The 20 Rep Squat Routine - The Most Effective Way To Build Muscle

The 20 Rep Squat Routine Review

Before the advent of modern bodybuilding, with its isolation machines, designer supplements and toxic chemicals, there was a secret weapon which bodybuilders used to grow freakish amounts of muscle in a short space of time.

This was a weapon so holy and so powerful that it was inscribed on two stone tablets on the slopes of Mount Sinai while Moses was still on the boob.

Sadly, however, it is a weapon that is largely ignored in the air conditioned gymnasiums of today.

And, before you go looking, this isn’t something that you can find online or buy from Tattoo Stan in the alley behind UK Best Kebab.

What is it?

It’s simple, good old-fashioned hard work.

And as far as workout regimes go, they don’t come much more basic, tougher or devastatingly effective than the infamous 20 Rep Squat Routine.


The 20 Rep Squat is one of the most famous old-school bulking routines, and for good reason.

When performed correctly it will help you build unprecedented levels of muscle at an extraordinary rate.

20 Rep Squat

And like many of the most proven and effective muscle building programmes out there, its beauty lies in its simplicity.

The winning formula is essentially:

High rep squats + a shitload of milk = HUGE GAINS

Indeed, this routine is also known was ‘Squats and Milk’ as, in addition to ballbreaking repetitions of squats, it prescribes a gallon of milk a day (GOMAD).

On this programme you’ll easily be drinking enough milk to put your local dairy farm out of business.

And, mark my words, your quads will become so vast that wearing jeans will no longer be an option.

Those who complete the routine will be referred to in regal tones as the Quadfather, Thighly Cyrus, Calfin Harris, Liam Kneeson, Quadzilla, Arnold Squatsaloadaweightanegga, Leg Dennis (that was awful), or simply that t**t who hogs the squat rack.

(If you have any other leg-related nicknames, please fire them off in the comments below.)

A word of caution, though:

20 Rep Squats is seriously tough.

You’ll need some massive mental cojones to persevere as it makes most muscle building protocols look like your mum’s Icelandic Body Sculpting class, i.e. a croc of shit.


The origins of the 20 Rep Squat routine date back to the 1930s when American weightligting coach Mark Berry began to tout the benefits of high repetition squats in Alan Calvert’s Strength magazine.

Using this ‘new’ approach, Berry had been able to encourage muscular growth at monstorous – and previously unheard of – rates in his athletes.

Inspired by Berry’s findings, a young lifter by the name of Joseph Curtis Hise (later nicknamed ‘Daddy of the Squat’) began experimenting with squatting for 20 reps.

In his method, the first 10 reps would be performed as normal, and the last 10 reps would include 3 deep breaths between each squat.

Hence the other term for the routine – ‘Breathing Squats’.

After performing 20 reps, Hise suggested that the lifter “should feel like he has just run 2 miles at full speed”. 

And thus, the 20 Rep Squat routine was born.

tom platzIt has since stood the test of time, having been championed by John McCallum in 1968 and in Randall J. Storssen’s popular 1989 book Super Squats.

The latter claimed that 20 Rep Squats could pack on 30lbs of muscle within 6 weeks!

20 Rep Squats was also the routine of choice for muscle legend Tom Platz, who used it to build the ‘best legs in bodybuilding’.

Platz claimed to have squatted 585 pounds for 23 reps!

The science

Your quads are largely made up of Type II A muscle fibres which respond very well to high rep work.

This is the reason why cyclists and speed skaters – even in the endurance disciplines – have such titanic legs.

Just check out the quads on German cyclist Robert Forstemann and you’ll see what I mean!

Consequently, bodybuilders also favour putting their quadriceps through high rep hell to maximise growth potential.

The workout

The cornerstone of every workout in this programme in performing 1 x 20 reps of squats.

Importantly these 20 Breathing Squats must be performed at your 10RM.

Doesn’t make any sense, huh?

Well the key is in the title – Breathing Squats are quite the different beast compared to your typical squat.

As mentioned above, with Breathing Squats, once you hit failure at 10 reps you then take a series of 3-5 deep breaths after every subsequent rep.

This will allow you to mentally and physically recharge for the next rep, enabling your body to recruit higher-threshold motor units than it would if there was no rest between reps.

As such, it’s not uncommon for the set to last 4-5 or even more minutes.

When it comes to the precise routine, there are several variations of the 20 Rep Squat to choose from, depending on your preferences.

Each variation inlcudes 1 set of 20 reps on squat as its mainstay, in addition to a combination of basic push/pull movements.

John McCallum’s Original 20 Rep Squat Routine (1968)

Exercise Sets  Reps
Behind The Neck Press 3 12
Squat 1 20
Pull Over 1 20
Bench Press 3 12
Bent Over Row 3 15
Stiff Legged Deadlift 1 15
Shrug 1 15
Pull Over 1 20

Scaled Down 20 Rep Squat Routine (Recommended for Beginners)

Exercise Sets  Reps
Squat 1 20
Pull Over 1 20
Overhead Press 5 5
Power Clean 5 5

Big 3 20 Rep Squat Routine

Exercise Sets  Reps
Squat 1 20
Pull Over 1 20
Bench Press 2-3 10
Pull Over 1 20
Bent Over Row 2-3 15

Power 20 Rep Squat Routine

Exercise Sets  Reps
Power Clean 5 3
Squat 1 20
Overhead Press 2-3 12
Chin Ups 2 To Failure
Dips 2 10
Deadlift 1 15



The 20 Rep Squat routine should last for 6 weeks and comprise 2/3 sessions per week.

Start off with 3 sessions but if recovery becomes an issue step it down to 2.

This routine should be used sparingly as it is extremely challenging.

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t return to it for at least 6 weeks after you have completed the first cycle.

Personally, however, I would leave it much longer than that.

Weight selection & progression

The primary goal is to add 5lbs (roughly 2.5kg) to the barbell every session.

Most people are able perform 20 reps of their current 5RM by week 6.

So, to calculate your starting weight, work backwards and subtract 2.5kg from your 5RM for every session.

If you are working out 3 times per week that is 18 sessions in a 6 week cycle.

18 x 2.5kg = 45kg

So if your current 5RM on squat is 130kg you would commence proceedings with a weight of 85kg and add 2.5kg to the bar every session.

Warm up

Before each set of Breathing Squats make sure you perform a few sets of 10 reps with a much lighter weight as a warm up.

I also include at least 15 minutes of stretching and mobility work before I even square up to the squat rack.

Squatting rules

  • Squat DEEP (below parallel) for maximum range of motion.
  • No Smith Machines.
  • No lifting belts or straps.
  • If you are not laid out on the floor crying after 20 reps you didn’t go hard enough!


Breathing correctly while performing your squats will help you bust out those last 10 reps.

You’ll more than likely get through the first 10 reps without much fuss, however the next 10 will be a different story.

Slow down and take deep gulps when you hit the peak contraction of the movement.

Take a big breath during the eccentric contraction and exhale deeply during the concentric contraction.


Because you will no doubt be in a horrible place between reps 10 and 20, there is a big chance of failure.

Its is therefore essential to squat with safety pins or a spotter.

squat spotter


Once you’ve finished your squats, crawl over to a bench, grab a dumbbell, and bust out 20 pull overs on a light weight.

Old school lifters such as Arnie performed dumbbell pull overs as they believed it expanded their ribcage and added size to their chest (although there is no empirical evidence for this).

This movement also functions as a gentle cool down after your grueling trip to Squat City.

Other exercises

For the rest of the exercises, use a weight which you can successfully complete 20 reps with.

These should be nowhere near as taxing as your 20 reps on squats.

Rest days

If you’re up to it, include stretching and light cardio on your rest days to ease the DOMS, which is going to pretty severe.


Drinking a gallon of milk a day (that’s roughly 8 pints) is another staple of the 20 Rep Squat Routine.

If you want to feel like an old school lifter, which is part of the fun of the routine, keep to the milk.

Just be careful not to drink just before your workout, as you will throw up.

If 8 pints of milk a day seems a little excessive, by all means factor in other protein sources and supplements, provided you are still getting enough calories in.


The 20 Rep Squat Routine is an insanely difficult routine and as such I would only recommend it for intermediate to advanced lifters.

Beginners will more than likely suffer from injuries due to their form breaking down, plus they’ll lack the high intensity which will yield the best return on investment.

As well as crucifying you physically, it also takes an intense mental toll.

In fact I would say 20 Rep Squats is more challenging mentally than it is physically.

As the old adage goes, the mind will always quit before the body.

And you’ll need to dig into some serious mental reserves once you go past the first 10 reps of your 10RM and every muscle in your body is SCREAMING “Go f**k yourself, I’ve already maxed out!”

Plus, once you are done with the 20 reps on squat, it’s very hard to summon the motivation for the other exercises.

The sight of another barbell will make you feel like you’ve just been used as a cock holster by Ronnie Coleman.

However, having said all this, 20 Rep Squats is well worth breaking the pain barrier for.

This is a routine that I have performed on and off for the last few years and the gains have always been ridiculous.

In terms of productivity it blows every other leg workout out of the water, delivering results which are far superior to the standard bodybuilding splits you’ll find in most muscle magazines.

However, because it is so tough, it’s very easy to burn out, so I would recommend the 20 Rep Squat routine as an occasional ‘shock to the system’.

Use it to supercharge your workout every now and again – I wouldn’t build everything around squats and milk.

And a word about the milk: the first time I did this routine I followed the GOMAD schedule religiously.

And I put on a MASSIVE amount of weight – a lot of it fat – and was constantly bloated.

After all, I was drinking 56 pints of full fat milk a week.

I’m pretty sure that lots of families in my neighbourhood had to go without tea, coffee and cereal while I was on this programme.

I will also say that unlike what some others on the Internet have noted, this is primarily a hypertrophy – and not a strength – workout.

While your 1RM might naturally increase (mine didn’t), 20 Rep Squats mainly targets endurance, work capacity and, of course, physical mass.

As such, I’d recommend following up 20 Rep Squats with a good old fashioned 5×5 routine to keep your body wondering what the f**k is going on.


20 Rep Squats is an unforgiving routine that will push you to the edge both physically and mentally.

However, if you can get through it in one piece, muscle gains will be behemothic.

Ultimately, I would say that two of the most important factors in this programme are diet and attitude.

Turbocharge your calorie intake and approach every workout like a Rocky montage and you’ll be well on your way to Gainsville.

All in all, a simple, painful and incredibly effective way of getting BIG.

20 Rep Squat

Over to you

Who fancies giving the 20 Rep Squat routine a go?

Have any of you guys already tried it?

I’m excited to hear your thoughts and questions.

Hit me up with a comment below!

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  1. Henry as you have pointed out very nicely the 20 rep squat routine is one that will no doubt blast your legs right into the land of “Quadville!” Once upon a time I did incorporate this plan and was a big fan of the response. Mass, mass, and more mass followed as the outcome of participating in this protocol.

    As far as building pure size this is the type of model one should follow as you well pointed out. The brutality of the total volume (particularly those second 10 reps) will humble any soul.

    Now I must admit I’ve always been a bit more of a fan of working in the more moderately heavy to heavy rep range, but a high volume protocol such as this is a great way to mix things up. The thing to remember with any protocol is the time under tension (TUT) factor.

    The more TUT the more size, period. So that barbell never being put back on the rack for those 2nd 10 reps is a sure-fire way to add on the type of size that would probably make Arnold himself ask you to have a cigar alongside him after the carnage.

    Just as a side note I’ve also been a fan of high reps ranging from 10, 12, and even 15 reps. Keep in mind these are hypertrophy ranges and I’ve also seen great gains from these rep ranges, but I admit that pushing to that 20 rep program will take you both mentally and physically to a different place.

    Great post Henry. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Brandon, glad you enjoyed the post. I also get a bigger kick from heavier weights and lower reps, but as you say, mental volume such as this is an awesome way to shock the body into action!

  2. Great article, further heightened by including a Daniel Bryan meme!

    1. Fact: EVERYTHING is improved with a Daniel Bryan meme. Blog post, PhD dissertation, photo of a deceased relative…

  3. Could you please explain how pull over and power clean are? Cheers

    1. Hi Rocky, check out the following:

      The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Power Cleans

      Dumbbell Pullover Video Guide

      Let me know if you have any more questions 🙂

  4. Your article is the bomb, it’s very cool, I’m a big fan of the old school!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Michelangelo.

  5. I remember trying a 20 repper out of curiosity many years ago.

    By far the toughest (mentally and physically) workout I had ever done – hitting 10 reps was tough enough!

    By 15 you start to lose sanity.

    By 18 your head is somewhat lighter than the rest of your body.

    Once the 20th happened… and you put the bar down… the floor was a welcomed landing zone.

    I then had to crawl my way to the shower.

    Was a bitch, but I would do it again 😉

    1. Hi Sean, thanks for your comment.

      I’m sure you’re not the only one that’s used the floor as a ‘landing zone’ after the 20th rep haha!

  6. Surely all that milk consumption will help to grow your local dairy farmer’s business, not shut it down, thicko?

    1. Not if all the cows in the area are milked dry.

      This was my logic, but obviously I’m no expert in the economics of small-scale dairy farms.

  7. Hey Henry!

    I just wanted to say your writing style is fan-fuc*ing-tastic.

    I was laughing through the whole post!

    Anyways, I just started week 2 of 3x a week 20rep squats and hoooooooly hell.

    I’m what you sidewalk crackers call a wee little fella, so I wanted to see what this program would do for me.

    My 1rm before was right at 300lbs, so I started this program at 205×20.

    We’ll see how it finishes out.

    I’d like to stick to the 3x a week routine for the mental gains mostly.

    I enjoy endurance, but this is a whole new monster for sure.

    1. Hi Hunter, thanks for the kind words.

      The first few weeks are certainly tough – but once you get into the last third of the routine, that’s when things get seriously nasty!

      But persevere buddy – just think of the gains.

      Let me know if you manage to finish it in one piece!

  8. I’m currently 19, 5’10 and around 180lb.

    I’ve been lifting about 14 months on and off, and I’d say I’m around 14% body fat.

    For some reason, I see people who are the same height as me and weigh less than me but look much bigger.

    My strength is pretty good, but I always feel that I look weak.

    This article was very inspiring and I love milk so I’m really looking forward to starting this 20-rep squat program soon.

    I was a sprinter in high school and I still pride myself on my athletic abilities, especially speed.

    My only concern about this program is the additional fat gain.

    Do you become fat and puffy?

    I don’t really want to lose my athleticism but at the same time I’m really seen to start this program.

    Sorry for rambling, thanks for your time.

    1. Hi David

      Firstly, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, it’s greatly appreciated 🙂

      If you’re smashing through the calories with Squats & Milk, as directed, then you are going to put on a little excess body fat, there’s really no way around that.

      If you get hung up on maintaining super low body fat then this will impede progress considerably and you’ll probably end up undoing all your hard work at the squat rack.

      If you’re consistent with this routine then the muscle gains will no doubt be dramatic – so much so that you won’t worry about a little excess body fat.

      You’re not going to turn into a fat slob (provided you’re eating wholesome food, healthy fats, etc) and it’s nothing that a little cardio and won’t help keep at bay.

      This is certainly a drastic routine – but from what you’re telling me it’s perfect for someone in your situation.

      Good luck with the programme and let me know how you get on!

  9. Can the 20 rep squat be added as a set done before my own workout?

    Or it is a MUST that we follow the routine above.

    I do back and chest and back on the same day twice and just want to add the 20 brutal reps before each workout.


    1. Hi Kaveshan, thanks for stopping by.

      Performing high rep squats is always going to be effective, so I would never dissuade anyone from incorporating them into their routine. Just bear in mind that performing them at the beginning of your workout is going to leave you exhausted, jittery and gasping for air! In other words, as a newcomer to 20 rep squats, it’s going to affect the rest of your workout considerably.

      From a personal standpoint, I always try to leave established routines as they are without meddling around with them too much. I’m a big believer in consistency and finishing what you started. I.e. Perform a cycle with consistency first – and then you can asses progress etc and make any tweaks if necessary.

      Hope that helps, let me know if you have any more questions.

  10. This is one of the best articles I have come across about this routine.

    I just began with 20 reps routine yesterday. It was tough but I’m expecting it to get crazy as the timeline progresses.

    Since I am a noob, I am confused about the complete routine and would like you to shed some light over it.

    I get the part where we would perform 20 reps for some weeks and then there would be rest days each week following the routine for recovery.

    Can we still train for rest of our muscles like chest, biceps, back n shoulders?

    I couldn’t find any info about it anywhere. Kindly enlighten. Thanks!

    1. Hi Justin

      Firstly, glad you enjoyed the article, means a lot!

      As mentioned above, as all of the routines listed above are very taxing and demand excellent form under heavy weight, and as such I wouldn’t recommend it for novices such as yourself.

      Instead, I would try one of the following, more ‘beginner friendly’ programmes:

      Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Golden Six’ Routine

      The George Eiferman Full Body Workout

      Reg Park’s Beginner 5×5 Routine

      Mehdi’s Stronglifts 5×5 

      With regards to your question, I’m not sure I fully understand what you’re getting at, but the routines listed above all feature – after the 20 rep squats – excellent compound, multi-joint exercises which will target your chest, biceps, back, shoulders much more effectively than any isolation exercises would.

      Hope that helps, let me know if you have any further questions.

  11. Hey Henry! Brilliant article. Really looking forward to smashing this out. But before I do so what rest period should I do in between exercises and also in between the 3 set exercises?

    If I begin to hit failure at the end of the exercises, do I stick to that same weight for my next session or do I drop 2.5kg and go that bit lighter to ensure that all reps are performed correctly?

    Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated

    1. Hi Tommy, thanks for dropping by.

      Smash out the pullovers as soon as you’ve finished the 20 rep squats, other than that I would take roughly one minute rest between sets.

      Let me know if you have any more questions – and good luck with the routine!

  12. Great post buying the book now however won’t be buying the full fat milk 🙂

    1. Haha – you’ve gotta try it Steve!

  13. Henry, if you start too heavy, it is just another useless 6 week “program” that guys switch from one to another for years… while still looking like they don’t even lift.

    Hise started light, lifted within his capacity, added a tad of iron every week or so… for over a year.

    That is why he transformed himself into a monster.

    Turning a great program into another “program of the month” is a disservice to something that would be more effective than most.

    I have Randall S. Strossen’s Super Squats Book, and it has the ridiculous advice about starting with your 10RM.

    Strossen, even tho’ he was a growing teenager, only managed to do the program for six weeks, vs Hise and Perry and other greats who did it for years.

    So it is no wonder that Strossen, though he claimed to gain 30lbs of “muscle” (make that water, fat from GOMAD, and natural growth he would have got on any program) in six weeks, only managed to look like a runner.

    I’m sure this is another site that won’t post my comments, critiquing the macho sounding advice that sabotages a great program.


    1. Hi Jay, thanks for your comment.

      Definitely agree that starting with your 10RM is too much – however, as the original prescribes, commencing a 6 week cycle at your 5RM minus around 50kg is certainly achievable (I have done it myself).

      However, I do agree that starting lighter and adopting a more sustainable progressive overload approach is best for the long-term (especially for newbies), but, hey, this is Squats and Milk, who am I to meddle with such a legendary routine?

      I reckon everyone should try it at least once and see how they get on.

  14. Dude!

    1 set, seriously?

    I do 5 sets of 20 reps already up to 145.

    I go up 10 pounds per week, started at 85.

    1. Hi Daniel, if you’re working off your 5 rep max, then I highly doubt you’d be able to complete more than 1 set, especially after a few weeks into the programme.

      Remember, the goal is to hit 20 reps on your 10 rep max!

  15. I found this a few weeks ago on a different site and started it.

    Just been looking around the interwebs to see what kind of gains others have had using the program, and I stumbled across this article.

    Great piece on a program that every serious lifter should try at least once!

    I began with 275 on March 30 and just finished 325×20 yesterday (April 19).

    Because of the weight and the other things I have to do (I play a college sport), I am only going 2x/week.

    My goal is to hit 365×20 and then switch back to a 5×5 routine.

    1. Hi J.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Good luck with your goal – I’m sure you’ll smash it!

  16. Great article!

    I was wondering if 20 reps would work with other exercises?

    Could you do it with shoulder press, bb row, bench or even deadlifts?



    1. Hi Greg

      Although the high-volume principle can be applied to many exercises, I would say it is best suited to squatting, as your legs can take a significant beating.

      They are designed to cope with high-load, high-rep movements, whereas muscle groups like your lower back are not.

      As such, I would definitely avoid volume on deadlifts – stick with the 1-5 rep range, as your body will respond much better to this protocol.

      Hope that helps – let me know if you have any more questions.


  17. That Thighly Cyrus joke was gold 🙂

    I have done this GOMAD programme and outgrew my t-shirts.

    People who hadn’t seen me for months were shocked.

    What was even more amazing was that my arms got thicker even though I wasn’t really training them.

    There are however two critical things that most articles on this subject don’t mention:

    1. If you go straight from zero milk to one gallon of full fat a day you will get fat!

    Next time I will increase my intake gradually.

    2. Most people can’t tolerate one gallon of milk!

    But you can buy lactose pills which help A LOT.

    If you are dairy intolerant and drink a gallon of milk without these pills I guarantee you will get explosive back end results

    1. Hi Henry (great name btw!)

      Agree with your points: size gains are unavoidable, but drinking that much milk will cause some added fat alongside all that muscle mass!

  18. I am starting this program on Monday and am wondering about the weight I should use for the other exercises after the squats.

    So I get that you take your 5 RM and strip 5 pounds off it till you reach your starting weight for the 6 week plan.

    Now for the other workouts in the program, are you supposed to take the same strategy?

    Or do you just pick a starting weight you feel comfortable with?

    Just curious if theres a formula for that or no.

    1. Hi Mike.

      There is no formula for the other exercises.

      Just start on a weight with which you can easily perform the required reps and add weight to the bar each session.

      Good luck!

  19. Henry,

    1. You’re a funny guy. Lot of other sources rehash the same info on this 20-rep squat program but your explanation and experiential anecdote made me laugh and was quite helpful. Jan 4th is my start date.

    2. GoMaD is terrible. I got the same results you did but I errored in going from 0 to 4L milk in a week. And doing so on a beginner 5×5 program. Got fat. Got stronger though. May try it again with goat milk and lactose pills. I will lean out again by summer.

    3. Why aren’t lifting belts permitted? Just out of curiosity. Would it not be safer? Is there a point in the program where it is acceptable to throw one on? My 5rm is probably around 300lbs so if I begin with 220, no belt? I tested yesterday and squatted 185 x 33, and did 205 x 27 a few months back, although I rushed the breathing portion after 10 reps both times. Perhaps my form will be better if I consciously try the 5 breaths.

    I will post back mid-February with my results. I foresee good results.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Mark, thank you for your comment.

      It’s always awesome to get feedback (especially positive), so I really appreciate you taking the time to write 🙂

      Regarding belts, I’m just going by what the original routine stipulates.

      By supporting your lower back, belts can interfere with strength gains.

      Plus, while appropriate for 1-5 rep max attempts, I do believe that anyone relying on a belt for higher rep sets needs to revisit their form.

      However, as with all advice I dish out, the most important thing is to listen to your body, and if it’s telling you to use a belt, use a belt.

      Looking forward to hearing how you got in February!


  20. Hi Henry…

    I want to lose fat and put on muscle… is this a good program for that?

    If not would you recommend 5 X 5?

    1. I would recommend a more sustainable routine that 20 Rep Squats.

      Something like 5×5 would be perfect – with some added HIIT to expedite fat loss.

  21. I’m super confused on starting with the 10RM.

    How on earth are you supposed to 20 rep a 10RM (I read the breathing squat part).

    If it’s your true 10RM then there’s no way you could rip another 10.

    Am I missing something?

    I’ve done this once before doing the 5RM – 45 kilos version and loved it.

    I plan on starting this one again tomorrow!


    1. Because they’re not straight, bog standard squats – after each rep you pause to take huge gulps of air, meaning the 20 rep set will take several minutes to complete.

      Think of it not as your absolute 10 rep max, more as your training 10 rep max, if that makes sense.

  22. Just want to toss this in the ring…

    What many people miss when they dig up these “old school” routines is that many of them have been “compromised” or rewritten to fit what they think is the way it fits into modern training or they miss many pieces of information.

    Many of the old school routines and courses have been bought from the original authors and publishing companies and this is evident with many of the Vince Gironda courses being sold out there today.

    Another example is Marvin Eders training… though they may write the end workout many time there were precursors “prep” programs and routines.

    But I digress.

    What I really want to say is doing the breathing squats or “squats and milk” program as it is interpreted today many times leads to failure and or injury or the very least discouragement.

    Too much too soon too hard, dizzy spells, injury, etc, etc.

    How I was taught was the squats were done as your last exercise you did.

    Use your 10 rep set but week 1 you do 3 sets of ten with that weight resting long enough between sets to get your wind and doing a set of stiff arm pullovers after each set done 3 times a week either day on day off or day on 2 days off, whatever suits you.

    The following week you use the same weight and do it for 15 reps, stopping to breath 2 – 5 deep breaths between reps for the last 5 reps.

    THEN cutting that weight in half and performing 15 more smooth reps (this helps the body adjust to the high rep high cardio requirement needed for the 20 rep squats but without killing yourself – stress and strain in moderation is fine but too much equals risk of injury, cortisol release and burnout).

    Now week 3 with the same poundage as the previous weeks – start on 20 rep squats as your last exercise in your workout, breathing deep, 2-5 deep breaths between reps to get you to 20.

    If you make it on the next workout, increase the poundage and so on, workout after workout.

    When you hit a wall where you cannot complete the 20 go back to the 3 sets of 10 with your last poundage, move to 2 sets of 15 (the second set can stay the same weight at this point ), then in the following week continue on to 20 rep squats.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment.

    1. Hi Rick.

      Certainly agree that Squats & Milk – at least as it’s interpreted today – is not a sustainable routine, and one that can certainly lead to injury in the wrong hands.

      It’s great as a one-off, but you’re right, in the long term gradual, careful progress is key, especially when it comes to keeping confidence and enjoyment up.

  23. Could 20 rep squats work well on a 4 day push pull split?

    If so how would the template look like?


  24. Hi Henry,

    I really like your article, not sure if questions on here will still be answered, but imma give it a go!

    So I’ve been lifting for about 2-3 years.

    This year tho have been low on training (mostly just maintaining mass with squats and deadlifts and other basics regularly) and I have had some small injuries, which I am now free of.

    Anyway, back to my question; I really wanna get back into serious lifting, I see myself as at least intermediate lifter, I have a good form in all basic exercises and earlier on have been able to squat and deadlift fairly heavy.

    I am not out of shape but not in form either.

    Would this training routine be a smart one to jump on for me?

    Or would you recommend that I go to it differently?

    I’m kinda focused on this being a shocker for my body to get back into serious lifting as earlier.

    Hope I explained myself good enough, and I hope you get to answer! 😀

    1. Hi Mattias, good to hear from you.

      I tend to see 20 rep squats as a temporary ‘shock’ routine, a bit like, say, Leroy Colbert’s Body Blitz.

      While it’s a great way to shake things up, 20 reps at your 10rm is simply not a sustainable long-term programme and if you’re jumping back into barbell training after some time off you’ll probably do yourself an injury.

      I would suggest following something basic like Stronglifts or Starting Strength, making sure you follow everything to the letter (diet, rest, everything), and then when you start to plateau switch to the ‘Texas Method’.

      This is what I’m on at the moment and I’m lifting heavier than I’ve ever done.

      In fact, I’ve been meaning to write an article on it but haven’t gotten round to it yet.

      Just Google it if you’re interested, but SS or SL should be enough for the next 6 months at least.

      Let me know if you have any questions.

      1. Hi Henry,

        Did you ever get a chance to write up a review of the Texas method!

        1. Not yet, it’s on my to-do list, promise to get round to it at some point

  25. Hey Henry,

    I’ve been looking for a new program to add some serious size and after a few weeks of searching, I’ve decided to go with the 20 rep squats.

    I think I’m gonna stick with John McCallum’s original routine and I started it on Monday and it was pretty tough.

    I started drinking the milk about a week before to get used to it and I’ve already gone up like 8lbs.

    I hope to make some serious size gains from this and I’ll let you know how it goes after the 6 weeks is done.

    Thanks for the time writing your article, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

  26. An added credit to Dr. Ken Leistner would be a nice addition to the article.

  27. I completed a version of the 20-rep squat program a couple of weeks ago and made zero gains.

    I made it up to 200lbs in 8 weeks at a bodyweight of only 149.

    I’ve been able to squat nearly 300×3 in the past, but my squat is pretty weak these days.

    I attempted 235 after this program was over and couldn’t even stand up for rep number 4.

    I really thought this program might lift me up to those old numbers as I reached 200, but I guess I’m just that guy.

    I don’t drink milk, but Thanksgiving did take place during the program, which is always a good source of calories.

    Surprisingly, bodyweight didn’t even increase by a single pound.

    I sure miss those high school days when you can simply do whatever and gain some muscle.