The Perfect 20

Build your best wheels ever, 20 reps at a time.


Per Bernal

Vertical Leg Press


The session begins simply enough with warmups. Although plenty of people skimp on this part of the workout, it really can make a ton of difference in your performance on the bigger lifts to come. The secret is doing enough to get the muscles primed without fatiguing yourself.

Start with a five-minute walk on a treadmill, low speed. Discard the magazines and click off the TV during this time. Instead, you’ll want to think. Consider your breaths—a deep inhale in, a long exhale out. Feel your legs—the knees bending and extending, the contraction and relaxation of the muscles at the hip—as you settle into a comfortable stride.

Got it? Now you can let your thoughts drift to your workout. The first time through, it’ll be all new to you, of course, but as you become more familiar with it, use this time to visualize each lift, imagining the perfect execution and how you’ll feel as you move the weight.

After five minutes, you’ll do a set of 10 slow, controlled, deep ass-to-grass squats, just your body weight. Take each rep slowly, pausing in between, working to keep your balance on the way up and down by exerting full control over the motion. With that, it’s time for the first exercise.

Per Bernal

Leg Extension


This workout doesn’t go off the grid when it comes to exercises. You’re not going to find any radical, esoteric movements in the mix—just squats, leg presses, hack squats, curls, and extensions. Instead, it’s how you’ll do each one that will veer from the ordinary.

Your goal is simple yet challenging: For each exercise, your only goal is 20 flawless reps. This doesn’t mean picking an easy weight, doing a set of 20 reps, and calling it a day. The reps should be performed with your 10RM max, which means the amount of weight you can handle for 10 reps exactly—no more, no less. It will take some trial and error, but once you’ve determined your 10RM for each lift, you’ll have the benchmark to base future increases on.

First up is the squat. (You’ll rotate your starting exercise week to week between the squat, leg press, and hack squat.) You’ll begin with three to four warmup sets to gradually advance to your 10RM. Do no more than 10 reps per set as you work your way up. Once you’re there, it’s time for the working sets, where you’ll do as many reps as you can with 10RM.

The key? Be picky about form. It helps to have a partner judge for you, but if you’re alone, you can still determine in your mind what a perfect rep is. No cheating, no bouncing in the bottom, no stopping short before your thighs go parallel to the floor.

This means, if a rep isn’t perfect, you don’t tally it. Your first set may hit 11 reps, but only eight may count toward your goal of 20. That’s OK. You have as many more sets as it takes to reach that overall total.

Rest between sets is up to you, with two to three minutes being a fair guideline. You may go a little less, you may go a little more, but your aim is to recover enough mentally and physically to be able to do another round of solid, textbook reps.

For example, if your 10RM squat is 225 pounds, your working sets might end up like this: 

  • Set No. 1: 11 reps (9 “perfect”)
  • Set No. 2: 8 reps (6 “perfect”)
  • Set No. 3: 5 reps (3 “perfect”)
  • Set No. 4: 3 reps (2 “perfect”)

Total: 27 total reps, 20 “perfect” 

Getting the most out of this requires you to be especially honest with yourself. A nit picky partner is a solid weapon, but if you don’t have that, you’ll need to seek out your inner perfectionist and let him run wild.


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