My Favorite Leg Finisher

August 03, 2022 | John Paul Catanzaro

getting ready for 20-rep squats

Everything in context!

I’m squatting with 225 pounds in the video below. It doesn’t look like much weight except that I’m doing 20 reps and I’m doing it at the “end” of my workout! I’ve already done multiple sets of front squats, glute-ham raises, reverse hypers, low-pulley knee-ins, and one-leg calf raises.

This is one of my favorite methods to build muscle and lose fat… and it will give you one heck of a cardio effect — you’ll feel like you just ran a marathon by the end!

The back squat is a multi-joint movement that activates over 200 muscles in the human body. When you do 20 reps with a decent weight, you’ll incur a huge oxygen debt (that’s the cardiorespiratory effect). Not only will you expend a lot of energy during the workout but also after the workout to repair and regenerate (that’s the fat-loss effect). And your body will adapt to the stimulus by beefing up its resources through several mechanisms to go to battle again (that’s the muscle-building effect).

It requires some serious mental fortitude to get the job done though. Your body will want to stop several times throughout the set. Don’t give in! Listen to the wise words of Britney Spears and keep “working” until you reach 20. It’s okay to take a breath or two between reps, but don’t quit until you reach your goal.

And don’t get sloppy! You’ll notice that I’m doing full range of motion squats with a controlled tempo. Now, you may not be able to go all the way down, but you should be able to control the speed. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. If you can’t do them right, don’t do them at all!

Go Beyond Your Maximum

Work up to a 10RM load. Yes, you read that right! Work up to a load that you can do for 10 reps maximum, but through sheer will, you’ll muster 20 reps, taking small breaks between reps as you fatigue. Think of it as doing 11 sets — the first set will be 10 reps, then you’ll do 11 singles after it with short rest between those singles and without putting the bar down. Of course, start conservative or you won’t make it. It’s better to initially err on the lighter side with a 15-20RM load and be successful than to go too heavy and fail.

I used to recommend “20 with 10RM” squats at the beginning of a workout, but after 1 set, you’d have nothing left for the rest of the workout. Doing it at the end works much better. Sure, you may have to use a slightly lighter load, but you’ll get a lot more out of the session and the results are incredible… that is, if you can do it!

With this method, I usually prescribe back squats or safety-bar squats at the end of a squat day and dumbbell deadlifts or hex-bar deadlifts at the end of a deadlift day, although that could change depending on the situation.

Give it a shot, but for safety purposes, dial “9” and “1” on your cell phone before you start the set and keep it nearby… and good luck!