When it comes to building mass, the ’20 Squat’ program is one of the most effective and demanding regimens out there. The program dates back to the 1930s when it was referred to as breathing squats. If you’ve done the program before, you know why.

So how does this program work?

The aim is for the lifter to complete 20 unbroken reps with the weight that is currently their max for 5 in just 6 weeks! Sound crazy? Only the brave dare proceed.

Despite its simplicity, the 20 rep program is considered to be one of the most demanding mass building lifting cycles out there. The program has been around for more than fifty years and has been used time and time again by lifters looking to gain lean mass and strength over a short period.

For those who are looking to try out this workout, here’s some advice… perseverance and determination are key to successfully complete the program. You’ll be squatting three times a week with one set of twenty repetitions each session. Your goal is to successfully add five pounds each session over the six week protocol. Sounds simple, right?

To begin, you must determine your starting weight. To do this, find your 5 rep max back squat – by squatting as much as you can 5 times of course! Then subtract ninety pounds from this number (since you will be working out three times a week, multiplied by six weeks of workout, and you are expected to improve by at least five pounds per week).

There are many variations of the 20 rep squat program you can choose from, but what we provide here is one of the most frequently used versions.

You have complete freedom to choose your own accessory work, but above you’ll see pull overs, military presses and power cleans recommended on top of your squats. The heart and soul of the program is the squat though, so if you would like to modify the program, no problem, just leave that part untouched.

This program is traditionally paired with consuming a gallon of milk per day until the six week regimen is completed. If you can’t consume that much or are lactose intolerant, consider pairing it up with another protein supplement. Just make sure not to take the milk directly before the workout to avoid vomiting (trust me on this:)). Stick to the program and the milk and in six weeks, you will be impressed by how much strength and mass you’ve gained.

Survival Tips

Long before cell phones, the internet and carrier pigeons, there was the old school strength training method known as the 20-rep squat program. It is a physically demanding, it is usually paired with a gallon of milk per day and it will make you big and strong.

Those who have tried the program will tell you that it is indeed as physically demanding as it sounds. Some of those who’ve tried it have given up halfway (not that we’d know anything about that), but those who have succeeded in completing the full six-weeks have been rewarded with incredible mass and strength gains.

For those with enough patience, courage and determination to try this program, here are some tips from lifters that have completed it, to help you survive 20-rep squat:

  1. Make sure to drink your milk, at least one gallon a day. Failure to take gainz nutrition into consideration may result in failure or injury as the body will not be able to get the nutrients it need for muscle growth and recovery.
  2. Take a series of 3-5 deep breaths for every rep. The breathing will allow your body to recharge mentally and physically as you aim for another rep. Your brain will then recruit high-threshold motor units to help you complete the set.
  3. Go easy on the other exercises. The squats are the core of the program. Make sure that you do not overwork your body by pushing it too far. The supporting exercises should not be as rigorous as the squats, so it is recommended to lower the weights that you use for them.
  4. Pay attention to recovery- Aside from nutrition, make sure to go easy on your body and take the rest days to let your body recharge and recover from the previous workouts. Sleeping six to eight hours a day is also a very helpful way of recharging your body.
  5. Eyes on the goal- Be as determined and focused as you can be when performing the workout. Keep your goal in mind and let the thought of a stronger, bigger you motivate you in completing each session.

Well, now are you ready?

Mobile App

This is the app that we previously recommended.  It hasn’t been updated in some time though and for many users it appears to not save their workouts.  For now, our recommendation is to stick with our downloadable spreadsheet linked at the top of this page.


Hey there lifter! Have a question in mind? Here’s some of the most frequently asked questions about the 20 Rep Squat Program to get you started.

If you can’t find an answer to the question you have in mind, feel free to leave us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

  1. How long does the program last?

The program generally last for six weeks that is if you plan to do the standard 3 workouts per week. You can opt to go for an eight-week program wherein you would be working out 2x per week. The choice among the two options really depends on how quickly your body recovers.

  1. How do I figure out my starting weight?

First, you need to figure out your 5RM (that would be your end weight for the program) and then subtract five pounds for every session. See formula below:

Starting Weight= 5RM-[5lbs (3workouts per week*6 weeks)]
  1. What weight should I use for the other exercises?

The rule is simple, the weight should not be more than what you will be using for your squats. The exercises are meant as accessory movements.

  1. What form of squat should I use?

Good form of course! Feel free to use high or low bar, it really depends on your goals. Are you a weightlifter? Maybe high bar is better for you. Powerlifter? Maybe low bar is the way to go.

  1. When should I take my milk?

Taking milk before a workout is definitely a NO go as there is a risk of you vomiting during the work-out. Take it all throughout the day after you have done your workout. Do your best to stick with the the prescribed one gallon per day though.

  1. What if a gallon each day is too much for me?

If eight pints sound like too much, you may choose alternative protein supplements but just like the milk, make sure to take it after the workout.

  1. Can I do this program continuously?

Since this program is very physically challenging, we suggest you take at least a six week break after completing the cycle before going for another round of the 20-rep squat.

  1. What exercise can I do for warm-up?

Before you go for a whole set of the squat, make sure to perform a few sets of ten reps with a lighter weight. You may also add in some stretching and mobility work as part of the warm-up.