Try 10 sets of 10 to give your muscles a pump

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 20, 2001

Sports Editor

If you’ve grown tired of that same old trip to the gym where you do the same exercises in the same exact sequence for the same number of reps and sets, here’s a little system to get you out of your rut.

It’s called 10 sets of 10 and if you’ve become bored with going to the weight room, this is the system to wake you up and get you motivated again.

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When a person first goes to the gym the usual thing they are taught as a beginner is 8-12 reps of one specific exercise for a limited number of sets, say three. If you were working chest, you’d do three sets of 10 reps on bench press with a weight that would challenge your muscles accordingly. If you were trying to build more muscle you’d drop the reps down to between the 4-6 range and increase the weight until muscle failure is reached between those 4-6 reps. You’d also take more time for rest between sets.

Usually the equation goes like this: high reps = lean, tone muscles, low reps = big muscles.

But after awhile your body will adapt to the workout you’re doing and soon everything will start to get a little easier and, worst of all, boring.

Here’s system to shock those muscles into growing again.

First of all, you’ll only workout three times a week and usually for a maximum of 45 minutes, but that depends on your individual recovery system. One hour and 35 minutes per week is not a lot of exercise time and should be manageable by just about anyone.

You’ll workout Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and you can either start the cycle again on Sunday, having had two days off, or just wait to Monday so that way you can enjoy three days of rest following your last session. (Of course, "rest" can mean a variety of things. Perhaps you like running, playing basketball, softball or some other vigorous heart-working activity. This is the time to get those activities in.)

It doesn’t matter which day you do the different exercises, but make sure you keep opposite muscle groups paired together. Examples include: chest and back, biceps and triceps, quads and hamstrings, etc.

The thing that sets this program apart from others is the intensity and volume with which you attack each muscle group. You’re going to do 10 sets of 10 reps each with 30-40 seconds rest between sets.

Now of course you can’t head into the gym, go straight for the heaviest weight you can lift for 10 reps and start banging out ten sets. You would probably make it to set number four and collapse.

Choose a weight that you would use to warm up your muscles and go from there.

Here’s a sample program:

Monday- Chest; incline bench press 10 X 10, back; lat pulldown 10 X 10.

Tuesday – Biceps; preacher curls 10 X 10, triceps; pressdowns 10 X 10, shoulders; dumbbell presses 10 X 10.

Thursday – Legs; leg presses 10 x 10, quads 10 X 10, calves 10 X 10.

I would advise you to take about four or five deep breaths between sets. Also be prepared for plenty of pain during the exercises and lots of soreness in the days to follow.

Your muscles will feel like they’ve been hammered by cinder blocks, but the 10 sets of 10 reps system is a great way to build muscle and shock your body out of its old routine.