This type of high-set, low-rep training has become popular among strength coaches in various sports, and has been used by powerlifters and Olympic lifters for quite some time. It only makes sense that bodybuilders should start taking advantage of it as well.
Powerlifting super-coach Louie Simmons uses a form of it to achieve the awesome results he gets with his lifters. Another proponent of this training is strength/bodybuilding coach Charles Staley. His method is similar to what I prefer when it comes to building muscle mass. It's probably the method that would best be preferred by the majority of you out there who just want to pack on some more muscle mass.
Basically, for accelerative low-rep training, the force produced by each rep is more important than the amount of reps performed in each set. More sets are performed to compensate for the lack of volume. Let me explain.
Let us assume that you can perform 10 reps in the bench press with a weight that is approximately 70% of your 1 rep maximum, and you set about to do so at your next workout. After your first set, you rest several minutes and then perform another set of 10 reps, just barely getting all 10. After a few more minutes, you perform a third and final set and this time you also manage, but only barely, 10 repetitions.
You just performed a total of 30 repetions. Now, what if I told you that the better way to perform those 30 repetions was to perform 10 sets of 3 reps (accelerating as fast as possible on the positive portion of the rep) with the same weight, instead of 3 sets of 10. With 10 sets of 3 reps, you perform the same total workload but each rep is much more productive because you are able to put maximum force production into each and every rep. This is what builds raw strength, in addition to muscle. The 3 sets of 10 reps might build muscle, but it also makes the lifter very slow. Accelerative training builds explosive power and gives you the same, if not better, hypertrophy response than the high reps.
You might be scratching your head a bit at this point, but don't worry. Give the below routine a try and I promise you'll be a believer.
Day One: Chest, Lats, Shoulders
Bench Press- 10 sets of 3 reps. Use 70% of your one-rep maximum, taking no more than one minute of rest in between each set. Use about a 2 second negative, pause on your chest for no more than one second and then explode to lockout.
Wide-Grip Chins- 10 sets of 3 reps. Stay with the same 70% rule as above and perform each set with the same rep cadence.
Dumbbell Bench Press- 5 sets of 5 reps. These sets should be heavy. Rest two to three minutes between each set.
Bent-Over Rows- 5 sets of 5 reps. Same scheme as the Dumbbell Benches above.
Seated Behind-The-Neck Press- 10 sets of 3 reps. 70% of your one-rep maximum should be used once again.
Day Two: Legs, Hips, Lower Back
Squats, alternated with Deadlifts- 10 sets of 3 reps (each exercise). You might have thought the first workout was easy, but you'll be feeling the pain after this one. Use 70% of your 1 rep max on both exercises. Perform a set of squats, rest 1 minute, perform a set of deadlifts and so forth. Never take more than one minute between each set.
Hack Squats- 8 sets of 2 reps. Since squats don't work your lower quadriceps very hard, perform these as well. Once again, use 70%, but with 2 fewer sets and only 2 reps per set.
Day Three: Off
Day Four: Arms, Calves
Barbell Curls- 10 sets of 3 reps. Once again, use approximately 70% of your one-rep maximum. Make sure that you use 70% of a "no-cheat" maximum, in other words, whatever you can curl in strict form.
Lying Barbell Extensions- 10 sets of 3 reps. Using the 70% rule, alternate these with the above exercise. In other words, perform a set of curls, rest 30 to 60 seconds and perform a set of curls, alternating back and forth between the two until you have completed all 10 sets of each exercise.
Standing Calf Raises- 10 sets of 3 reps.
Day Five: Off
Day Six: Repeat Day One