenty post-its. You have a variety of options like putting them side by side or all bunched up in rows and columns. Now hopefully you're training inside a power rack (with the pins set to were you can set the bar down if you cant come back up from the squat) so that a spotter isn't a required. And hopefully you have a training partner (you need somebody you consider a friend who will be willing to push you on through lunacy). As you progress through each of the reps, your training partner will take the post-it that corresponds to that number off the wall and crumble it to the floor. No, this isn't Wheel of Fortune (but it helps if you're training partner is attractive). This technique becomes exceedingly useful on reps 15-20 when you getting stuck in the ascent. Your partner mimics the sticking point by pulling the post-its off the wall slowly and all the time telling you: Come On, you almost got its. Again using this prudent technique, you've abstracted the intensity into simply a number, an obstacle hanging on the wall. I haven't used this variation of the post-it technique yet but when I reach the end of my cycle, 355 x 20, this is exactly what I plan on implementing.


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