# 10 x Not Quite 3

Hello everyone,

Looking for some opinions from other users of the 10x3 program. I am trying to decide when the right time is to raise the weight. Here is my dilema.

Let’s say in my workout at a certain weight I am able to finish all 10 sets of 3. The next time I run through my 10x3 workout, I raise the weight, but I am only able to complete 7 sets for 3 reps on the new higher weight, on the last 3 sets I hit 2 reps each.

So, do I lower the weight back down the next time I workout 10x3 since I could not finish my sets the last time, or do I stick at this weight and keep working at it until I can hit all 10 sets of 3?

Hope this is not a stupid question. Just looking for opinions on what everyone finds has been best. I personally have been using the second choice. Thanks all.

I think you might have raised the weight too much if you can’t complete all the sets.

Reddman,
I always raise the weight so that I cannot finish all my sets the first time I try it. I raise the weight enough that it take 2-3 workouts to accomplish all the sets/reps then add more weight. I use this formula for all different rep set schemes.

Since you didn’t say the exact weight that you are attempting let me run though two different situations. Let’s say that you are front squating 315 for 10x3 then you jump to 340 on your next workout and are unable to complete the 10x3, the I say drop to 320 or 325 for your next workout. If however you went from the 315 for 10x3 and then to 320 for 7x3, then I would say stick with the 320 until you get the 10x3. You will probably get it next time.

Just remember that the goal is to NOT go to failure. In fact, you should be doing 10x3 with your 5-rep-max.

It sounds like you’re using too much weight. You would probably bet more benefit by decreasing the weight a bit and working on lifting the lower weight more explosively.

If you’re getting stronger and improving, keep doing what you’re doing until it doesn’t work. If increasing the weights works for you, do it.

When I did 10x3, I always upped the weight exactly by 5kg. I used the 7th set as a gauge - if I was able to do at least 7x3 + 3x2 with a new weight, I was going to stay with it the next time. If not, I usually did a light week next time, and then possibly switch to 54321.

You’re fine. That is to be expected. If you are sticking with 10x3, then:

1. you are still within CW’s recommended hypertrophy range of 24-50 reps per bodypart.

2. you should stick with this weight until you can “comfortably” handle 10x3. Even at that point, the legendary Vince Gironda used to advocate using this same weight for another 3 workouts or so to really “milk” all the benefits from this weight/rep scheme. You will not, and in my opinion should not, be able to add reps every workout. Progressive overload does NOT have to take place at every new workout when you are still using a weight/rep scenario that still stimulates.

Once you get back to 10x3 then stick with it for 2-3 more times and then jump the weight just slightly. If you can picture a helix, then you can get a good picture of how training works overall. Each time you complete a rotation on your way “up” a helix (or spiral staircase) then you are at the same position horizontally that you were at many other times, but you will be at a higher vertical point. Your training progress will be much the same.

Some element will be the same, but one or more other element(s) will be on the rise (either volume, load, or density). But this is not a perfect process so you can hover a while and still gain the benefits of a particular weight before upping one of the three variables of progression listed above. This progression is to be an OVERALL TREND.

In fact, I sometimes like to stay with a weight for about 3 workouts as Vince suggested so that I gain a level of confidence and comfort with it, before I move up. And take note, if the workout is getting easier now that you’ve made 10x3, then you are STILL progressing and adapting. You just can’t milk this too long. But you SHOULD milk it all you can. There is no sense in increasing demands on your adaptive abilities if they are not necessary yet. Get the most out of one weight first.

Secondarily, if you are going for mass, I like to go like so with a 10x3:

Workout 1:
set1: 3
set2: 3
set3: 3
set4: 3
set5: 3
set6: 3
set7: 3
set8: 2
set9: 2
set10: 2

Workout 2: I will ONLY go up in reps on set #8 and hit 3 reps.

Workout 3: I will ONLY go up in reps on set #9 and hit 3 reps.

Workout 4: I will ONLY go up in reps on set #10 and hit 3 reps.

Then for 2 or 3 times (workouts 5,6,7)I will stay with 10x3 and get comfortable. I allow the weight to be “lighter” both physically by fully adapting to it and I allow it to be mentally “lighter” by gaining repeated confidence with it.

Then in a perfect world I continue my Helix as follows: (after the above)

Workout 8:
set 1: 4reps
set 2: 4reps
set 3-10: 3 reps.

Workout 9:
sets 1-4: 4reps
sets 5-10: 3reps

Workout 10:
sets 1-6: 4 reps
sets 7-10: 3 reps

Workout 11:
sets 1-8: 4 reps
sets 9,10: 3 reps

Workout 12: (apex moment)
Sets 1-10: 4 reps for all.

I then do this same Helix progression until I can hit 10x5. This is a GREAT mass and strength progression.

*Important note: If you feel fatigued at some point then hover for a few workouts before you begin to progress upward again. This takes a bit of intuition and self awareness.

Bodybuilders (especially new ones or enthusiastic ones) always want to increase something every time they hit the gym. This is based on the accurate understanding that there must be progressive overload to grow bigger and stronger. The problem is not with the principle, as the above is true and necessary. The problem is with the practice. Progressive overload is a concept that must be applied over the LONG haul. Milk a weight and then progress after a sensible time with it, not every trip to the gym. You cannot keep this pace for long if you try to beat yourself at every workout. Go slow and allow yourself to get maximum benefit from each range.

On the above workouts there are times when I CAN do more, but the question is SHOULD I do more. The answer: NO. Not if I’m still able to gain from the current level of stimulation. Train don’t strain.

And don’t worry, I’ve got more tricks up my sleeve too.

Disc Hoss

[quote]Olympiclfter wrote:
Since you didn’t say the exact weight that you are attempting let me run though two different situations. Let’s say that you are front squating 315 for 10x3 then you jump to 340 on your next workout and are unable to complete the 10x3, the I say drop to 320 or 325 for your next workout. If however you went from the 315 for 10x3 and then to 320 for 7x3, then I would say stick with the 320 until you get the 10x3. You will probably get it next time.[/quote]

Very good question. I should have been more specific. I am only raising the weight by 5 lbs.

Gents,

Thanks for all the advice. Some really interesting notes and opinions.

Disc Hoss. I really enjoyed your post. One question - if I am understanding your program I think you possibly imply staying at the same weight for several months if I am only using 10x3’s once per week. I use 5x5 and 3x8 the other days with an occasional speed workout on a 4th day. Are you using the 10x3 rep scheme more than once per week?

Reddman,
You understand correctly. I do a similar split overall. I go 5x4, and helix my way up to 5x6 on day 1. On the second workout, I’ll use 2-3x12 and helix my way up to 2-3x15. Then on my final workout I’ll use the 10x3 helix. Just be sure to eat enough and take a break week every 6-8 weeks. I find this works really well. Along the lines of Jack Reape’s down week.

You will be able to use the same weights for a good while as long as some element is trending upward at least once a week or so. This also implies just hovering and adjusting to a weight a few times. As I said, if that weight/workout gets a bit easier, then you are progressing.

Disc Hoss

[quote]Disc Hoss wrote:

Once you get back to 10x3 then stick with it for 2-3 more times and then jump the weight just slightly. If you can picture a helix, then you can get a good picture of how training works overall. Each time you complete a rotation on your way “up” a helix (or spiral staircase) then you are at the same position horizontally that you were at many other times, but you will be at a higher vertical point. Your training progress will be much the same.

Disc Hoss[/quote]

This is an interesting analogy–although I have to admit I’m not completely following you. Could you explain more?

I don’t think it’s mandatory to do all sets with the same weight. Let’s say one week I can do 10 X 3 with 200lbs.The week after maybe I won’t be able do 10 X 3 with 205lbs so I do 5 X 3 with 200lbs and 5 X 3 with 205 or 7 X 3 and 3 X 3. I always try to add at least a little weight while keeping the same volume. Just my 0.02\$CAN.

[quote]bino wrote:
Disc Hoss wrote:

Once you get back to 10x3 then stick with it for 2-3 more times and then jump the weight just slightly. If you can picture a helix, then you can get a good picture of how training works overall. Each time you complete a rotation on your way “up” a helix (or spiral staircase) then you are at the same position horizontally that you were at many other times, but you will be at a higher vertical point. Your training progress will be much the same.

Disc Hoss

This is an interesting analogy–although I have to admit I’m not completely following you. Could you explain more? [/quote]

Bino,
I’ll give it my best shot. ;-). If anyone else “sees” what I mean and can give a more eloquent and descriptive example, please feel free to do so.

From a training perspective, it is impossible to always be upping some element of your training on a constant basis. Everywhere you look, you’re instructed to get one more rep, or add 1-2% to the bar, or knock 5 more seconds off of your rest periods. This is absolutely true and absolutely essential, but I believe a missing element is the consideration of “hovering on the helix”. Sometimes the changes that are taking place in your development from one session to the next are so minute that it cannot equate to an additional complete rep, let alone an increase in volume or density. But this same workout is STILL producing changes in you. Constant increases in stressors can only work on a piece of paper in a theoretical world.

Once you have gained appreciable mass and strength, you find it harder and harder to progress. Hovering on the helix takes into account two important factors: 1) IF you don’t actually NEED to tangibly increase one of the three basic elements of training (load, volume, density) at every session to continue to adapt to a given training stimulus, then it is a “waste” to up one of the big three elements if you are still adapting. The point is that there is a bit of lag time that one can play with. 2) It can prolong your lifting career by training on a more sensible basis of allowing full benefit to be achieved with a given rep/set scheme before moving onward and upward on the helix. For example, our trainee just makes 10x3 with 315 on the flat bench. He hit concentric failure on his last set, and the ninth set was a real fight. He has two choices (for simplicity’s sake), which would be to increase one of the 3 variables or maintain his set/rep/rest scheme for a few more workouts.

I contend from experience and from what I understand of the newer Fitness/Fatigue model (instead of the older Supercompensation model) that the second workout with the same 315 for 10x3 will be somewhat easier. The same holds true for the third workout. Once you get to the fourth workout, you must be carful, because your body will begin to adapt and stagnate. There is a bit of art and intuition to this. But it is the lag time that we should be “milking” more. The cardinal rule of bodybuilding should always be to “use the bare minimum necessary, no more, no less”, when it comes to stimulation. I find that after about 3 workouts with the weight that I peaked with at 10x3, I feel stronger and more confident.

So if I just make it for the first time with 315 for 10x3, then the next time it is a bit easier, then the third workout it is smooth and confident with maybe a little left in the tank at the end of all 10 sets, then what was happening to me over these last few workouts? Obviously I was adapting further to this same stimulus. Now as I said, it is an intuitive art as to when the milking must stop and you have to increase one of the 3 variables again, but we’ve been missing out on all this fitness gain and fatigue adaptation that one can gain for a few more sessions. If you can grow bigger or stronger for a short period by using this same set/rep/rest scheme then do it! Don’t waste energy on pushing too hard too fast.

On to getting a better picture of the helix. Something a bit similar, called ladders, are utilized by Pavel Tsatsouline. This is perhaps not the prettiest picture but it is how my mind “sees” what I am doing with this training concept. Ladders are a bit lacking overall in that the term doesn’t allow for the intermediary changes that are occuring from one workout to the next. On a Ladder. You do a workout, then next time you stay on the same ladder (weight for our example) but you bump up your reps to attain the new vertical location of the next step. You make to real horizontal progress on a ladder, only vertical progress. This is what I’m trying to picture for you. But in reality you don’t stay on one rung of the ladder from one session to the next then make an abrupt jump to the next rung. You are increasing your fitness on an incremental basis day to day.

On the program that I use, that I posted to Reddman, I hit 10x3 once per week for the big movements. From my first session attempting 315 for 10x3 to the the next session I am improving little by litte each day until I comp back around to the next session where I make no horizontal progress (weight increase) but only a vertical increase (more reps) and so on. My beef with the ladder analogy is that it seems like you do a workout and then sit for 6 days and then BOOM you jump up to the next rung. In reality you are spiraling upward, riding your body’s adaptation until the next session. Then, once I hit my 10x3 with a hard effort, I’ll then “Hover on the Helix” and make no horizontal progress (more weight) or veritcal progress (more reps), but just simply allow all of the lagging adaptation that I’ve stimulated to come to full expression. Now technically, you could argure that you do move horizontally on a spiral staicase, but for sake of argument, ignore this and just see that I tried to repair what I saw as a mistake of the term “ladders”. Perhaps my Helix is as big a problem, but I “see” it better. hope this helps.

Disc Hoss

To simplify and clarify my wordiness, you always come back around to the the same constant element(s). In my above case, that would be constant weight and rest periods. These are my locked in variables for this cycle. So on Riding the Helix, I “come back around” to that same horizontal spot(lets say the left side of a staircase if I’m looking at someone from a distance walking up the spiral) but I have made vertical progress. I’m trending upward on one variable (volume/reps), but am hovering on the other two variables (load, density). You will “see” the Helix example better if you think of it operating in a two dimensional world like a sheet of paper. Each full rotation brings you back to the same “left side” of the staircase from some observer’s point of view, but you are higher up.

Now, full “Hovering on the Helix”, is that time when we sit in limbo and make no progress on any of the said 3 variables but rather let the caboose catch up to the engine as far as adaptation is concerned. Once this is milked, then bump your next workout (rotation on the Helix) to a new volume by 1 or 2 more reps.

After a layoff of training in 8 weeks or so (6 works well for some), then you begin a brand new Helix at some point above your first Helix starting point. You “soften up” as Gironda used to say so that an old training stimulus will work again.

The trick is to make sure that each new 6-8 week Helix is beginning a bit harder than the BEGINNING of the previous Helix. Let’s say you make your way on Helix One from 27 reps to a final 40 reps before your Helix duration ends. Then for Helix Two you will attempt to start at an arbitrary but more stressful 36 reps and make your way to completing 50 reps (10x5) on this second Helix.

Once you finally reach 10x5. You bump the horizontal location of your Helix along the X axis of the graph and begin anew.

So you Helix your workouts and in the larger macro picture, you end up Helixing your workout career over the long haul in much the same fashion.

This Helix takes into account the irregular appearances of strength/mass development and allows for designated times of hovering and ascending.

Vince used to say Train 21-Rest 7. This was when he would train 6 days per week. Three upper and three lower body days. Then he’d “soften up” for a week and then hit it again with a new, slightly increased starting weight or volume. Bryan Haycock also calls this strategic deconditioning.

I’m sure this is all as clear as a bucket of mud.

Disc Hoss

Disc Hoss,

Very intuitive stuff! I need a point of clarification though if you don’t mind. When you say you perform 10x3 once per week for your big lifts, are you suggesting that you bench, deadlift, and squat on the same day? Do you perform the same exercises each workout and use the different parameters you suggested above? Thanks for sharing your theories.

Brian

Brian,

Not necessarily. First, I never do Deads and Squats together. If you do one, the other will suffer, unless you are an absolute freak of nature. Even then, this is not an optimal split. As long as you are getting direct leg work on the other 1 or 2 days per week (assuming you work a bodypart 2-3x per week for hypertrophy purposes), then just choose two of the three big boys to do on the 10x3 day. You will get plenty of carry over from dead to squats and vice versa. I’ll assume that on Reddman’s example that he’d so some squatting, leg pressing, or deadlifting variation on his 5x5 day and also on his 3x8 day. If you attempt to put deads and squats on the 10x3 day together, God help you. :-0

Don’t worry about hitting the 10x3 on squats or deads only once every 2 weeks. You still Helix your workouts, but it may afford you the opportuntity to move up the spiral with bigger volume increases. For example you may bump your volume from workout 1 of:

8x3 at 315lbs squat
2x2 at 315lbs squat

To Workout 2:
10x3 at 315lbs squat.

I’d normally only bump one or two reps each week (helix rotation) but you might get plenty of recuperation and be able to add 2-4 reps at each new instance of the squat or dead.

Also, keep in mind this is a hypertrophy focused Helix. A Powerlifter or specialized athlete would want to use another scenario.

Disc Hoss

[quote]Disc Hoss wrote:
Brian,

Not necessarily. First, I never do Deads and Squats together. If you do one, the other will suffer, unless you are an absolute freak of nature. squats and vice versa.

Disc Hoss

[/quote]

Agreed with Disc Hoss. I tried doing deads and squats on the same day - it was a disaster. I tend to focus my 10x3’s on one or the other for a month and then switch.

Thanks Disc Hoss,

You should put together a “Helix” workout article. Interesting concept man.

Disc Hoss, great posts?above and beyond the call of duty.

I definitely like the mental image of the helix; particularly it?s superiority over the much more common linear concept. It?s good to think about what you?re doing in new ways because it can lead to new insights.

Are you saying, in your model, that each full rotation represents a full progression at one particular weight? Ie, at the beginning of the rotation, you have just upped your weight, and at the end, you have met the goals for that weight and are about to up it again.

Part of me prefers the staircase analogy for the simple reason that it?s easier, for me, to picture lateral movement on each individual stair, which would represent the milking or hovering that you describe.

On the ?milking? issue: that could be thought of as allowing full adaptation of all the elements involved in lifting, ie, muscular (for lack of a better term), CNS, and even psychological adaptation. It makes sense that they would progress unevenly, and that you should stick with a weight until the separate elements are optimally maxed out in relation to each other - it?s possible under that one could adapt very quickly and risk going stale before the other two caught up.