'Ball Busters', Widow-Makers, Man Breakers. These are words used to describe the 20 rep squat. But back in the golden age of bodybuilding, before expensive supplements and better living through chemistry, this is how the old school weight lifters got BIG. If you can suffer through the 6 weeks that it takes to get through this routine you will grow bigger legs and even bigger balls. Mark Rippetoe says, "Trust me, if you do an honest 20 rep program, at some point Jesus will talk to you. On the last day of the program, he asked if he could work in." Don't say I didn't warn you.The 20 rep squat routine was first developed in the 1930's by Mark H.Berry and can be found in his book The Mark Berry Barbell Courses!

The Original 20 Rep Squat Program

  • Behind-the-Neck Press: 3x12
  • Squat: 1x20
  • Pull-Overs: 1x20
  • Bench Press: 3x12
  • Bent-over Rows: 3x15
  • Stiff-legged Deadlift: 1x15
  • Shrug: 1x15
  • Pull-Overs: 1x20

20 Rep Squat Program (Scaled Down)

  • Squat: 1x20
  • Pull over 1x20
  • Overhead press 5x5
  • Power clean 5x5

20 Rep Squat Power Program

  • Power Cleans: 5x3
  • Squat: 1x20
  • Standing Press: 2-3x12
  • Chin-Ups: 2 sets to failure
  • Dips: 2x10
  • Conventional Deadlifts: 1x15

Metabolic Conditioning 20 Rep Squat Program

  • Squat: 1x20
  • Pull-Overs: 1x20
  • Circuit training:
  • 3 rounds of bodyweight Chin-ups, Dips, and Sit-ups.
  • Everything is taken to failure and 1 min rest is taken between exercises.

Program Questions

How many workouts are there per week?

Depending on your recovery, 2-3 workouts per week.

How long do I stay on this program?

6 weeks if working out 3x/week, 8 weeks if working out 2x/week.

What should my squat starting weight be?

There are two ways you can figure this out:

  1. Start with your current 10 rep max.
  2. Take your current 5RM and subtract 5 pounds for every workout that you'll do in the 6 or 8 week period. So if your current 5RM is 315 and you plan to workout 3x/week (6 weeks, 18 workouts total), that would be 315-(5*18)=225lbs. You'd start with 225lbs.

How in the world does one squat their 10 rep max 20 times?

Did I mention these are also called "breathing squats?" That's because you'll be taking big gulps of air between reps. You won't be doing these straight through, expect to spend a good 3 minutes getting through your set.

What weight is used on the pull-overs?

The old timers did pull-overs to "stretch their rib cage." I don't know how successful they were, but I do recognize that it also worked as a cooldown. Immediately after you finish your squats, grab a light 25 lb. bar or plate and belt out 20 reps. They shouldn't be grueling at all, although you'll still feel like shit from the squats.

What weight should I use for the other exercises?

Use a weight that you can successfully get all your reps with. The other exercises aren't meant to be as grueling as the squats.


They didn't call this program "Squats and Milk" for nothing. This is the original gallon of milk per day program. Following the dietary considerations from the nutritional section will be fine. Between the HGH released from the high rep squatting and the IGF-1 from the whole milk, your body will think it's been given steroids. Just don't drink any milk too soon before your workout. You will probably vomit.

Squat form?

High Bar Squats were the weapon of choice in the 60's. Low Bar is fine too, although the emphasis placed on the lower back during the later reps may increase the risk of injury (especially when the most taxing reps can turn into a Good Morning-like movement in the top portion of the lift).

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