20 Rep Squats
by Christian Fox
Holy Cow! What’s gotten into our water? As you likely have seen or experienced, we’ve started a new strength cycle at CFSBK. The squat programming is something that many of you have not seen before. We’re doing 1 work set each exposure, and that one set will be for 20 repetitions. This is a new challenge to your body, but also to your mind and will. 20 reps is a LONG set, and it takes a bit of fortitude to stay under the bar and keep moving down and up. As this is quite a departure from the way we’ve programmed the squat variants in the past, here is a short write-up on it…
Why? – Mainly twofold. One reason is the added volume. We’ve been working 3 sets of 5 reps or less (15 or fewer reps total) for some time now. The increased volume will stimulate muscle growth, and more muscle equals stronger. Once the bar starts to feel heavy you’ll have to literally use your whole body to move the weight. It’ll call in some muscles you may not have squatted with before. If you’re trying to gain muscle mass then the next 4 weeks will be a good time to add in some extra calories, especially on squat days.
The other reason for 20 reps is mental. 4 sets of 5 does not 1 set of 20 make. It’s a different approach to the lift, and sometimes it’s good to break up monotony. This is a new challenge.
How? – Warm up the lift like you’re warming up for a set of 5. Here’s a sample warm up for a work weight of 200lbs. 45×5, 95×5, 135×5, 165×3, 190×2, and 200×20. Some people like to do single rep at a weight heavier than the work weight so the bar will “feel” lighter. Since the work weight is significantly sub-max you can do this, but I think it’s unnecessary. Importantly, this is NOT 20 reps for time! These sets can last quite some time. Once you get to the halfway point it can almost become rest/pause training. Some programs call for 3-5 deep breaths in between reps making a set last as long as 3 minutes. The point is to take your time. Reps 10-15 should feel hard, with the last few being a real struggle. It will be hard, don’t stop when it starts to feel heavy. Breathe and keep going. If you crank out 20 reps without slowing down you’ve gone too light. Re-assess. We’re doing 20 reps for exposures 1-6, then a back off exposure, and finishing on exposure 8 by testing a 1RM. Ideally you are adding 2 ½ – 5 lbs to the bar in exposures 2-6 so plan accordingly.
What if I don’t get all 20 reps? – Go at the same weight next exposure. If you miss the reps for 2 exposures in a row drop back 5-10 lbs.
Do I have to do 20 reps? – Yes.
Really? – Ok, maybe not if you haven’t completed at least 1 squat exposure of sets across in a linear progression, either with us or on your own. If you’re new out of Foundations this may apply to you. Talk to your coach and ask if you should do 5×3 instead. If you have significant movement impairments that will be made worse by adding intensity you may also be better served by 5×3. Again, just ask.
What else? – Surprise! 20 rep squats will likely make you sore. This can be especially true the first few exposures. We’re going to be doing power cleans this cycle to keep additional squatting to a minimum, so that should help. Keep in mind that muscle soreness doesn’t have to be an impediment to a good training session. Here’s what you can do as well:
-Eat! Right after your squat workouts, have something to start the muscle recovery process. I don’t care if that means GOMAD, or 3 oz of chicken breast with ¼ cup of rice and 1 Tbsp of macadamia butter (you Zone freak you) just eat. You already do that though, don’t you?
-Move! Light calisthenics, foam roll/lax ball work, and some stretching can work wonders on a set of sore legs and hips. Wait, you already do this too? I’m sorry.
-Dose! Do your fish oil thing. Here’s the deal, yo! I’m really preaching to the choir here. Jiggy. CFSBK Gals and Guys do all this stuff already.
One last thing…ENJOY your squats! 3 Cheers to squats!
On December 11th, CrossFit Hoboken will be hosting their annual Winter Challenge. We sent a team last year and would love to send some folks this year too! Dan L has alright signed up and offered to drive 3 more people. Interested? Sign up today!
20 Rep Squats