The “10 Sets of 10” Method

I hate to break the news but in strength training, there’s really nothing new under the sun. Take the popular “10 sets of 10 reps” method. Most modern-day lifters were introduced to this system of training by Charles Poliquin in the July 1996 issue of Muscle Media 2000, but anyone familiar with Vince “The Iron Guru” Gironda knows it’s been around for a while. Check out this article I wrote on the subject a few years ago.

You’ll see the 10×10 system scattered among the literature over the decades from various sources. For instance, in a paper originally published in the Russian journal Teoriya i Praktika Fizicheskoi Kultury, authors Vaitesehofsky & Kiselev (1989) discuss a protocol involving 10 sets of 10 pull-ups where the weight is reduced every second set (i.e., additional loading is used to start such as 9kg, then down to 6kg, then 3kg, and then body weight to finish) or the grip is altered in the latter sets to draw new, unfatigued fibers into work. Long-time Iron Man Magazine contributor George Turner outlined a similar approach in his Real Bodybuilding audiotape series in the 1990s.

Here’s yet another example of this method presented in Robby Robinson’s autobiography The Black Prince:

“The majority of the time, Big George was doing ten sets of ten repetitions using two of the basic exercises. That was his thing; two exercises, ten sets, ten reps. He would invite me to do face-offs; you face your partner and do your ten curls with a 90 pound barbell, before passing it to him. With only a one minute rest while the other guy did his set, we would be sweating a river, white sweat and black sweat all mixed together. Big George instilled a toughness in me. Our grueling workouts set my standard for training hard.”

Now keep in mind that this scene occurred in 1965; we’re talking half a century ago. It worked back then, and it still works today! If you haven’t given it a shot yet, try the simple “face-off” method that Robinson mentions above. If you’re up to it and want something more advanced, try the double split training system that I outline on page 54 of Mass Explosion. It delivers results fast, but you’ll pay for it in the process. Expect extreme soreness from the high volume of work.

Here’s some advice if you plan to do any form of high-volume training: Do not sit still for a prolonged period of time after the workout. You’ll be fatigued and you’ll want to rest and do nothing, but doing nothing is a mistake! Muscle activity is important if you wish to enhance recovery. I learned this lesson the hard way many years ago. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

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