The Ultimate 10 Sets Of 3 Routine!


10 Sets Of 3

10 sets of 3 is one of those classic set and rep schemes that never goes out of style. It is fantastic for building strength and boosting functional hypertrophy. What is the ultimate 10 x 3 workout routine? Find out below!

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Science Of 10 Sets Of 3 Training
  • Part 2: 3 Different Training Splits
  • Part 3: Upper / Lower Split Sample Routine
  • Part 4: Poliquin Split Sample Routine
  • Part 5: Push / Pull / Legs Sample Routine
  • Part 6: Conclusion

This article will teach you everything you need to know about 10 sets of 3 training. This includes the science behind this superior training method and three separate sample routines for every body part!

Trust me, you don’t want to miss this cutting edge information!

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: The Science Of 10 Sets Of 3 Training

Most trainees are primarily concerned with one thing: building muscle. The thought of getting stronger for the sake of getting stronger never even crosses their minds!

However, a good chunk of my online training clients are at least as interested in getting stronger as they are in looking better naked.

I have experimented with an absolutely enormous number of different strength training protocols to figure out what works best for the average trainee.

I am a huge fan of things like cluster sets, the Modified Hepburn Method, 3/2/1 wave loading etc. for pure strength gains.

However, the one major flaw that many of these pure strength routines share is that they tend to overtrain the average trainee! Pure strength training can be very demanding on the central nervous system.

Unless you have a neurotransmitter profile high in dopamine then these intensification routines can be very hard to properly recover from. This is especially true if you are relatively new to lower-rep training.

So what types of routines should Earth type trainees and Wood type trainees use if they are primarily interested in strength gains? This is an enormously complex topic and I cannot hope to answer it in this article.

However, I can tell you for a fact that a well-designed 10 x 3 workout is an unbelievable effective way to train for strength for the average trainee!

In fact, world-renowned strength coach Charles Stacey went to far as to call 10 x 3 his all-time favourite set and rep scheme!

There are many benefits to 10 x 3 training, including:

  1. Decreased risk of central nervous system burnout
  2. Improved inter- and intra-muscular coordination
  3. Improved exercise technique
  4. Improved functional hypertrophy
  5. Improved mental toughness

Let’s take a closer look at each of these points:

1. Decreased risk of central nervous system burnout

Many trainees find that their central nervous system is absolutely fried after workouts featuring lots of singles or doubles.

However, this totally changes when you start using sets of 3! This seems to be the “sweet-spot” for many lifters in terms of pure strength gains.

The load is still heavy enough to stimulate powerful training adaptations, but without the major risk of overtraining that comes with singles and doubles.

2. Improved inter- and intra-muscular coordination

A set of 3 reps will typically represent about 90% of the 1-rep max for the typical trainee on most exercises.

Any time you train with weights that are at or above 90% of your one-rep max you can stimulate enormous training-related adaptations within the central nervous system.

This includes improved inter- and intra-muscular coordination. Inter-muscular coordination refers to the ability of various muscle groups to work together to achieve a task.

For example, if you are doing a 10 x 3 routine chinups, then your body’s ability to synergize the shoulder extensors and elbow flexors together will dramatically improve!

Intramuscular coordination, on the other hand, refers to the ability of your nervous system to effectively recruit the muscle fibers in one specific muscle.

For example, if you are doing a 10 x 3 routine featuring V-bar dips, then your body’s ability to recruit new motor units in the triceps brachii muscle will be enhanced!

3. Improved exercise technique

It never fails to amaze me how quickly a trainee’s exercise technique can improve after 2-4 weeks on a 10 x 3 routine.

You see, lifting huge weights is just as much about proper exercise technique as it is about having pure brute-force strength.

Just ask any competitive powerlifter! Those guys spend many many years trying to perfect the technique of just 3 exercises – the squat, bench press, and deadlift!

In reality though your technique on any exercise can be improved dramatically.

You may not necessarily care if your form is improved, but you should know that improved form will very quickly translate into improved strength and size gains in the gym.

Your risk of injury will also be dramatically decreased – not a bad deal!

4. Improved functional hypertrophy

Yes, I am being serious – a 10 x 3 routine is actually a fantastic way to train for functional hypertrophy!

If you have read my previous articles then you will know that functional hypertrophy generally refers to hypertrophy within the fast-twitch muscle fibers.

These fast-twitch muscle fibers are the ones most responsible for explosive muscular contractions and are primarily responsible for improvements in your 1-5 rep max on any given exercise.

It is normally pretty difficult to build a lot of muscle with just singles and doubles.

The time under tension per set is usually less than 10 seconds with sets of 1 or 2 reps which is just not enough to really stimulate any kind of hypertrophy gains.

However, things are quite different when you perform sets of 3! In this case the time under tension per set is indeed sufficient to stimulate hypertrophy gains.

The big caveat is that you have to do many sets of triples to make it work. Doing 1-3 sets of triples just won’t cut it! Performing 10 sets of triples, on the other hand, will more than get the job done!

The bottom line is that 10 x 3 training protocols are awesome for boosting not only strength gains, but functional hypertrophy gains as well.

5. Improved mental toughness

If you want to reach your strength and physique goals as quickly as possible then there is no getting around it: you need higher-than-average levels of mental toughness.

Let’s face it – training is damn hard!

This is true regardless of whether you are doing high-volume bodybuilding style training, low-volume / high-intensity style bodybuilding training, or pure strength training.

There is just nothing easy about going to the gym and presenting your body with a training stimulus to get bigger and stronger.

Over time you are going to have to continue to push the limits of your mental toughness in order to continue to progress.

You have to be willing to take on that extra challenge. This is what Charles Poliquin used to call “the growth mindset.”

And let me tell you – a ten sets of 3 routine will test your mental toughness and then some! It is the sheer volume of heavy sets that makes this routine so challenging.

Your body will be screaming at you to stop after the 5th or 6th set. It is your job to tell your body to suck it up! This isn’t the kids pool – we’re about to start treading in deep water.

Part 2: 3 Different Training Splits

There are many, many different training splits that you could use to design a 10 x 3 workout routine.

In fact, there are at least 16 highly effective training splits that I use with my own training clients!

I can’t cover all of these splits in this one article. However, what I can do is give you sample training programs using three of the most popular training splits in the world!

Let’s start with the classic upper body / lower body split.

You could hypothetically set up a routine using an upper / lower split training 2, 3, or 4 days per week. For the purposes of this article I will cover the 4 days per week version.

If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of training 2, 3, or 4 days per week on an upper / lower split then I highly recommend you check out this article.

4 days per week upper / lower split

For example:

  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: Upper
  • Tuesday: Lower
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Upper
  • Friday: Lower
  • Saturday: Off

This split tends to work great for individuals with at least average recovery ability. Every body part is trained twice over a 7-day period, or once every 3-4 days on average.

This is a fantastic training frequency for a large majority of trainees.

This is perhaps the most popular training split in the world amongst elite-level powerlifters and strongmen competitors.

However, some bodybuilders may find that they can’t quite give their upper bodies enough attention on this split.

4 days per week Poliquin split

Another one of my favourite training splits was popularized by the late Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin. Charles trained about 70% of his athletes with a training frequency of once-every-five-days per body part.

For example, here is one version of the Poliquin split:

  • Day 1: Arms / Rotator Cuff
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Chest / Back
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat

This type of split has the added benefit of allowing you to utilize a greater number and variety of exercises for the upper body if that is something you need.

It also has the benefit of giving you a full 5 days between lower body training sessions.

Many trainees (myself included) just cannot recover from 2 heavy lower body training sessions in a 7-day period.

However, performing 2 heavy leg sessions over a 10 day period tends to work very well for a large percentage of the training populace.

This split can also be performed three days per week for those individuals with sub-par recovery ability (or for some trainees that are throwing around ridiculous amounts of weight in the gym).

3 days per week push / pull / legs split

I feel like the classic push / pull / legs split has been slowly dropping in popularity over the past few years.

This is very strange to me, because I think it is one of the most effective training splits you can use!

There are actually 3 different types of push / pull / legs splits you can use: a 3-days per week version, a 4-days per week version, and a 6 days per week version.

This article will focus on the 3 days per week version. You can check out this article for more info on the other two.

For example:

  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: Chest / Shoulders / Tris
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Back / Biceps
  • Saturday: Off

One of the things I really like about this split is that the overlap between different body parts is kept to an absolute minimum.

I know many trainees have a hard time performing pressing or pulling movements when their arms are still sore from their arm day a couple of days ago.

If this describes you then I highly recommend you give this training split a shot.

Part 3: Upper / Lower Split Sample Routine

This is a classic way to set up a 10 x 3 routine. Check it out:

Upper Body

  • A1: Standing military press, 10 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Medium pronated grip pull ups, 10 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree incline dumbbell press, 3 x 6-8, 3/2/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Cable face pull w/ maximum external rotation, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/2, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Decline DB extension, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C2: Seated zottman curl, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Lower Body

  • A1: Front squat (heels elevated / medium), 10 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing unilateral hamstrings curl (Poliquin method** / neutral ankles), 10 x 3, 2/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Walking DB lunge, 3 x 6-8, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/2, 60 seconds rest

**The Poliquin Method on leg curls involves dorsiflexing your ankles on the concentric range and plantarflexing your ankles on the eccentric range.

For example:

This is a great way to overload the eccentric portion of the exercise!

If you are having any trouble reading this routine then you need to read the following article:

How To Read A Workout Program!

It should answer any questions you have 🙂

Part 4: Poliquin Split Sample Routine

Most people aren’t very familiar with this type of split, even to this day. It is easily one of my favourite ways to design a 10 x 3 routine.

Check it out:

Arms / Rotator Cuff

  • A1: Close grip bench press, 10 x 3, 3/1/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (supinated / close grip), 10 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: 45 degree incline DB extensions, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Incline cable curls, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/2, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Standing cable external rotations (elbow held at side), 3 x 8-12, 4/0/2/0, 120 seconds rest

Legs

  • A1: Back Squat (heels flat / narrow stance), 10 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral lying hamstrings curl (ankles plantar flexed  / pointed in), 10 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated split squat (holding DBs), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (barbell held w/ snatch grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/2, 60 seconds rest

Chest / Back

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press, 10 x 3, 3/1/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Close supinated grip chin ups, 10 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (trunk leaning forward), 3 x 6-8, 3/2/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: T-bar rows, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

If you are having any trouble reading this routine then you need to read the following article:

How To Read A Workout Program!

It should answer any questions you have 🙂

Part 5: Push / Pull / Legs Sample Routine

Again the push pull legs training split has fallen out of fashion recently. However, I don’t see why this should be the case!

For example, the “Hypertrophy Coach” Joe Bennett is a big fan of this particular training split.

Check it out:

Push

  • A1: Decline Bench Press, 10 x 3, 2/2/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline close grip bench press, 4 x 5-7, 3/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Seated DB overhead press, 4 x 7-9, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Dead skulls, 3 x 8-10, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Seated DB external rotations (elbow on knee), 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Legs

  • A1: Back squat (heels elevated / medium stance), 10 x 3, 2/2/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated hamstring curl (feet plantarflexed / pointed in), 3 x 5-7, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Rear foot elevated split squat (barbell on back), 3 x 5-7, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • C1: DB Romanian deadlift, 3 x 8-10, 2/2/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Pull

  • A1: Wide overhand grip pull ups, 10 x 3, 2/0/X/1, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Seal row, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/2, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Reverse pec-dec, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Unilateral Zottman preacher curl, 3 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: 30 degree incline hammer curl, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

If you are having any trouble reading this routine then you need to read the following article:

How To Read A Workout Program!

It should answer any questions you have 🙂

Part 6: Conclusion

 

Some training routines are never going to go out of style because they continue to produce superior results. The 10 x 3 routine is a perfect example of this.

If you are looking for a powerful new way to spice up your training then give one of the above 10 x 3 workouts a shot. I am quite confident you will be pleased with the results!

Of course you can always check out my online coaching program if you want a more personalized training program designed for you.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training endeavors!

Dr. Mike Jansen

I am the creator and owner of Revolutionary Program Design. I help advanced athletes take their training to the next level and achieve results they never imagined possible.

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