A Year of Training 1-Rep Max Calculators and 20 Rep-Squats

1-Rep Max Calculators

According to the 1-Rep Max Calculator at this website I can now squat 408 pounds. The problem is that recently I was doing 5 sets of 3 with 305 pounds (the calculator says that my max based on my performance on sets of 3 is 335). I’m not too sure what to make of this, except to think that on a curve of endurance vs pure power my body tends toward the endurance end of the scale. So perhaps a man who can squat 408 for a single rep typically can only do 245 for a straight set of twenty. I’m not sure.

The Twenty Rep Squat

But to back off on the weight for a brief time (three weeks) I am reincorporating twenty rep squats into my routine. In so doing, last night I did a 20-rep squat with 245 pounds after a warm up of 10 repetitions with 135.
The twenty rep-squat is where you choose a weight wherein you could comfortably do a few sets of 8-10 reps. Then, instead of doing several sets in a given rep range, you do one set of twenty reps, no matter how hard, hopefully coming to a place where the last rep is barely manageable.

The nice things about twenty rep squats are:

  1. The lower weight allows your body to make slower progress while recovering from previous months of heavy heavy squats.
  2. The lower weight and buildup of fatigue during the set still allows for the psychological trauma of maximum effort for the last few reps.
  3. Because the weight is fairly light, I can do dead lift right after I finish for 3 sets of 3 to keep my form up during a rest cycle without getting too sore.
  4. Your cardiovascular system is under a tremendous amount of stress for a prolonged period of time.
  5. You only have to do them for about three weeks.

Current Place in Program

3 Weeks  Wednesday
20 Rep Squat
3×3 Dead Lift
3×8 Hammer Strength Rows
3×5 Hammer Strength Bench Press
20 Rep Squat
3×8 Hammer Strength Bench Press
3×5 Hammer Strength Pull Downs

By the end of this my 20 rep squat will be 275 pounds for 20 reps, my 3×3 on Dead Lift will be 300, my sets of eight on rows will be 105, my sets on pull downs will be 105, my sets on bench press should be 140 pounds (I’m not sure if others have experienced this, but I had to drop weight by a lot to use the Hammer Strength equipment).

When I’m done with these three weeks, I’ll go back to a low rep-scheme again and hopefully find myself continuing progress with a sort of tangent graph pattern. Increase weight in low rep ranges for 4-6 weeks, decrease weight and increase reps and make progress in that range for 3 weeks to recover, then low rep ranges for 4-6 weeks again.

A Year of Progress

When I was younger and less beat up by time (I have a genetic bone disorder, so arthritis has prematurely set into my left elbow by several decades), I was unusually strong. When I trained in my garage in my early twenties I achieved certain feats of strength that are still difficult for me to imagine. At the time I saved money by eating once in the evening, so I only weighed 135 pounds. I thus made it a point to lift in a very low rep range to burn less calories. I also only lifted every five days. My Dead Lift was 365 for 3 sets of 3, same with squat and my bench press was 225 for the same rep range. I could also do sets of 3 chin-ups with 90 pounds on a belt. It never crossed my mind at the time how strong I was compared to other people because all of my much larger friends could lift much more weight.

But grad school came and a place to live without a garage (and thus no weight equipment) came, and I got out of shape. As soon as I finished my master’s degree I told my wife, “We’re going to the gym before we get weak and lazy.” So we did. At the beginning of the year Jan 3, 2013, we started lifting weights. It’s been slow going progress for me. I tore a muscle moving a couch down stairs out of our apartment so my squat weight had to be decreased on an almost permanent basis. Every time I approached the 270 range, or walk up stairs, I’d re-injure it. Nevertheless, I weight the most I’ve ever weighed in my strength training career and I’m approaching all of my old strength records. I hope to surpass them (having extra muscle weight will surely help). So in a year I’ve gone from struggling to Dead Lift 185 do easily dead lifting 285. I’ve gone from struggling to do a chin-up to being able to do 8 (while weighing 20 pounds more than I did a yea ago). I’ve gone from having constant elbow pain to merely having episodic pain.

My wife went from struggling to do a set of twenty body weight squats to briefly being able to do sets of 5 with 130 pounds before she started getting scared (which affected her form). So we worked on her form for a month and are reintroducing weight again. She went from thinking dead lift looked weird to being able to dead lift 130 pounds for reps. She’s on her way to doing a chin-up and a body weight dip. All in all it’s been a good year in training.

4 thoughts on “A Year of Training 1-Rep Max Calculators and 20 Rep-Squats

  1. Since 20 rep squats are typically a maximum effort endeavor that drains not only your musculoskeletal system but also your cns wouldn’t you do them last?

    • Not for a three week recovery cycle. I was doing them last on the program I was using from September to December. And I’m not sure I buy into the 20 rep squats draining the CNS thing. I’ve always been able to use them without feeling any sort of fatigue of that nature. Maybe it does and I just don’t know what CNS fatigue is.

      Day 1:
      Pulldowns/Chins 3×8
      HS Bench Press 3×5 maximum effort
      Straight Arm Pull Downs 1 set to failure
      Pec Deck Flies 1 set to Failure
      Squats 20 rep squat, one set to failure.

      Day 2:
      Dead Lift 5×3 Maximum Effort
      Rows 3×5
      H.S. Bench Press 2 sets of 10 light weight
      Leg Press 1 set of 20 (I stopped when the weight surpassed 700 pounds because its a good way to get injured if you make one mistake).

      Day 3
      Squats 5×3 Maximum Effort
      Leg Curls 3×10
      H.S. Pull Downs 3×5 maximum effort.
      H.S. Bench Press 1 set to failure in the 10-12 rep range.

      I was able to improve every rotation on every exercise this past cycle hitting the weights twice a week, so hitting each work out every three gym trips. The biggest issue for me is finding pressing movements that aren’t all weird on my elbow. So far H.S. Bench is the only one that accompanies by awful crunching.

  2. If it works, it works I suppose. I think for me it’s just mentally easier to know that after this really hard set I am about to do I don’t have to do anything else.

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