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, also known as German Volume Training. Many modern-day lifters were introduced to this system of training by Charles Poliquin in the July 1996 issue of Muscle Media 2000, or in subsequent articles on Bodybuilding.com and many other websites. But anyone familiar with Vince “The Iron Guru” Gironda, who created both 8×8 and 10×10 programs back in the 1950s, knows it’s been around since before the internet was even a dream.
You’ll see the 10×10 system scattered among the literature over the decades from various sources. So no, there’s no “right way” to do it, but there are plenty of fun and interesting ways to that you may not have considered. Here are a couple that will make for a memorable arm or back day.
10×10 Multi-Grip Pull-Ups
In a paper originally published in the Russian journal Teoriya i Praktika Fizicheskoy Kultury in 1989, authors Vaitesehofsky and Kiselev outline a protocol involving 10 sets of 10 pull-ups where the weight is reduced every second set. If you’re looking for a great I-go, you-go pull-up workout with a training partner, give it a shot. It will absolutely roast your arms and back, and each lifter can use the weight that’s appropriate for them.
Start where you can nail 10 solid reps of pull-ups, chin-ups, or neutral-grip chins. As I’ve written in “How to Keep Chin-Ups from Jacking You Up,” I prefer to alter each grip month-by-month, but in this case, you could also switch 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 one example of how it might look:
- Set 1: Overhand-grip pull-ups, 10 reps, 20 added lbs.
- Set 2: Overhand-grip pull-ups, 10 reps, 20 added lbs.
- Set 3: Overhand-grip pull-ups, 10 reps, 15 added lbs.
- Set 4: Overhand-grip pull-ups, 10 reps, 15 added lbs.
- Set 5: Chin-ups, 10 reps, 10 added lbs.
- Set 6: Chin-ups, 10 reps, 10 added lbs.
- Set 7: Neutral-grip pull-ups, 10 reps, 5 added lbs.
- Set 8: Neutral-grip pull-ups, 10 reps, 5 added lbs.
- Set 9: Neutral-grip pull-ups, 10 reps, body weight
- Set 10: Neutral-grip pull-ups, 10 reps, body weight
This is just one way it could look. Try the weight and grips that are most effective for you, and then get to work!
High-Volume Old-School Arms
Now, that’s a lot of pull-ups. If you’re not up to that many reps, or if you’re just looking for another way to integrate high-volume training, you can use a similar approach for different moves. Curls, anyone?
Here’s an example of this method presented in Robby Robinson’s autobiography “The Black Prince“:
“The majority of the time, [Robinson’s training partner] Big George was doing 10 sets of 10 repetitions using two of the basic exercises. That was his thing: two exercises, 10 sets, 10 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 1-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’re up for a challenge, try the simple “face-off” method that Robinson mentions above. One biceps movement, like curls, along with a triceps movement like a close-grip press or the offset dumbbell skullcrushers I featured in the article “Give Your Bis and Tris a New Challenge with This Simple Twist,” and you’ll be cooked.
Here’s some advice if you plan to do any form of high-volume training: Don’t 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! Staying active is important if you wish to enhance recovery and minimize soreness. I learned this lesson the hard way, so you don’t have to.
Like old-school arm training? Then you’ll love Killer Arms with Julian Smith, exclusively on Bodybuilding.com All Access. This four-week program will give even the most stubborn biceps, triceps, and forearms a loud and clear message to grow, with just the right amount of volume, heavy lifting, and crazy pumps. This is how arm training is supposed to feel!