Saturday, September 25, 2010


I recently began training a bit in a commercial gym, and was quickly reminded of something that had escaped my thoughts lately. Almost everyone in there was performing three sets of ten reps for each exercise. I remember when I first began training, it had to be ten repetitions for every exercise. It was just what everyone told me.
Then I began to buy some bodybuilding magazines, hoping that I could find some secrets in them that would really ramp up my results. In just about every magazine I read, it told me to perform 6-10 various exercises with 3-4 sets of 10-12 repetitions for each exercise (you can go into the grocery store and pick one of them up...they still say the same thing).

(Just a bit of trivia, the 3x10 protocol originated from a team of orthopedic surgeons in the 1940's who wanted to try a new medical approach: strength training. They tried a program (known as the DeLorme-Watkins protocol) of one set of ten reps at 50% the person's ten rep max, one set at 75% and one set at 100%). Three sets of ten is one of the most archaic training methods ever, and yet still the most popular.

Anyway, something I would like to challenge you with is to really analyze why you are following a particular program. Are you doing it because it's what you're "supposed" to do? Because that's what a friend who learned it from some bodybuilder-guy told you? Question everything. Where does this particular idea come from? Is it true? Was it ever true?

Are you doing three sets of ten? Why?
Five sets of five? Why?
Performing a body-part split? Why? A total-body routine? Why?
Resting 45 seconds between sets? Why?

Will doing three sets of 10 give you three times the results of doing only one set of ten? Will executing 5 sets of 5 give you five times the results of only one set of five? If not, where is the threshold where you do too much volume that your body is breaking down faster than it can recover?

I'm not saying any of the aforementioned loading parameters are always invalid, but just think about why you are following a particular program.
Sometimes I think children are on to something when they ask countless questions regarding a particular topic. Some of us have steered away from that and blindly follow the masses.


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