The 20 Rep Squat Routine – Brutal but Effective

Do you want bigger quads and stronger calves? How about building muscle and strength all over ? Are you familiar with the 20-rep squat routine ? Nothing can beat this program at building size and strength! The 20-rep squat routine was created by John McCallum in 1968.

It’s one of the oldest and most effective workouts to make massive gains all over, and especially in your lower body. Many bodybuilders claim that routines built around this program are among the all-time best for hardgainers. Let’s find out how the 20-rep squat program works and why it’s so great.

How Does the 20-Rep Squat Routine Work?

Touted as the hardest and most brutal leg workout available, the 20-rep squat routine has been around for over four decades.

The concept behind this routine is to reach muscle failure by the 12th rep, take a few breaths and continue doing squats till you reach 20 reps. This means you’ll need to load the correct weight that allows you to perform about 12 repetitions till failure. When done the right way, this bodybuilding routine can help you make quick gains and build huge legs, back and expand chest size.

For most people, doing the first few reps is quite easy. After completing your 12th rep, you should feel exhausted. Take a few deep breaths and do another rep, then another and another until you reach the magic number.

The key is to add more weight every time you do it. Back in the days when this routine was popular, gains of 15 pounds of bodyweight and three inches around the chest were not unusual. John McCallum, the guy who came up with this program, was inspired by Olympic weightlifting head coach Mark Berry.

Nowadays, there are several variations of the 20-rep squat routine, such as front squat-back squat combos, rest-pause sets, and countdowns. However, none is as effective as the original program.

The 20-rep squat workout is all about pushing your limits and seeing what you’re really capable of. The only downside is that form can get ugly since you’re using maximum weight for 20 full reps. This can lead to injuries if you don’t give yourself the time you need to adapt.

What Makes the 20-Rep Squat Workout Effective?

Squats are called the king of exercises for a reason. Performed in breathing style, squats will do a lot to stimulate not only leg growth but also overall growth. That’s because they are known to trigger the production of IGF-1growth hormone and testosterone, which in turn cause overall growth.  it’s been said that they can increase upper-body size by 10 to 15 %.

For best results, increase your load by at least five pounds each week or two. When performing this routine, you can not take breaks or put the bar down.

The Workout

This was the original routine that used to be done 1-3 times a week

Press behind neck – 3 x 12
Squat – 1 x 20 supersetted with Pullover – 1 x 20
Bench press – 3 x 12
Rowing – 3 x 15
Stiff legged deadlift – 1 x 15
Pullover – 1 x 20

For a little bit of diversity in the exercises you can do a routine similar to the below one:

Workout 1

Squat – 1×20 (do as many warm up sets as you think you will need to be well prepared)
Dumbbell pullover – 1 x 20
Bench press – 2 x 8-10
Bent over barbell rows 2×8-10
Military press – 2 x 6-8
Barbell curls – 1 x 15
Crunches 2 x 20

Workout 2

Squat – 1 x 20 (do as many warm up sets as you think you will need to be well prepared)
Dumbbell pullover – 1 x 20
Dips – 2 sets to failure
Chins – 2 sets to failure
Dumbbell shoulder press – 2 x 8
Triceps extensions – 2 x 6-8
Leg raises 2 x 12

This routine should be performed two or three times a week, such as on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Depending on your fitness level and experience, you may or may not be able to recover so quickly.

Many fitness experts and weight lifters claim that a large increase in protein intake is needed for maximum growth. So, if you’re starting this program, add more protein to your diet by adding more lean meats, eggs and milk in your diet plan.

The 20-rep squat routine is perfect for athletes, bodybuilders, and power lifters looking to build muscle.

If you need more time to recover, do this workout twice a week. Take glutamine and creatine for faster recovery. John McCallum recommends those who perform this routine to drink a gallon of milk a day. This won’t work for those who are lactose intolerant or follow low carb diets. However, it’s a good idea for anyone who’s bulking up.

In the past, the 20-rep squat routine was considered the holy grail of hypertrophy workouts. According to John McCallum, high rep squats plus milk plus rest and lots of food equals growth. This routine promotes the development of the leg-hip-back structure, which leads to strength and muscle gains.

Despite its simplicity, the 20 rep squat routine makes you mentally tough and forces your entire body to grow. Although it’s a pretty short routine, your body will be shocked. Next time you go to the gym, try this workout. The results will exceed your expectations.


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