Athlete Journal: Michael Winchester, Entry 8 – 4/15/12

Michael details how the CrossFit Central crew uses the infamous “1×20 Back Squat” exercise to increase both their mental and physical strength. Squat, breathe, squat, breathe.

Schedule of CrossFit Athlete Journals:

Mondays – Ingrid Kantola

Wednesdays – Travis Holley

Sundays – Michael Winchester

Michael Winchester – Athlete Journal 4/15/12

(Read Michael’s Bio here)

A Potent Training Tool

As CrossFitters, we are always looking for ways to train that will increase our physical and mental work capacity. We need strength, we need endurance, and we need the mental fortitude to grind through brutal WODs.

In our search for new and different training tools, we often come across things we incorporate into our daily, weekly, or monthly regimen. At CrossFit Central and the RedBlack Gym we have found a tool that works all of our physical and mental faculties and pushes us to do things we would not imagine we could.

1×20 Back Squat

If you are looking to increase your strength, there is one workout you need to implement starting THIS WEEK! It’s called “Super Squats,” “Heavy Breathing Squats,” or simply “1×20 Back Squats.” It is quite possibly one of the most challenging things I have done in strength and conditioning to date.

It’s quite simple – BUT NOT EASY: Take your 10-rep max back squat (approximately 70-75% of your 1RM) and squat it twenty times. Easy right? Not so fast. In between each squat, you must take three deep breaths. This is not a negotiable. This is mandatory.

The point of this training is not only to induce a physical and mental adaptation, but a hormonal one as well. By loading the bar with such a weight, squatting to full depth twenty times, and breathing deep between each squat, you are teaching yourself to:

  1. Handle heavy load over time (if you do it right, you will be under load for between 2:30 and 3:00 minutes)
  2. Take in oxygen under load.
  3. Quiet the demons in your head!

Your body will also undergo a huge hormonal response, which will lead to increased muscle and strength over time.

Trust me, this is as much mental as it is physical. Reps 1-10 should be fairly easy. When you hit rep 13, you will question your ability to finish. By rep 15, you will be sweating profusely, and the last 5 reps will all feel like 1-rep maxes. Perfect.

What Next?

Each week, you are to increase the weight. It can be by five pounds or by ten, but my recommendation is to move in small increments of five. If you are strictly in the strength game, you could perform the 1×20 two or three times in a week. Make sure you are not supplementing any other squats in your weekly workouts, as you are getting plenty in your 1×20 sessions.

For CrossFitters, I strongly urge you to use this only one time per week. We do so many things that tax the central nervous system (CNS) and metabolic engine that this could potentially push you over the edge. Only take this on if you know you can handle the stress and your recovery is on-point. Hit a six-week cycle and then take one week off. Start again at the same weight you left at the end of the sixth week, and go through another six-week cycle.

After the two six-week cycles, you will find yourself feeling stronger in workouts with weights that once felt heavy. Your mental game should be on-point and 21-15-9 with 95lbs. will feel like a joke.

Personal Testimony

My friend and training partner Travis Holley and myself went through one seven-week cycle, and the results were undeniable.

I started week one at 265lbs, then moved through 275, 280, 285, 290, 295 and ended our cycle at 300lbs. Each Friday was a “game day.” The night before, I would visualize myself moving through each of the twenty squats. Sometimes doubt would creep in (would I be able to finish?) but each time, and quickly, I pushed those thoughts aside and focused on the goal – twenty reps at “x” weight.

Our sessions consisted of a light bodyweight dynamic warm up, sled pushes and pulls to start preparing our muscles and CNS for the work ahead, and then some lighter sets of squats to grease the groove. It is imperative you warm yourself up properly – if you do not, you might as well go home.

By the time we stepped up to the bar, the deed was already done – in our heads – and so we made those thoughts our reality. Breathing in between each of the squats, you find yourself in a different place.

Use It – Don’t Abuse It!

If you are looking for something new to add to your weekly training sessions – something you have not tried before and something that will deliver HUGE RESULTS – this is it.

But use only as prescribed!

If you do not execute the 1×20 as outlined above, you risk failing to reap all of the benefits that this training tool has to offer. Squat, breathe, squat, breathe.

Breathing between each of the squats, you find yourself in a different place. Don’t avoid it – go there. There is a deep, dark pain cave yet to be explored.

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