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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
familiar and others that are hopefully novel. This isn't too show off
ingenious I am (even though I am), but instead my intentions are to
instill the atmosphere were one begins to seriously think how
the weight and therefore how to conquer your workouts. Hopefully
environment will yield other novel ideas that you can share with me
Tricks of the Trade:
1. Glimpse. After I've done my warm-ups for a planned squat,
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
about ten seconds assuming correct squat form that I would use if I
ready descend (refer to the article How to Squat the John Black way
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
lower back and shoulders for the type of position you want them to
maintain throughout the set, especially when you're standing between
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
(my planned poundage) and take the bar off the racks, I immediately
an illusion of lightness that forces me to question why the hell am
squatting with such a light weight. Of course as you progress through
set this illusion will fade, but I think this initial mental outlook
provide a good foundation for completing the set. I've found that if
begin the set afraid of the weight, then chances are I will fail to
If you're afraid of your lower back not being able to handle such a
overload even though you're supposed to just stand with it, you can
for ten seconds with the weight you plan on actually squatting with
I've found also beneficial.
2. Silence. Ten minutes before your set you must refuse any piece
conversation even if its from your father or from the hottest chick
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
Within the next ten minutes you have to quell your fears and muster
some adrenaline. You have to remind yourself why the hell you're in
gym in the first place, why will heavy squats benefit you, and why
doing something as conventionally insane as twenty reps with such a
monstrous weight. What's your goals; what do you plan on looking like
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,
you sound, and how quickly will you rise from each rep. What will
breathing heavily ten times between reps 19 and 20 feel like?
visualization can and should be something you do the night before but
its for real. Try to complete the set in your head before you
body do it so that you complete the actual set with the sense that
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
do this) write down in bold letters the poundage you want to
twenty reps for squats on a post-it. Then the next day in the
your warm-ups, put the post-it up at about head height and use it as
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
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
whatever) between each rep for reps 6-10. Then you have to muster up
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
so you give your lungs all the air and your body the rest they need
pull it off. Then you're thankfully done. But personally I cant get
a heavy bar with the thought that I have to do this twenty times; my
fails before I've even begun. So what I do is take four post-its and
down on the first one, for example, 355 x 5 (big bold letters
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
size of the number with each consecutive post-it or change the color
your pen so as to give the aura of the mounting climax of reaching
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
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
thinking about trying to squat 355 x 20 but instead he's just trying
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
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
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
end of your cycle; if you pull this weight off then you should feel
have no reluctance taking a break from the weight room before you're
cycle. It follows along the same ideas as the ones above except you
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
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
columns. Now hopefully you're training inside a power rack (with the
set to were you can set the bar down if you cant come back up from
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
willing to push you on through lunacy). As you progress through each
the reps, your training partner will take the post-it that corresponds
that number off the wall and crumble it to the floor. No, this isn't
of Fortune (but it helps if you're training partner is attractive).
technique becomes exceedingly useful on reps 15-20 when you getting
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,
almost got its. Again using this prudent technique, you've abstracted
intensity into simply a number, an obstacle hanging on the wall.
haven't used this variation of the post-it technique yet but when I
the end of my cycle, 355 x 20, this is exactly what I plan on
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