The Best Exercise for Toning Up? The 20-Rep Squat Might Be The Answer


I love 20-rep squats! They are undoubtedly the king of exercises, and their benefits are seemingly unlimited. They seem to fit into any and all exercise systems out there, and the results they give go far beyond what you’d expect for what on the face of it is just a simple leg exercise. Let’s look a little deeper…

The first time I read about 20-rep squats was back in about 1992 when I saw my first copy of Stuart McRobert’s Hardgainer magazine. It was a small, unassuming publication when compared to the big glossy bodybuilding magazines on the newsstands, but contained far more real world wisdom than all of the steroid and supplement driven mainstream mags put together.

The abbreviated workouts extolled in Hardgainer revolutionised my weight training, and the results I got from it, and little did I know that only a few years later I would own my own gym and be training people using these principles.

The success I had with those courageous enough to train properly was nothing short of spectacular, and the cornerstone of any abbreviated weight training routine is the 20-rep squat.

Now, I’m talking free weight squats – no stack machines or Smith machines, which force the body through one plane of movement that can cause injury.

It’s not within the scope of this article to get into detail about the form of the squat, but suffice to say you should get a very good trainer who knows exactly what he’s doing, or alternatively, and perhaps better, grab a copy of Stuart McRobert’s book ‘Brawn’, the bible of abbreviated weight training.

When I say high rep squats, I mean heavy! You might think high reps equals light weight, but once you have the form sorted out, you can squat more for 20 reps than you used to be able to squat for far less. All you do is one set per week (not including warm-up sets), and if you go up in weight gradually by using cycles in your routines, you should be squatting your body weight for 20 fairly soon, and the results you will have will be spectacular.

Traditionally squatting one and a half times our body weight for 20 is the first goal, and at that point you will notice a huge difference in your body!

Right, let’s look at the benefits of high rep squats that I have experienced, both first hand and from training numerous people…

They will tone you up much faster than any other exercise, and the effect is not limited to the legs and back. I have had people train with one set of 20-rep squats exclusively for a cycle or two, and they have put an inch or two on their arms without doing any arm work!

They release growth hormone in a way that accelerates the anabolic process, even making other exercises done in the same workout more effective.

They WILL tone you up quicker than anything else, so ladies, get on them! No amount of half-hearted cardio work and “nancying about” with toy plastic dumbbells will have anywhere near the same effect. Have courage and train properly!

They are satisfying! Once you get into them, the pure satisfaction of lifting heavier every week than you have ever done before is a reward in itself. The fact that you are building a stunning body is almost an afterthought!

They are superbly good for cardiovascular fitness. The heart and lungs are trained very hard during a set of 20 reppers, and some say it’s all the cardio you need. Well, that’s debatable, but it certainly ties in with the recent thinking that heavy efforts and sprints are preferable to hours of pounding the pavement when it comes to fat burning and fitness.

They are easier on the joints! Yes, seriously! If you learn the form properly, so they are safe, you can hit one set really hard and than go home, whereas those people who do six half hearted sets of six to ten reps are actually lifting more in total, putting more stress on their joints, but doing less good.

They contribute massively to bone and ligament health, keeping all your lifting and supporting structures in good order This is like a life insurance policy to keep your body working well way into the later years.

They cut down on workout time! Who likes to spend hours and hours in the gym? Nobody really, especially those who do train for hours, because they are usually very dissatisfied with their long, overtraining routines because they get no results.

The only downside of 20-rep squat based routines is people accusing you of being on steroids because they think you’re not doing enough sets for the amazing results you’re getting. It’s happened to me!

So, get on them now! Combine them with Ayurvedic exercise principles and the Three-Phase Workout, and then stretch out all the kinks with a relaxing Somatic Movement routine, and you will have an exercise programme that will turbocharge your health!

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