"20 rep squats are primarily a manhood exercise. You struggle through the reps, rack the bar with relief and a sense of achievement, and then it dawns on you: I have to do 5lbs more next week! And that one set out of your whole routine sits in the back of your mind for the next week, taunting you." - Mark Rippetoe, Seattle February 2013
High repetition squats are excellent for building strength and - in combination with stupid amounts of decent food - size in the legs. The horrible thing about high-rep squats is that if you can do 12, you literally always can do another rep - the only question is do you really want to? Once some of my clients competed on squatting 60kg for as many reps as possible.
Navneet managed 53, and afterwards said, "After 40 reps, you can tell that squats use your whole body."
I told this to Agatha who'd done 30, and she replied, "It took him 40 reps to realise that?!"
One of my clients Tess is going to do the Tour De France, "oh but only the mountains," thus requiring quads of doom, and so has been on a 20 rep squats and milk programme, with good effect. During a heavy set she'll clench her teeth so tightly that she chips them, so she wears a mouthguard to protect herself from her sheer badarsedness. This week she had a cold, but came along anyway. Below are her thoughts with each rep.
- "Jesus I feel like shit, how am I going to breathe through a giant mouthguard and blocked nose?"
- "I'm not sure if my stance is too narrow or too wide...maybe I just feel strange because I have a giant weight on my back...? This feels so much heavier than an extra 2.5 " -sad face on inside"
- "My arms will surely break off before I get to 20"
- "Ok, ignore the arms...Feeling.... Okay..."
- "1/4 through...1/4 through... That's just 3 more of what you've already done"
- "Don't look up...don't look down...don't snap your teeth!"
- "Careful of those wrists and hands flapping back"
- "Bottom of mirror...breathe...don't look down...breathe"
- "Breathe dammit you're almost half way!"
- "How many have I done? is it 9? I think it's 9....almost halfway..."
- "Wait...is this 9...? Did I just do 9 or 10?...where am I...?"
- "Like Kyle always says "If you can do 12....""
- "yep...There's that one more after 12...I got this..."
- "Come on come on come on come on up up up"
- "1/4 to go...1/4 to go...that's so much more than halfway done..."
- "Fak yah mudafacka"
- "Shit...3 more after this one...not 2...Don't snap teeth!"
- "So close...and yet...so far... get the fuck up!"
- "One more bitchaaaayz"
Inspired by her efforts and a continuing quest for legs more like saplings than twigs, I've started on 20 rep squats myself. My own impressions:
- "Hmm, stance too narrow, feels funny."
- "That's better."
- "Ho hum."
- "Who's that over there? Not bad for a blonde."
- "WTF? Why are your bringing a bosu over here?"
- "A bit heavy."
- "Yes, heavy."
- "Maybe I need a mouthguard, too."
- "Okay this is getting boring now."
- "Hey! That came up easy, I could do 25."
- "Aaaaaruuugh!" First grunt.
- "Unk." Second grunt.
- "25? I don't think so."
- "Gug." Third grunt.
- "FAAAARK." Profanity.
- "Gasp, gasp."
- "Hey, milk burp."
- "Home stretch."
- "Phew. God." Rack.
Tess wouldn't do this on her own because it's insane. I make sure to have a colleague or friend around during my work set, otherwise I would skive off around rep 12. Rip calls it "manhood", but since there is nothing inherent in a penis which grants mental strength, I would call it "resolve". Resolve is an important part of working out, since without it we'll give up and achieve nothing much.
My job is to help people do difficult things they thought they couldn't do. High rep squats are sometimes a part of this. They're very effective but they're fucking horrible.