Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The 10 Sets Method: "Old-School" Style

I talked to my Uncle Kirk tonight.

He lives in Texas.

He stands about an inch taller than me—he's 5'7". He weighs about 10 pounds heavier than I do—he's 200 lbs or so.

He's also 58 years old, and built like the proverbial brick shit-house.

He also trains in a barn—squat rack, a bench press, a few barbells, lots of dumbbells, and a whole crap-load of weights—with a few guys who are probably 30 years younger than him.

He's been training since his teens, can bench press in the mid-300s, and can deadlift around 500 pounds—not as strong as he once was, but all-in-all still a pretty strong S.O.B.


He calls me to talk training, and we just like to keep each other updated as to the kind of progress we're making and the kind of workouts we're performing.

"What'd you do tonight?" I asked.

"A 10 sets workout," he replied. I know that my Uncle doesn't use a "split" routine—never has—so I was interested in just what this workout might look like.

"Oh yeah. What exactly did you do in it?"

"10 sets of 10 on squats, 10 sets of 10 on bench presses, 10 sets of 10 on deadlifts, and then a few sets of 25 reps on some push-ups—you know, just for a finisher."

I laughed a little. I doubt most guys half my Uncle's age could even make it through half that workout.

Kirk once told me that when he was at his biggest and his strongest—sometime in his mid 30s—he would perform 10 sets of 10 on squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and barbell curls 3 times per week. The workouts would last 2 and a 1/2 to 3 hours. Nowadays, guys call that overtraining. My Uncle calls it hard work.

Which reminds me of an old Iron Man article I once read by the aging-but-still-great George Turner. For putting on muscle mass, he recommended a regimen of barbell curls, bench presses, and squats for 10 sets of 10 reps performed Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Once you had plenty of size, then you could start using multiple exercises.

High-intensity pundits and other briefer-is-better lifters in our era would call those kind of workouts performed by Turner and my uncle "crazy." Perhaps, however, there's a little more to it. Perhaps they know something a lot of others don't realize: frequent training, plus hard work, plus full-body workouts equals big-time results.

It's just a thought.

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