20 Rep Squats (are not for everyone)

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If your employment required you to load far more than your body weight onto your shoulders and repeatedly lift it, you would be moaning and griping, soliciting the services of Metzger Wickersham.

There would be a TV news hard-luck segment about what a person will go through to provide for their family. Those watching would feel both pity and admiration for your miserable lot in life. Some might even ask how they can help you evade all that weight in favor of something more sensible.

But once every week or so in my basement, a few lunatics line up to willingly experience a misery that defies sensibility. We don't get paid a cent, though the payoff per unit of time is enormous.

I can’t wait to dread it. Under the bar is a deep place of meditation, with "twenty” my mantra.

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Is everybody in? 

The ceremony is about to begin. 

     -The Doors

Wake up. Your head must be ready for this. 

Stand with your arms draped across the barbell set to chest level, loaded with a weight that's a struggle to handle for one good squat. You're going for twenty. Doing twenty. Just go.

[Disclaimer - barbell squats are an awesome exercise that make you awesome. Yet most individuals could use a few days, weeks, or even months of corrective exercise and work on precise form before challenging themselves. Squats don't hurt people. People hurt people.]

Injured? Heck no. You may fail, but you probably won't get injured. It's only 1 or 2 percent more resistance than what you attempted just 6 or 7 days ago.

So get in there. Step under the bar and lock it into the groove across your scapula. Breath deeply and brace your entire upper body for one punishing isometric. In the last moment before the first and possibly worst descent, you must see yourself hitting that first rep, feel the joints loaded, digging out of the bottom position.

It’s time. 

Descend smoothly, see white as you brake and accelerating the weight upward.


Damn, that’s heavy. You’re crazy for lifting it once, much less twenty times.


The sooner you move on, the sooner you’re finished. This will end.


A little winded, hearts racing. Nothing exists except the task at hand. Nice.


Somewhere in here, a rep or two actually feels pleasant. You’ve found the groove, firing on all cylinders.



You're in plenty deep enough to experience the misery. This is not joint pain, but the ache of every muscle ablaze from the mental effort required to maintain form.



Few hard-core gym-rats squat, and most that do have racked the weight by now. They're sitting on the leg extension machine drinking bottled water.


The whole idea of 20 reps squats is pointless stupidity made up by some idiot.


Yes, half way! Ugh, half way.


You embrace the sting and throbbing as evidence of pushing your limits. Yeah, you went there.


When everything tells you to quit, you decide not to. 


You’re an unfeeling machine executing pre-programmed instruction. There's no choice in the matter.


You will never look at a barbell again, much less lift one. 


It’s down to five. Right about now is why you don’t train on a full stomach.


The bar heaves, climbs upward so slowly. You thought you saw a splinter of light. Is that the end of the tunnel?


No. That thought helped you for one rep, but you’re heading into the valley now. The dark pit of hell, the physical and mental test that's the point of all this. [Whether you're fighting against 40 or 400 pounds is not the least bit important, as long as it drags you through the valley.]





Each and every time you make it through the valley, you really do come out as a different person.

No. Nobody. No one fails at 19.

You explode, throwing the weight through the roof. Did gravity lessen? No, the bar still sank and then barely ascended at all.


You stagger and lean forward to rack the beast. Unload. Unwind. Finally. Careful now. You should sit down or hold onto something for at least a minute or so. The world will return in a moment.

You did something…strange and extraordinary. Your potential is not unplumbed. You didn't need 26 miles to find a test. You didn't need a surfboard and a tsunami to get you adrenaline pumping. You didn't need to have your face turned inside out to get something you can feel.

Squats are easier on your face than Fight Club


Cholesterol, blood pressure, hormone regulation, blah blah blah. Yeah, I'm sure you can - next week, move the resistance up just 1 or 2 percent. That's not very much more. That's not for everyone.

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