20 Rep Squat Routine

One of the fastest ways to gain size and strength in the entire body is by following the squats and milk program. This is an old time routine that has been around for over 75 years, but it works awesome for fast gains. Even if you are a hard gainer.

The way it works is you train 3 days per week (i.e. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).

Each workout you will start with full squats. Do 2-3 easy warm up sets to get the blood flowing and to warm up your joints. Then take a moderate weight and do 1 set of 20 reps. For each rep take a couple big mouthfuls of air, hold your breath, squat down and up, and repeat. As you progress through the reps you will need to take more breaths in between reps. During reps 15-20 you may need to take 5 or more big mouthfuls of air in between reps. It takes me 3 minutes to complete 1 set all out set of 20 rep squats.

Right after the squats while you are still out of breath, grab a light barbell (i.e. 25 lbs.) and do pull overs while lying on a flat bench. Take a deep breath in between each rep and really feel the stretch in the rib cage as you do the exercise. Do 1 set of 20 rep pull overs with 25 lbs. Keep using 25 lbs. for the pull overs as this exercise is just for stretching the rib cage.

Barbell Pull Overs

Barbell Pullover Picture

Each workout add 5 lbs. to the squats and get all 20 reps. This is the key to making serious gains with the program. You have to make 5 lb. jumps in weight each workout. I just finished a squat routine like this and within 2 months I worked up from doing 20 rep squats with 225 lbs. to 20 reps with 315 lbs.

When doing this program you should do full squats. I personally squat down until the back of my legs touch my calfs. This will make the squats far more effective for muscle growth.

Full Squat
Full Squat, High Bar Squat, Olympic Squat

Another thing, do NOT wear a weight lifting belt while doing the 20 rep squats. By squatting with out a belt you will strengthen your lower back and it will be easier to take deep breaths while doing high rep squats.

Make no mistake about it this routine is brutally tough, those 20 rep squats will take every bit of energy that you have, but the gains are awesome. This routine will stimulate your entire body to grow from the stress of the squats. And the pull overs will help to stretch your rib cage and make your chest bigger.

After you finish the squats and pull overs do a circuit of:

Chin Ups
Chin Up Picture

Dip Picture

Decline Bench Sit Ups
Sit Up Picture

Do a set of chin ups for as many reps as you can
Rest a minute
Do a set of dips for as many reps as you can
Rest a minute
Do a set of decline bench sit ups for as many reps as you can

Do this circuit 3 times and your workout is done.

Do this exact routine 3 days per week. Each time make sure to add 5 lbs. to the squats and try to pump out more reps with the chins, dips, and sit ups. This will work every major muscle group in your body and force you to grow like nothing else.

Tom Platz Squatting Big Iron
Tom Platz did high rep squatting as a regular part of his workout routine.
Not only did he have huge legs, but he was huge and thick all over.

As for your diet you need to eat as much food as you can and as often as you can. The program is called “squats and milk” because the old timers used to drink at least 1 gallon of milk every single day to help them gain weight with the program. Milk is high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and calories.

A typical days eating for this program would look like this:

4 eggs
2 slices of toast
1 glass of milk

Bran Muffin
1 glass of milk

Sandwich (i.e. meat, cheese, tuna fish, etc.)
piece of fruit
1 glass of milk

Granola bar
Slice of cheese
1 glass of milk

Meat (i.e. chicken, beef, pork, etc.)
Pasta, Rice, or Potatoes
Cup of veggies
1 glass of milk

2 slices of toast
1 glass of milk

*drink plenty of water throughout the day

If you like you can mix a scoop of protein powder in your milk for even more protein and calories.

This is just a sample eating plan, you can change it around to suit your own taste. But you get the idea of how much you should eat and how often in order to gain size and strength.

If you strictly follow the squats and milk program you will gain approx. 20 lbs. of bodyweight in just 2 months.

About The Author


Lee Hayward is a former competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online coaching people since 1997. His work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes. Lee's main focus right now is with helping men over 40 - who don't want to be fat anymore - lose the gut, build muscle, and get back in shape. If you're ready to "Start Again" for the last time and finally build a lean healthy body that you can be proud of, just e-mail Lee to discuss a realistic action plan that's right for you... lee@leehayward.com


  • Sean

    I don’t do this exact routine, but I have added the 20-rep squats into my leg routine and have already made great gains. I think the heavy high squat sets really push the legs to failure. I usually do low rep heavy sets, but since hurting my back a year ago, I am loving this 20-rep squats with moderate weight. It works my cardio and my strength at the same time. Once I can do the heavy stuff at 20 reps, I know my legs will be HUGE by then. 😉

    Thanks Lee!

  • sheldon

    i just started the 20 squats routine from dobermen dan. but i like that lee has included a meal plan.i normally do 4sets of 6.but doin 20 straight is something different. I LOVE IT THOUGH. is it ok if you do it more than 3x a week? as long as your body feels like it can do it?

  • sheldon: i just started the 20 squats routine from dobermen dan. but i like that lee has included a meal plan.i normally do 4sets of 6.but doin 20 straight is something different. I LOVE IT THOUGH. is it ok if you do it more than 3x a week? as long as your body feels like it can do it?  

    I wouldn’t do this more then 3 times per week. Once you build up to using heavier weights even 3 times per week is a bit much and you may have to cut back to twice per week. But you could do some extra upper body workouts instead.

  • sheldon

    cool thanks man.yeah before i never used to like doing squats.i use to do curl squats only. but now im loving squats! even though im super tired after..i feel jacked n wanting to throw down with some more weights.thanks lee. as vince delmonte said “lee hayward’s is a beast!”

  • Rob J

    I just started the S&M program today. Bored with me current routine, and have been wanting to try this routine for a while now. I’ll see how it goes.

    What about mixing in some cardio routines on the off days?

  • Rob J

    typo, meant to say bored with my routine.

  • Devan

    hey lee, im starting this program today and was wondering if i could maybe add in some pushups to the circuit, would this help or just slow down my progress? your thoughts please? thanks

  • That gallon of milk diet is interesting… I wonder if they gained a lot of excess bodyfat though…

  • Now that is a hardcore workout right there. Also, I used to drink a lot of milk but cut it out of my diet due to the high sugar content. Do you think it’s ok to drink that much milk and not gain a ton of excess fat?

  • Hey there Lee nice to meet you. Your before and after pictures are very impressive to say the least. I’ve bookmarked your blog and I’ll be back to check out the rest of your stuff. Thanks!


  • randy

    hi lee I was wondering if you couldnt add 5 pounds each workout is there something else I could do to continue adding stress (Damn the economy!! D:) thanks!

  • Pat

    I did a variation of the 20 rep squat routine back in the early 90’s. I went from 172 lbs to 208 lbs in 90 days. I made huge gains in size and strength. My bench press went up over 100 lbs in that time frame (to over 315 lbs.), and squats more than that. If you have the dedication to do this, you will not be sorry.