Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Weightlifting: 20 Rep Squats, Ditching the Bench Press

One old school bodybuilding routine I'd never tried was the famous 20 rep squat routine. You'd do one set of 20 reps in the squat, followed by 3 sets of pullovers, and then go drink a gallon of milk and call it a day. The pullovers were supposed to expand your rib cage, which they probably didn't do, but the 20 rep squats certainly worked. Seeing how I was burned out on heavy squats, I decided to give this a shot on my Tuesday workout. I've squatted 415 lbs low-bar style, but I went pretty light on these, since I rarely go over 5 reps. The first time I did 205, and it was like running a sprint up a hill with a 90 degree incline. Every week I've added 10 lbs, and today I did 235 for 20, which wasn't too bad. On Thursday I do front squats, usually working up to a heavy double or triple, and that, with the 20 rep squats, composes my squat work for the week. I hit a PR of 310 lbs in the front squat last week, and I'd like to push the 20 rep squats up into the 300 lbs range before going back to low rep training. All in all, I think high rep squats are a good challenge and an excellent way to break the monotony of training.

Another change as of late is my dropping all bench pressing in favor of strict overhead work. During the winter, I suffered some sort of shoulder injury, and now the bottom position of a bench press or even a push up is uncomfortable. If I press horizontally, my right shoulder usually aches for days afterwards, so I guess I've finally torn something. Overhead pressing gives me no shoulder pain. The bench press has a reputation as a shoulder destroyer, so if something starts hurting, I think it's probably best to just drop the lift unless you can afford shoulder surgery. Really the bench press is only essential for powerlifting, and if you don't plan on competing, there's no reason to bench. I'm 10 lbs off of overhead pressing 200 lbs, which would be a good PR for me, since I only weigh about 196 currently.

This brings me to my closing topic: choosing your own lifts. Don't be a slave to the deadlift, back squat, and bench press. The powerlifting big 3 don't necessarily have to be your big 3. Front squats, overhead presses, and cleans will build strength and athleticism as much if not more than the powerlifts. Cleans in particular are fun. I recently did 230 lbs, which isn't impressive, but I think it's more of a challenge to pick a weight up and get it to your shoulders than to simply lift it from the ground.

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