Q: I’ve been intrigued by your explanation of workout density being the reason your 10×10 program builds mass. Do you think that’s the reason drop sets are also so effective?
A: Workout density is Vince Gironda’s term to express getting more work done in a given time frame. For example, most trainees do a set, rest for two to three minutes, do another set, and so on. In 10 minutes you only do two or three sets…
Vince discovered that he and his trainees achieved better muscle gains by shortening the rest between sets—down to 60 seconds, then 30 seconds, then, eventually, 20 seconds. That was a gradual process that took conditioning, then you could squeeze in more sets.
The result was his 8×8 and 10×10 mass-building systems. Take a weight that you can get about 20 reps with, but only do 10 reps, rest 20 to 30 seconds, do 10 more, and so on till you complete 10 sets of 10 reps—or 8 sets of 8 reps.
On either of those set sequences, the first few sets are fairly easy and act as a thorough warmup; then the last sets are brutally hard, as you have to fight the pain of muscle fatigue and lactic acid pooling. You essentially enact the size principle of muscle-fiber recruitment, but over a number of sets in a short time frame…
The size principle states that on any intense set you activate the low-threshold motor units on the first few easy reps; then the medium-threshold motor units come into play as the reps get harder. On the last few tough reps the high-threshold motor units finally come into play.
On a 10×10 sequence, the first few lower-intensity sets fatigue the low-threshold motor units—remember, the reps are easy all the way through. Then sets five through seven emphasize the mediums. On the last few brutal sets you activate the high-threshold motor units; however, notice that you’re getting much more work for each motor unit group—30 to 40 reps worth.
So with 10×10 and resting 30 seconds between sets, you get exponentially more muscle stimulation in 10 minutes than you get using the standard 3 sets with two to three minutes of rest between each. That’s what Vince meant by “workout density.” You cram a huge amount of mass stimulation into a short period. Bonus: Because the weight is lighter, you don’t damage your joints.
Yes, drop sets or double drop sets are effective because of workout density as well. You do two or three sets back to back to exhaustion, with a weight reduction on each. It’s a different mode of attack; you run through the size principle of fiber recruitment quicker—on each set: twice with a single drop or three times with a double drop. Are either of those better than 8×8 or 10×10? Not necessarily; just different. And they both build mass fast…
For example, every year, when we would move into our ripping phase, we always added more muscle as we lost fat. How? One reason is workout density with the addition of drop sets and double drop sets. They also help produce more growth hormone, as does 10×10, which amplifies anabolic drive and fat burning.
And don’t forget the end-of-set X Rep partials. Those also increase workout density. Instead of stopping a set at exhaustion, you continue with partial reps in an area of the stroke where the target muscle is strongest, the semi-stretched point, like near the bottom of an incline press. Those X Reps keep the high-growth fibers firing after nervous system exhaustion. We even use them on the last set of 8×8 and 10×10. X Reps give you more size stimulation packed into a single set.
X Reps, 10×10, drop sets—you can use them all to achieve more mass faster with shorter more efficient workouts.
Note: The Ultimate 10×10 Mass Workout provides more explanation and complete programs that incorporate 10×10 and X Reps.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
Mass-Building Lessons From the Master Trainer
Vince Gironda was the Iron Guru, a bodybuilding legend ahead of his time. His most famous pupil in the bodybuilding world was the very first Mr. Olympia Larry Scott, and he also trained many Hollywood stars back in the day, like Clint Eastwood, and even Arnold consulted with him and was a fan (even though Vince told Arnold that he was a “fat f**k” when he first arrived in the U.S.).
Many of Vince’s mass-building tricks and methods have been forgotten, buried by information and misinformation overload on the Internet, but now you can find them all, his true methods, in this must-have, 330-page Vince Gironda e-book anthology…
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Vince Gironda: Legend & Myth (300-page anthology + many bonus gifts and programs) HERE