Q: If 4×10 [as in the 4X technique] is so effective at achieving both power and density for maximum muscle mass, why would one bother with 10×10? You wrote that a trainee should only stay on 10×10 for three to four weeks since staying on it longer may compromise the power component. If you believe 4×10 is clearly superior, why waste time on 10×10?
A: 10×10 is a PURE DENSITY shock tactic that can produce big gains in muscle size quickly—and you only do it on one key exercise for each bodypart. That means it takes only 10 minutes to thoroughly and completely blast a muscle into the growth zone—but we only recommend this pure density approach for a four-week shock phase…
Because 10×10 is almost all density, it’s ideal after six weeks of multi-angular power training—such as the Power Pyramid Program or Jonathan’s Phase 1 Size Surge routine. Those prescribe HEAVY work sets in the 7-10 range.
In other words, you do power workouts for six weeks, then you move to pure density for four weeks—10×10 on one exercise for each muscle group. You take a weight with which you can get 20 reps, but you only do 10; rest 30 seconds, then do 10 more—and so on until you complete 10 sets of 10, although you shouldn’t get 10 reps on the last two sets. It’s like a 10-minute muscle maker… It takes 10 minutes and you’re done—and the muscle is primed for growth…
That’s done amazing things for trainees’ muscle size. Olympic coach Charles Poliquin often prescribes 10×10 for up to six weeks:
To say this [10×10] program adds muscle fast is an understatement. Gains of 10 pounds or more in six weeks are not uncommon, even in experienced lifters!
Many trainees respond so well to 10×10 DENSITY training because they’ve been on methodical power-oriented workouts for so long. That’s due to the misinformation that only heavy weights build muscle mass. Not true. A pure-density change can instantly create new muscle gains. Nevertheless, 10×10 can be monotonous after three to four weeks, so we recommend moving to something else—like 4X…
4X is more BALANCED, giving you both power AND density. For that, you use a heavier weight than for 10X10 because you only do four sets with 30 seconds of rest between them. If you get 10 reps on your last, or fourth, set, you add weight to that exercise at your next workout…
Even so, standard 4X sequences can become monotonous, too. That’s one reason we often recommend 3X pyramids—adding weight on each set with a 30-second rest between sets. Those provide more power with two weight increases and lower reps on each successive set (10,9,7).
The bottom line is that you need a number of ways to mix it up every few weeks to keep muscle gains on an upward peak. To put it another way: You gotta make a change to increase your gains! 10×10 is one more way to move forward in the mass-building fray.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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