The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness
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The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness

It’s no secret that when people contradict themselves, it has the effect of making the flaws in their actions or statements seem glaringly obvious. But what about when WE ourselves get caught contradicting ourselves by someone else?

By: Nick Tumminello Added: January 6th, 2014
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  1. #1
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    The 20 rep squat

    This is a story that Sean Toohey posted on the old Hardgainer forum. Sean was a big proponent of the 20 rep squat and was a wealth of information while he was there. He had a writing style similar to McCallum and his stories were fun to read. I thought you might enjoy reading this one...

    The Squat
    By Sean Toohey


    This morning, as usual, I was reading and answering email when this little question was posed:

    "Where did you learn to squat? Did someone teach you or did you just learn from books?"

    Ahhhhhh The Squat. All come pay your dues at the Squat Rack altar and benefit from the lessons! I actually learned to squat from years of squatting... styles I picked up from watching other people squat, reading about it, and practicing what I saw. Later in my lifting career I was coached by some excellent squatters, both in the powerlifting and Olympic lifting styles. That is how I learned to PERFORM a squat. The question never asked how I learned to perform a squat though.... It asked how I learned TO squat. Let me tell you a little story; I will do my very best to capture the essence of what it meant to me, and what I saw and felt. It was a truly magic moment in my life, and what I learned from it didn't really take root until years later. The following changed my life, once I realized what I saw...

    I had been training (read: wasting time) at the community recreation center near my home with my boyhood amigo, at about 16 years old. Convinced that all I needed was time and more resolve, I pounded away on my last sets of triceps pressdowns and used the Arnold Mental Visualization Technique to see my arms as humongous mountains, bursting through the very walls of the workout room from their sheer size. Amidst the bantering about this technique or that technique, shared by all of us, and the occasional argument about who will win the Olympia, or whether Gunnar Rosbo actually DOES have the greatest arms, etc., in walked a man of about 65 years who was absolutely ENORMOUS.

    Hardly a little old man, he stood just under six feet tall, and easily weighed in excess of 250 pounds. He wore a cut off sweatshirt and sweatpants, beat to hell sneakers and nothing else. His totally gray hair was matted and he was unshaven. He was the absolute antithesis to the pretty-boy image pushed in Muscle & Fitness, and he appeared to aggressively pursue that look. Unquestionably, however, he was a man who had spent YEARS involved with moving serious iron. Hanging out of his torn sweatshirt was a pair of the most massive arms I had ever seen, at least 19 inches, with a look that seemed as different as he did. Later I would learn that this difference was due to his strength. Although, being young and a slave to the mainstream muscle magazines, it took years before I absorbed what I was about to be taught.

    The old guy introduced himself as Don. Just Don. No last name. He was exceptionally friendly, very open, and this was his first time in the rec center. He watched me finish up my pressdowns, on what must have been my 12th set, looked somewhat crookedly at me and struck up a conversation that summed up the essentials. It was the first time I ever heard, "If you want big arms, start squatting." He told me everything that the hardy souls of his generation knew about weight lifting: abbreviated workouts, plenty of good food, concentrate on the big exercises - particularly squats, and rest. I don't know what it is about youth, but I didn't listen. I finished my workout and I left for the day. In one ear and out the other...

    The next few days came and went, naturally I didn't miss any of my 6 workouts per week, until one day I came in on the same day as Don. He looked intense and severe that day, so much so in fact that I simply stopped and watched. The image was quite a sight. This was a community rec center with bad lighting - which only added to the image I have of this monsterous old timer, with a deadly-serious expression, heading for the squat rack. Same clothes, same everything. Craig, my workout buddy, popped a tape of Jimi Hendrix into the boom box by the dumbbells and started to get ready for "chest day." I just watched the old guy. The bar was loaded to the hilt with heavy iron, his warmups were done, and Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" started thundering into the little room...

    "Well, I stand up next to a mountain, and I chop it down with the edge of my hand!" Hendrix screamed...

    The old guy dropped under the bar and stood... it was the first time I ever saw a human so powerful he could shoulder a load that made the bar oscillate.

    "Well, I stand up next to a mountain, chop it down with the edge of my hand!"

    Don sucked in so much air I thought he would rip out of his sweatshirt... it was an awesome sight. His first rep he went so deep into the hole I thought he was sitting on the floor. Here were my friends and I, real tough guys we thought, doing quarter squats, and this enormous old guy was showing what it meant to go deep.

    "Well, I pick up the pieces and make an island, might even raise a little sand."

    Every rep was picture perfect. Deep, powerful and smooth like a piston. His sweatpants stretched at the seams down the sides of his thighs, he breathed deeply and powerfully with every rep, and the big wheels lining each side of the bar rattled that distinctive throaty roar and echoed Jimi Hendrix ....

    'Cause I'm a voodoo chile, Lord knows I'm a voodoo chile, baby!"

    After his 8th or 9th rep I figured he was done. Not Don... he was just getting started. Each rep lasted about 10 full seconds on the way up. He was oblivious to anything other than his set, and like a man posessed, he showed no signs of letting up.

    "I didn't mean to take up all your sweet time, I'll give it right back to you one of these days. I said I didn't mean to take up all your sweet time, I'll give it right back one of these days." Hendrix kept jamming, Don kept squatting, I kept gawking.

    The gym stood still and watched this scene at the rarely used squat rack, and somewhere inside of each of us, we realized why he was who he was, and why we were still small.

    "And if I don't meet you no more in this world, then I'll, I'll meet you in the next one and don't be late, don't be late."

    Don finished the incredible set, dropped and did some pullovers, then stood and wobbled to the door to leave. 1 hard set... then on his way home.

    "'Cause I'm a voodoo chile, voodoo chile, Lord knows I'm a voodoo chile, hey hey hey" Hendrix finished.

    Don looked at me right before he left, winked as if to say, "here endeth the lesson."

    And there it did end. Had I listened to him that day, I would have been productive in training long before I really learned the lessons. But that was where I learned to squat.

    And here endeth the lesson.
    Last edited by Off Road; 04-14-2010 at 04:34 PM.
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  3. #2
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    That was a sick read... awesome post man

    Also out of curiosity, why are 20 rep squats so highly advocated as opposed to something like 20 rep deadlifts? Just something i have been wondering lately.

  4. #3
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JRider23 View Post
    Also out of curiosity, why are 20 rep squats so highly advocated as opposed to something like 20 rep deadlifts? Just something i have been wondering lately.
    Because 20 rep deadlifts are absolutely INSANE! definately tougher than 20 rep squats when done the right way. The right way is to do the rest/pause at the top, holding the weight at the lockout. Peary Rader used to recommend the 20 rep deadlift as a more effective exercise than the 20 rep squat, but it takes some serious determination to do them.
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  5. #4
    A gallon a day, everyday! ThomasG's Avatar
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    Good read, I like that righting style. I had a client perform his first 20 rep squat today. Twas a beautiful site and experience popping someones 20rep squat cherry and getting paid for it.
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  6. #5
    A gallon a day, everyday! ThomasG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    Because 20 rep deadlifts are absolutely INSANE! definately tougher than 20 rep squats when done the right way. The right way is to do the rest/pause at the top, holding the weight at the lockout. Peary Rader used to recommend the 20 rep deadlift as a more effective exercise than the 20 rep squat, but it takes some serious determination to do them.
    I also smell injury with 20 rep deadlifts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Athos View Post
    you're an intelligent guy... but you're also half #$%&ing crazy... and that my friend is the formula for a great powerlifter.
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  7. #6
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    Awesome, thanks for the story man. One question, why do Squats help your arms grow? I thought it was only Deadlifts that did that...

  8. #7
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Squats send a message to the whole body to grow, increases the appetite, works the biggest muscles in the whole body directly, works the smaller muscles indirectly, supporting the weight on your spine where all the nervous system stems, knowing that the weight can harm you if you get out of the groove, releasing the largest amount of hormones, and doing a lot of work.
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  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    Squats send a message to the whole body to grow, increases the appetite, works the biggest muscles in the whole body directly, works the smaller muscles indirectly, supporting the weight on your spine where all the nervous system stems, knowing that the weight can harm you if you get out of the groove, releasing the largest amount of hormones, and doing a lot of work.
    Thanks for answering my question. I can't wait to do 20 rep Squats today!

  10. #9
    squat rack curler platypus's Avatar
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    first of all that really was a sweet style of writing. second of all i really want to try 20rep squats ever since i started reading your journal haha. one day..
    ain't nuttin but a peanut.

    You will have gotten stronger when the weight that feels heavy is actually heavier than the weight that feels heavy now. Then the weight that feels heavy now will be a warmup for the weight that feels heavy then. But the weight will always feel heavy or you're not lifting enough weight. Clear? -Rippetoe

  11. #10
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    My gym wouldn't appreciate my grunting during 20reppers.

  12. #11
    Senior Member tnathletics2b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    Squats send a message to the whole body to grow, increases the appetite, works the biggest muscles in the whole body directly, works the smaller muscles indirectly, supporting the weight on your spine where all the nervous system stems, knowing that the weight can harm you if you get out of the groove, releasing the largest amount of hormones, and doing a lot of work.
    It's so true. For a whole day after my 5/3/1 workout on squats I will be absolutely ravenous. After heavy squat days I just eat and eat and eat.
    Most people pray for a lighter load in life...ever thought of praying for a stronger back?

    Goals as of 2/08/11 (current) goal:
    Squat: (505) 535, Deadlift: (475) 500, Bench: (325) 350 Total: 1305 (1385)
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  13. #12
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    One way to incorporate 20 rep squats onto your current routine is to do them after your top (heavy) set. After your top set (assuming low reps), reduce the weight by 20-25% and do a set of 20 reppers. If you are doing them in addition to your routine, I'd stick with once a week or so. Don't over-do them. I'll probably be doing them once a cycle on week 3 of my 5/3/1.
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  14. #13
    Senior Member brihead301's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    One way to incorporate 20 rep squats onto your current routine is to do them after your top (heavy) set. After your top set (assuming low reps), reduce the weight by 20-25% and do a set of 20 reppers. If you are doing them in addition to your routine, I'd stick with once a week or so. Don't over-do them. I'll probably be doing them once a cycle on week 3 of my 5/3/1.
    Awesome article first off!

    Also, this is a great idea too! I really have been considering working in 20 reppers into my training, but honestly those things scare the crap out of me....but that's a great idea on how to fit them into my current routine!
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  15. #14
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    First off, Sean Toohey is an excellent writer. I'll have to dig around to see what I can find that I've read over the years of his.

    Maybe we should start posting some of these older articles?

    Also, anyone looking to incorporate 20 rep squats into 5/3/1 should google "Mass Made Simple" by Dan John. Recently at TNation. Awesome read.
    "Its not the will to win that matters, everyone has that. Its the will to prepare to win that matters." Bear Bryant
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  16. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by StLRPh View Post
    First off, Sean Toohey is an excellent writer. I'll have to dig around to see what I can find that I've read over the years of his.

    Maybe we should start posting some of these older articles?

    Also, anyone looking to incorporate 20 rep squats into 5/3/1 should google "Mass Made Simple" by Dan John. Recently at TNation. Awesome read.
    I wouldn't mind having more of this guys articles to read .

  17. #16
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    He's great. I remember reading his and Dr Ken's articles back in the mid 90's. Wish I'd paid attention then

    OR, do you know what happened to him? I can't find anything online anymore.
    "Its not the will to win that matters, everyone has that. Its the will to prepare to win that matters." Bear Bryant
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  18. #17
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StLRPh View Post
    OR, do you know what happened to him? I can't find anything online anymore.
    He got booted from the Hardgainer site. He then wrote a few things for Whelan's site and Cyberpump. After that he just fell off the face of the Earth and I haven't heard a thing about him since. I used to have his e-mail and talked to him now and then, but alas I lost it. He was a really nice guy and always eager to help people. I hope he's doing well.
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  19. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    Because 20 rep deadlifts are absolutely INSANE! definately tougher than 20 rep squats when done the right way. The right way is to do the rest/pause at the top, holding the weight at the lockout. Peary Rader used to recommend the 20 rep deadlift as a more effective exercise than the 20 rep squat, but it takes some serious determination to do them.

    (see bolded part)

    If you are using your ordinary 10 rep max deadlift weight (same as for squats) how do you hold on to the bar for all that time? Your grip would fail before you got to 20 reps. Because deadlift is limited mainly by grip (unless one has insane hand strength) and if it fails at ten you're not reaching 20. Plus it doesn't have a chance to rest because you're holding the bar all that time. Do you mean with straps? Or another weight?
    Just curious.

  20. #19
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Songsangnim View Post
    If you are using your ordinary 10 rep max deadlift weight (same as for squats)
    First of all, I don't believe in the 10 rep weight rule. I believe in starting with a challenging weight and progressing over time, just like every other lift.

    Quote Originally Posted by Songsangnim View Post
    how do you hold on to the bar for all that time?
    Straps. I use straps with all my deadlifts for the simple reason that as soon as the grip starts to slip, the form starts to break down.
    Last edited by Off Road; 04-16-2010 at 06:50 AM.
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  21. #20
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    Last night I was at the gym working out, doing 2 sets of 20 rep squats. Nearing the end of the first set and about half way through the second set, the back of my head started hurting. Today, I can still feel my head hurting, but not as much as it was yesterday doing the 20 rep squats. Why did this happen?

  22. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pure Water View Post
    Last night I was at the gym working out, doing 2 sets of 20 rep squats. Nearing the end of the first set and about half way through the second set, the back of my head started hurting. Today, I can still feel my head hurting, but not as much as it was yesterday doing the 20 rep squats. Why did this happen?
    Probably just an exertion headache, but if you are worried about it, see a doctor. And why did you do 2 sets of 20 rep squats? Did you not work hard enough on the first one? Add more weight and just do one set of 20 reppers. If you can do two sets of them, you aren't working hard enough on the first one
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  23. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    Probably just an exertion headache, but if you are worried about it, see a doctor. And why did you do 2 sets of 20 rep squats? Did you not work hard enough on the first one? Add more weight and just do one set of 20 reppers. If you can do two sets of them, you aren't working hard enough on the first one
    Thanks for the info.

    I was doing 2 sets because I didn't know that you're supposed to go so heavy on 20 rep squats until this week when I read the article that talks about them and this thread. So then I decided that I'll just continue doing 2 sets and add 5 pounds each week until it gets heavy enough that I can only do 1 set.

    But I'll take your advice for sure, next week, I'll add on some weight and just do 1 set.

    Thanks.

    -- EDIT --

    You say to do 1 set, but how come the new article that came out says to do 2 sets in the program they show?

    http://www.wannabebig.com/training/t...ining-systems/
    Last edited by Pure Water; 04-16-2010 at 02:31 PM.

  24. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pure Water View Post
    Thanks for the info.

    I was doing 2 sets because I didn't know that you're supposed to go so heavy on 20 rep squats until this week when I read the article that talks about them and this thread. So then I decided that I'll just continue doing 2 sets and add 5 pounds each week until it gets heavy enough that I can only do 1 set.

    But I'll take your advice for sure, next week, I'll add on some weight and just do 1 set.

    Thanks.
    Check out Dan John's version of 5/3/1 with high rep squats. It is multiple sets of very high reps.
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  25. #24
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    If you want to do multiple sets of 20 reppers, more power to you. I see absolutely no reason to do more than one set of them. In fact, i think it kind of defeats the purpose of them as it is supposed to drag out extra reps with an already tough weight. But hey, there's more than one way to skin a cat...
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  26. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    If you want to do multiple sets of 20 reppers, more power to you. I see absolutely no reason to do more than one set of them. In fact, i think it kind of defeats the purpose of them as it is supposed to drag out extra reps with an already tough weight. But hey, there's more than one way to skin a cat...
    As i'm sure you can relate, a proper set of 20 rep squats should leave you wanting to never see a squat rack again. I can't help but to give this thread a 5/5 stars. 20 rep squats are the absolute best thing that I do for squatting. I've had a few regressions in weight training - a few months of not lifting, going through an injury, etc. Every time I come back, I do sets of 20 rep squats. If you'd like a good book on it, check Super Squats. It's a great read and I can definitely vouge for that program... I started it at 135x20 with a 1RM of 255... 3 months later I was able to hit 225x20 with a 1RM of 320.
    Last edited by jed; 04-16-2010 at 05:04 PM.
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