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Thread: 20 rep squats

  1. #1
    Senior Member HolyChase's Avatar
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    20 rep squats

    I have incorporated 20 rep squats into my routine and I think they will do well in developing strength and mass. However today in my gym I asked someone who was on the powerlifting team and pretty experienced to spot me. He said my form was fine and everything, but that if I kept doing 20 reppers I would hurt my knees eventually no matter how good my form is. A lot of my research on the 'net has shown that a lot of people recommend 20 reppers for a good routine.
    I was wondering if any of you have had experience in this area and what do you feel about them. Are they dangerous for the knees? I know any exercise can be dangersous but I mean are they 'needlessly' more dangerous than a lower rep method? Have doing 20 reppers specifically created knee problems for any of you? Thanks for your time.

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  2. #2
    Tony Danza JohnnyAutoParts's Avatar
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    IMO "20 reppers" shouldn't cause significant knee damage. Look at it this way--if you are doing 20 reps, you probably have pretty light weight on the bar. How would you be more prone to injury with light weight as opposed to someone using a heavier bar doing less reps (probably including a strained/mediocre form of a rep at the end)......IMO if squatting with light weight is bad for the knees, that's like saying every time you squat down to pick something up, you are inflicting knee damage. Keep in mind proper form is still necessary.

    So why doesn't everyone do "20 reppers"?....well the gains won't be as drastic as heavy squatting, although heavy squats are tougher and riskier....not that heavy squatting is dangerous by any means, me just talking on a scale of 1 to pickiness.

  3. #3
    . Delphi's Avatar
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    Originally posted by JohnnyAutoParts
    So why doesn't everyone do "20 reppers"?....well the gains won't be as drastic as heavy squatting
    Do you mean in terms of size or strength or both? I'm currently squatting with a given weight until I can do 20 reps, and then I go up in weight by 10 pounds. I want a combination of gains in size and strenth- probably more size than strength.

  4. #4
    Bring it. DaCypher's Avatar
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    First of all, I think I need to address the post about heavy squats being more difficult than 20 rep squats. 20 rep squats are done by taking the weight you can normally only do 10 reps at and do 20. To get the extra 10 reps you need to pause after each rep beyond 10 and take a few breaths. This type of squatting is also called 20 breathing reps. If you have ever tried this you will know that it is much more difficult than doing a heavy set of maybe 6-8 regular reps (if done properly).

    Now, to address the question, here is a good article on squatting safety.

    Another thing to consider is that with 20 rep squatting you not only have a long time under load not only because of the high reps but also because the last 10 reps are going to be very slow (takes me 20 seconds sometimes on the last rep or 2). Because of this, additional stress is placed on your joints, so that may be something to consider if you have any joint problems. However, these problems can also occur if you are doing very slow rep tempo (as in SuperSlow) or doing rather high reps with any other exercise/part of the body. Personally, I'm not too concerned with the joint problems. I've had ACL reconstructive surgery on my knee and have no problems squatting below parallel. However, I don't do 20 rep squats on a weekly basis because I don't enjoy the intense need to vomit and the borderline loss of conscience.
    Last edited by DaCypher; 01-13-2002 at 09:44 PM.

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    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    I don't see why these things have become all the vogue lately.

    Squats aren't any different than any other exercise.

    If you want to get them stronger, do them heavy. If you want to gain size, do a few sets of 8-10, eat more, and be done with it.
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  6. #6
    . Delphi's Avatar
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    That's starting to make more and more sense to me, PowerMan. The rep range you're talking about is advised for every exercise I know of except squats and deads (OK, some people do more for calves, abs, and forearms). Now that I've been doing higher reps for squats and deads I have't noticed some earth-shattering metabolic effect. Like I'm not starting to go bald or grow more body hair or anything.

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  7. #7
    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    I know what you mean. I tried 20-reppers before, and all I got from them was tired. I've had much better luck just doing 5's, 8's, and the occasional triple lately. Same goes for the DL.
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  8. #8
    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    Powerman, I agree 100%.

    I don't see why 20-reppers are even considered by most... I don't see people recommending 20 rep curls, 20 rep stiff legged deadlifts, or 20 rep bench presses.

    Maki, you included them in the wannabebig routine part 2...

    What's your reasoning? Anybody who does 20 reppers that wants to explain why?
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  9. #9
    Wannabebig Member gymtime's Avatar
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    It's been my experience that every few months or so, a new way of working legs, back, chest, arms etc., as PowerMan eluded to, comes into popularity. Most often, the new routines recommend impossibly high weights or reps and are touted as being "killer" because they are so taxing. The implication being, "only real lifters can do this," or "you haven't really lifted weights until you've tried this." IMO, it's ego training instead of intelligent training.
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  10. #10
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Of course you all should consider the primary function of the muscles being trained. Most of us do not walk or run on our arms... The logic of higher reps for the legs is sound, although not necessarily 100% accurate. If the legs are our means of locomotion, then it stands to reason they should have increased fatigue resistance, and that an increased TUT (time under tension--read length of set) may be a superior way to stimulate them.

    The idea that a 20 rep squat will somehow damage the knees is silly to me. Saying that the increased TUT will lead to damage over time is akin to saying that someone who performs 4 sets instead of 2 will have more knee damage over time. In addition, by necessity, 20 rep sets of squats are performed with less resistance than low rep sets. Thus, the decreased weight leads to less force being placed on the knees during the performance of a rep. Of course, the increased number of reps means that more overall force may be involved in the 20 rep set, but again, I don't think that the amount of work involved varies enough between the 2 to actaully make a significant difference to the joints over time.

    20 rep squats are extremely demanding and I like to mix them in with lower rep routines, from time to time. I cannot take 20 rep squats for extended periods (psychologically or physically).

  11. #11
    Proud Father Maki Riddington's Avatar
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    For one I used them for "shock" value and another was what Chris just touched on. You can go heavier or for a longer period of time. I've seen the same results from doing deadlifts in this fashion.
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  12. #12
    Bring it. DaCypher's Avatar
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    Originally posted by chris mason
    Of course you all should consider the primary function of the muscles being trained. Most of us do not walk or run on our arms... The logic of higher reps for the legs is sound, although not necessarily 100% accurate. If the legs are our means of locomotion, then it stands to reason they should have increased fatigue resistance, and that an increased TUT (time under tension--read length of set) may be a superior way to stimulate them.

    The idea that a 20 rep squat will somehow damage the knees is silly to me. Saying that the increased TUT will lead to damage over time is akin to saying that someone who performs 4 sets instead of 2 will have more knee damage over time. In addition, by necessity, 20 rep sets of squats are performed with less resistance than low rep sets. Thus, the decreased weight leads to less force being placed on the knees during the performance of a rep. Of course, the increased number of reps means that more overall force may be involved in the 20 rep set, but again, I don't think that the amount of work involved varies enough between the 2 to actaully make a significant difference to the joints over time.

    20 rep squats are extremely demanding and I like to mix them in with lower rep routines, from time to time. I cannot take 20 rep squats for extended periods (psychologically or physically).
    I definetly agree with you on all of that. About the joint problems issue... I know a physical therapist that strongly advises against doing SuperSlow training (basically doing very low reps, but high tempo, like 10 seconds positive, 10 seconds negative) because of its supposed long term effects on your joints. Whether or not this applies at all to 20 rep squatting is beyond me, but I thought I'd throw it out there...

  13. #13
    Tony Danza JohnnyAutoParts's Avatar
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    Originally posted by DaCypher
    First of all, I think I need to address the post about heavy squats being more difficult than 20 rep squats. 20 rep squats are done by taking the weight you can normally only do 10 reps at and do 20. To get the extra 10 reps you need to pause after each rep beyond 10 and take a few breaths. This type of squatting is also called 20 breathing reps. If you have ever tried this you will know that it is much more difficult than doing a heavy set of maybe 6-8 regular reps (if done properly).


    Hmmmmm I was unaware of this....I was under the impression that when you do heavy squatting, you choose a weight that you can do 8-10 reps while reaching failure. Squats are the primary mass building exercise...unless you have a light weight, or are using the Smith Machine I can't see these 20 reps being too pretty or safe for that matter. But if these are how you do them, i will not argue that they are easier by any means!

  14. #14
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    I think that higher reps can be very effective in compound movements, when the stress can't be focused on a single muscle group. Comparing 20 rep squats to 20 rep curls is not a good comparison.

    Do 10 strict heavy curls and your bis will be very fatigued because the brunt of the stress is on one muscle group. Do 10 squats, and you will be tired but no one muscle group will be very fatigued. If I increase the squat reps to 20(which I seldomly do) I can really notice the fatigue in the muscle groups more, as if I had been doing isolation work for those muscle groups.

    It's not scientific, but that's what I get out of increasing reps in compound movements. For deadlifts and squats, I prefer doing 10-15 reps per set. For all other isolation or "less compound" movements, I prefer a lower rep range - usually 6-12 reps
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    Baby Seal Clubber ElPietro's Avatar
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    20 rep deadlifts? I might as well stick my fingers down my throat cuz I'd puke before I reached it.
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    Proud Father Maki Riddington's Avatar
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    Originally posted by ElPietro
    20 rep deadlifts? I might as well stick my fingers down my throat cuz I'd puke before I reached it.

    *** Lets just say I wasn't feeling too great afterwards.
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    So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
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    Baby Seal Clubber ElPietro's Avatar
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    Haha...yeah, and now that I think of it...my shoulders would have been pulled out of their sockets anyway...so I wouldn't be able to get my fingers up to my throat. I think I'll stick to the lower rep ranges for now...
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  18. #18
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Originally posted by DaCypher


    I definetly agree with you on all of that. About the joint problems issue... I know a physical therapist that strongly advises against doing SuperSlow training (basically doing very low reps, but high tempo, like 10 seconds positive, 10 seconds negative) because of its supposed long term effects on your joints. Whether or not this applies at all to 20 rep squatting is beyond me, but I thought I'd throw it out there...


    Now that one is definitely a crock. The therapist has absolutely no clue. Performing super slow reps places the least stress possible on the joints involved (during training with weights). It reduces the force involved in a movement to the bare minimum. Super slow training can actually help in the rehabilitation of joints. In this case, I am speaking from direct personal experience. I have injured both of my knees over the years and never had correctional surgery. As a result, I have rather nasty arthritis/tedonitis in both knees. When I performed super slow squats for a period of years , I was able to train my legs without overly stressing my knees. When I have switched to standard cadence squats, my knees being to flare up almost immediately.

  19. #19
    Bring it. DaCypher's Avatar
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    Originally posted by chris mason




    Now that one is definitely a crock. The therapist has absolutely no clue. Performing super slow reps places the least stress possible on the joints involved (during training with weights). It reduces the force involved in a movement to the bare minimum. Super slow training can actually help in the rehabilitation of joints. In this case, I am speaking from direct personal experience. I have injured both of my knees over the years and never had correctional surgery. As a result, I have rather nasty arthritis/tedonitis in both knees. When I performed super slow squats for a period of years , I was able to train my legs without overly stressing my knees. When I have switched to standard cadence squats, my knees being to flare up almost immediately.
    Interesting... all I can say is its a good thing this physical therapist didn't work on me at all.

  20. #20
    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    Originally posted by chris mason
    Most of us do not walk or run on our arms... The logic of higher reps for the legs is sound, although not necessarily 100% accurate. If the legs are our means of locomotion, then it stands to reason they should have increased fatigue resistance, and that an increased TUT (time under tension--read length of set) may be a superior way to stimulate them.
    TUT or not, you aren't going to gain anything if you aren't stressing the right metabolic pathways or fiber types.

    Sure, the legs are active all day. But how often do they engage in heavily loaded activities? If anything, I'd say that's extra reason to keep the reps heavy and low, to counteract the fact that they're being trained for endurance most of the time.
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  21. #21
    Proud Father Maki Riddington's Avatar
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    You have to keep in mind that the weight used is not a feel good one.
    It is one that allows failure to occur at 8-10 reps.
    Now taking it past this would elicit some kind of overload.
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    So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
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  22. #22
    Hungry BCC's Avatar
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    If you're not doin' 20 reppers or more...then you've gotta be high...nothing compares to them for overall bodily growth...when I look around at the biggest guys in the gym...they're always squatting hard as hell, heavy as hell, and doing between 20 and 50 reps.

  23. #23
    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    Originally posted by BigChaseyChase
    when I look around at the biggest guys in the gym...they're always squatting hard as hell, heavy as hell, and doing between 20 and 50 reps.
    What kind of gay gym do you attend?
    Vin Diesel has a fever.. and the only prescription is more cowbell.

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  24. #24
    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Maki Riddington
    You have to keep in mind that the weight used is not a feel good one.
    It is one that allows failure to occur at 8-10 reps.
    Now taking it past this would elicit some kind of overload.
    Sure. But I could say that for any exercise. If I'm not about to start doing this for dips, bench press, pullups, rows, etc, why the hell would I just say, "hey, lets do squats for 10 reps, then do 10 more forced reps"?
    Vin Diesel has a fever.. and the only prescription is more cowbell.

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  25. #25
    Proud Father Maki Riddington's Avatar
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    Yes you could but the benifits would not be as great as if you used a exercise such as the Squat or Deadlift. I'm sure you agree that doing 20 reps on a Bench Press or Dips isn't going to take as much out of you as doing Squats or Deadlifts. I believe it all comes down to the hormonal stimulation that occurs as a result of performing this method.

    If your questioning the validity of 20 reppers thats one thing but why it was placed in the WBB routine was so the intensity would be short but sweet.
    Notice how I also used Leg Press and the Leg Extensions. This, by the way is answering Belials question.
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    So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
    Romans 7:14-25

    "Judo is not about strength. Yet in the learning curve, all Judokas get strong. Only with time do you learn where to apply that strength."
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