In 1989 Randall Strossen published a skinny book called Super Squats: How to gain 30 Pounds of Muscle in 6 Weeks. The book’s big message was to use breathing squats to train as hard as you can, eat plenty of nutritious food and gain a lot of muscle. Although the subtitle promises 30 pounds in 6 weeks its best to forget about this. It’s an unrealistic goal unless you’re new to training and have the capacity to gain muscle rather easily. Realistic results are more in the neighborhood of 10 pounds for a man and 5 for a woman. These are great gains for 6-week period – more than most gain in 6 months. This article assumes you already squat at least semi-regularly and know how to perform it with proper technique.
Form is Function
Correct form is a must for any free-weight exercise, but it’s especially true of 20 rep squats. The bar must be placed relatively high on your back – across your trapezius muscle, not your neck. A low bar position is more appropriate for low rep squatting; a low bar position tends to slip over the course of the long set (set of 20 rep squats can take 6-7 minutes.) Feet should be at least shoulder width apart, but the exact placement is up to you.
Why They’re Called Breathing Squats
It might be helpful to think of the set of 20 rep squats as four sets of five. Not so much to keep track of your reps, but to keep track of your breaths. The basic format is to take several deep breaths between reps.
Reps 1-5, take 2-3 breaths
Reps 6-10 take 3-5 breaths
Reps 11-15 take 6-8 breaths
Reps 16-20 take as many breaths as needed
The number of breaths is not meant to be rigid numbers, but serve as guidelines to remind you of the importance of taking pauses between the reps to breath.
Nuts and Bolts
Here’s where you have to separate words from deeds. I can honestly say 20 rep squats with as much weight as I can handle are the toughest workouts I’ve done in the gym. While your using breathing squats you’ll want to reduce your other exercises to a minimum. A few upper body exercises like some presses and pull-ups are plenty when you’re doing these squats twice a week for about six weeks. When you perform all twenty reps add weight (2-5lbs.) at the next workout. I’m not trying to scare anyone away. I’m just letting you know you’ll have to put in real effort to get the results – and the results can be impressive.