On its own, the classic barbell squat can add size to your thighs, but with a simple tweak to your programming, this indispensable strength move translates to a leaner midsection, too. How: Go for 20 to 30 reps. This high-volume approach will elevate your metabolism, encourage muscle growth, and torch fat for hours after exercise — and because you’ll be sucking wind by the end of the set, this technique is aptly dubbed “breathing squats” (or, for the morbid, widowmakers).
The high reps burn up calories and increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). In science-speak, EPOC is a measure of how quickly your metabolism returns to pre-exercise status, which may be several hours after this gauntlet of a workout. According to a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, heavy resistance training using short rest intervals, like breathing squats, may boost EPOC by forcing your body to work overtime delivering oxygen to your muscles even after you stop moving. Think of it as exercise afterburn.
4-Week Metabolism-Boosting Workout
Do this training program twice per week for the next 28 days. In the first week, use no more than 95 pounds for the squat (otherwise you’ll feel crippled; trust us). After the first week, squat with a challenging weight that allows you to barely complete 10 reps with perfect technique. Once you hit the tenth rep, pause at the top, take a breath or two, and complete 10 to 20 single reps without re-racking the bar. Be sure to pause at the top between each rep, until you complete the set. Rest 45 seconds between sets. Complete 2A and 2B as a back-to-back superset, resting for 45 seconds after each exercise pair.
Full workout in the video below:
1A. Barbell “Breathing” Squat
- 4 sets x 30, 30, 20, 20 reps
2A. Barbell Romanian Deadlift
- 2 sets x 10 reps
2B. Kneeling “Nordic” Glute-Ham Raise
- 2 sets x 10 reps