Tuesday, October 4, 2011

20-Rep Back Squat

20-rep back squat!

Recently, I started to come in early to do supplement work, specifically to do some back squats!  I am really trying to increase my numbers, and I figured focusing on the squat would be a good start.  

The 20-Rep Back Squat program is "the brutal path to massive gains."  The idea is to perform 20 unbroken back squats in a single go.  One way to select the starting weight is to use one's current 10RM or 70-80% of one's 1RM.  For every successful set, add 5 to 10#.  Or if it's too way too easy, add 20# (Mickey!).  You should be able to get at least 10 reps in, or you went up too much.  Do this 1-2 times/week for 6-8 weeks.  Most people can reasonably expect to squat their 5RM for 20 by the end.

I was introduced to the 20-Rep Back Squat by my college friend Greg, who is also a trainer at CrossFit PB.  After Googling it for a bit, I found that a lot of people have reported "massive" strength gain from it.  It has been touted as "one of the most effective programs ever designed for adding muscular size and strength in a short period of time."  That was the selling point for me!

In CrossFit, to date, nothing gives me more butterflies than getting ready to do my 20-rep back squats.  I learned that the program is just as much about focus and mental toughness as it is to physical strength, probably more.  If you go in thinking you won't make the set, you probably won't make it.  It also forces you to concentrate on your breathing.  I found that if I was able to get up to approximately rep 15, then the last 5 are just a pure mental battle.  During this time, I had to try extra hard to focus as my legs and my lower-back are ready to give in.  My brain was battling the conflict between what I want to do (keep going) and what my body is telling me to do (wahh, I'm sore, stopp).  When I make the set, it is one of the most rewarding sense of accomplishment; it's a good day.

For those of you who like numbers:
  • Duration: 6 weeks (08/16/2011-09/24/2011)
  • Starting Bodyweight: 105 pounds
  • Ending Bodyweight: 103 pounds (lol, Paleo)
  • 1RM Back Squat (start): 150#, 3RM was 145#
  • 1RM Back Squat (end): 170# as of 09/21/2011
  • 20RM Weight (start): 125#
  • 20RM Weight (end): 145#

Below is a table showing what I did and my immediate thoughts afterwards.  On days where I failed, I did the remaining reps in a second set followed by max back squats.

Definitely more challenging mentally than physically.
Failed the last 3 reps.  I think it was more a strength issue than a mental issue.
Very, very hard set, especially after doing 5x3 heavy back squats yesterday.  Probably not the best idea.
FFFFFFFFFFFFFF.  I've read all over online how people miss the last rep, and thought well it's only one more, how hard can it be?  Well now I totally understand!  Heavy Bear Complex, followed by a bunch of thrusters  and squat cleans yesterday was not a good idea.  Very tired after 5, but somehow I made it to 19.  Blah maybe I should not have jumped by 10lb.
It's about time I got this set!!!!

Did this set at CrossFit Oahu at 1:30pm, the hottest time of day.  Hard to do alone.  :(.  Sucked.  More of a mental issue today than strength.
Did this set at CrossFit 808.  Wasn't too bad.  Probably because I had a group of people encouraging me!
This weight felt *very, very heavy*, even though it's only 5# more.  My hardest set to date.  May have been too freaked out to start.  Going down too slow.  Need to remember to go down faster & controlled then pop right back up
This is a heavy weight for me.  Struggled hard core.  After finishing this set, I went on to do the CF class, which had 50 back squats at body weight.  Did this in 2 sets: 30-20.
I get way too nervous before these sets.  Was sore after ~5 :(.  Made myself complete the 20 + do 10 extra. Disappointed.
:(.  Idk why this is so hard.  Maybe a mental blocker so I'm going to do back squats again tomorrow and go really heavy, with the intention to build confidence.  9/21 - heavy back squat.  New 1RM = 170#.
Ugh, way too sore today.  Prowler push WOD yesterday destroyed me.

The program was pretty hard to follow since I was also doing all the WODs Jason programs for everyone daily.  Doing the first set on Monday helped since my rest day is on Sunday.  But where I got screwed was figuring out the 2nd day of the week to do my set.  By the end of the week I am usually pretty damn sore, beat up, and extra, extra sore in the hammies if we did any sled or prowler work.  Also, almost immediately after my back squats, I would join the CrossFit class and to my luck, the WOD usually involved a lot of leg work.  My WOD performances on those days were not that great.  I was also traveling a lot and near the end I was stressed out.  Other than that, I was eating and sleeping well and for the most part, stress-free.

Overall, I am very satisfied with my results (with the exception of not making 145# yet!).  In addition to building mental toughness and strength at the same time, I learned a lot about the squat.  I am really happy that Mickey agreed to do this program with me, as it made it 1349058304594x better with a friend's encouragement and feedback!  As the weight got heavier and as I went up in reps, some of my squat flaws began to show up, and Mickey was there to point them out so that I could fix them on the next rep or work on them afterwards.  I learned a ton on breathing, speed going down, my mental depth sensor, and grip for the back squat.  So valuable!  Another important thing I learned is that I really have to be physically AND mentally prepared to do this or I probably won't make the set.  Mind right, body right, hit it right!  The mistake I made was forcing myself to do my set on day when I wasn't feeling great (legs and lower back quite sore) to avoiding breaking the twice a week criteria.  Also, forums were not lying when they said your hammies will get huge.  After the 6-week period, my legs are noticeably larger.  I cannot fit into any of my jeans so when I cannot wear a dress, I have to wear sweat pants or workout pants.

2. Hammies on 07/25/2011 vs. 09/17/2011.  Conveniently, I am in the same outfit in both pictures.

3. I get so nervous that I chalk up for back squats, lol.  Don't judge.

4. My lifting buddy, Mickey and I!  I highly recommend doing the 20-rep back squats with a friend!

After I make the 145# set, I think I will temporarily switch to something else because I read that doing this program for longer than 6-8 weeks has diminishing returns.  Possibly the 5x5, or 5/3/1 next??!

Other Strength Programs: Tim Swords'Burgener 10x3Hatch5/3/1 | 5x5
Other Weightlifting Programs: 4-Week Leg Strength Block 1
Related Posts: 5x5 Deload Week Fun