Total-body barbell training 3

(Image credit: unknown)

This month's workout is a real test of mental and physical fortitude. The focus is on developing total-body strength through a combination of three squatting protocols, starting with a classic – 20 reps of squats.

To begin with, warm up by working up to a weight you can back squat for ten reps. Then perform a single set of 20 reps at this weight. If that sounds counter-intuitive, that is because it is. It is made possible by performing ‘breathing squats’, which means taking deep breaths in between reps, especially the latter half. This is the barbell version of cardio.

Make no mistake, this is no easy ride. You’ll need serious willpower to even start this set, let alone finish it. 

After a short rest, re-address the bar, lower yourself to the bottom of the squat, and hold it there for up to 60 seconds. This is a lesson in maintaining tightness of the body in a deep squat. You must strive to maintain perfect body position for the duration of the time and you will realise how essential your core is in this process. To complete the rep, fire up your posterior chain and stand back up with the weight. 

Finally, address the same bar in a front squat rack position and hold it in this position for 30 seconds. By now both your lower back and your abdominal muscles will be screaming for the end of the session. Endure this hold for 30 seconds and you’re done!

You will need - A barbell loaded with your ten-rep max back squat weight

- A squat rack


- 20 x back squat 

Rest 3-5min

- 30-second hold in back squat bottom position

Rest 3-5min

- 15-second hold in standing front squat rack position


- 20 x back squat

Rest 3-5min

- 45-second hold in back squat bottom position

Rest 3-5min

- 30-second hold in standing front squat rack position


- 20 x back squat

Rest 3-5min

- 60-second hold in back squat bottom position

Rest 3-5min

- 30-second hold in standing front squat rack position

If after the workout, you decide like these 20-rep squats and you want more (you can be certain neither of these thoughts will enter your brain during the workout), then look to add 5kg of weight each time you do it. You can perform these high-rep squats two to three times a week, recovery permitting. Be prepared for a big increase in size and total body strength.

How to do the moves

Back squat

- Walk up to the bar in the rack with and address it standing with feet shoulder-width apart.

- Squat under the bar and put it on your back.

- Position your feet directly under the bar and take a narrow grip on the bar to help keep your back tight .

- Tighten your body, raise your chest and push up to unrack the bar.

- Step back carefully, one foot at a time.

- Take a deep breath and, leading with the hips, squat down and push your knees out.

- Squat past parallel, so your hips are lower than your knees.

- Drive up out of the bottom of the squat fast.

- Take another breath and squat again.

Back squat bottom position hold

- Follow back squat form.

- Once you are well below parallel, stay tight and hold the position, with your chest up and your knees out.

- Once your hold time is up, explosively drive up back out of the squat.

Front squat rack position hold

- Walk up to the bar in the rack with a shoulder-width stance.

- Set yourself under the bar and lift your chest and shoulders up to give the bar a solid base.

- Place the bar on your shoulders so they support the weight.

- Point your elbows up with your triceps parallel to the floor and your hands keeping the bar in place.

- Take a deep breath, take the bar out of the rack and hold.

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Know your coach

Chet Morjaria is a strength coach. He is sponsored by British sports nutrition company Boditronics and by British clothing company RazorStorm. He specialises in Olympic weightlifting and is a Level 2 British weightlifting coach. As well as training in powerlifting and strongman, he is head coach of Ironwork UK, a group of coaches who deliver workshops focusing on honing lifting skills and developing strength. You can contact him at

Chet Morjaria

In 2013, Chet wrote a series of articles for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, then shared a website with, Coach.