T Nation

Adapting the 30-10-30 Protocol

On another 30-10-30 thread I posted up my 30-10-30 negative emphasised routine and most recently an update with what I have planned in regards changes to the routine whilst still retaining the negative emphasis behind it.

I was asked to explain my rationale behind the changes and it was suggested (wisely in my opinion) to start a new thread .

Rather than go into all the specific changes i made (as in reality they are mostly just variations of Dr Darden protocols which I have adapted for myself ) I will explain my reasons for doing so , and list a couple of examples to back up my reasoning.

Firstly, i am a massive “variety” advocate for advanced bodybuilders (provided there is a regular means of measurement contained within a training routine) .

I also felt that after 3 cycles of my current routine I was beginning to see the quality of reps in some exercises drop a tiny bit , whilst in others I was noticing no improvements in some of the muscle groups being worked , despite resistance increases.
So for the former my focus is to change the protocol , whilst in the later I will change both the protocol and TUL.

In the past I have gotten little out of negative emphasised exercise, but I feel that Dr Darden is on to something with these protocols and so I am exploring this direction in negative emphasised training in an attempt to maximise my results.

With the barbell squat I have found 30-10-30 productive, but the last reps of the middle segment and the last negative are extremely tough. To maintain that level of quality effort with increasing loads over any period of time is an impossible task for someone training alone. But I will certainly be returning to it again at a later date

My 8-16-16-32-8-16 variation i am replacing it with provides a similar TUL and negative emphasis , but the pyramid nature of the reps mean that when fatigue and breathing reaches it’s highest , i only have to do a 16 second negative instead of a 30 second one.

I don’t know if it will work. But I love trying new variations and techniques.

The Pulldown i have not only changed protocol , but also lowered TUL , as I felt it was too high for my biceps.

The method I have replaced it with is based on is the 60 second negative chin up. It is called 10s-20n-10s-20n .

So it is one slow negative Pulldown, except you begin with a 10 second static in the contracted position, then lower slowly to halfway in 20 seconds, then another 10 second static , followed by a 20 second negative in the bottom half.

Again it is another experimental technique, and for many people it is far more complicated than it needs to be.

But for myself , I love these variations .

The two main points to take from this post are the importance of criticality analysing your routine , and secondly to adapt any programme to yourself .


Thanks for this Mark! You truly am one of the thinking man’s bodybuilder!

I like your variations on cadence/repetition, which makes me rethink more about my own way of performing the reps. I also found your choice of schedule and excercises balanced. Please keep on reporting your observations!

Me, I am into my 3rd cycle of two days a week, shifting between normal, 30-30-30 and 30-10-30 (in that order). Have landed in a regime consisting of approx 8 excercises (mostly machines -Nautilus or a good brand called Gym80 - which is easier when alone). I shift an excercise here and there:

  1. Machine legpress (sort of a Hacklift looking type, where you are pushing on a footrest, and gliding on a sled horizontally - similar feel to a squat, actually). Originally intended to vary this with leg extension, but my knee said no when the load increased.

(2. Leg curl. Maybe once in two cycles)

  1. Machine bench press varied with occasional

  2. Lat pulldown varied with neg chinup (60 sec as well as 10 sec x many), and regular chinups (normal only).

  3. Shoulder press machine.

  4. Bicepcurl machine.

  5. Tricepmachine varied with neg dips (60 sec as well as 10 sec x many), and regular dips (normal only) with the occasional pulldown.

  6. Lower back OR calves. Lower back machine. Intend to vary this with straight legged deadlifts - OR - calf raise in Smithmachine varied with the legpress version.

  7. Abs. Tend to shift in between several bodyweight excercises in a multiset-routine (situps, crunches, trunklift, twists etc) or abdominal machine.

May return with more details re the outcome of combining the three mentioned routines, if anyone is interested. Mostly interested in feedback re my choice of excercises? Could I do something differently?

Nothing wrong with your routine , although as a bodybuilder I find i need a need a squatting type movement or a top notch leg press such as Nautilus, Medx or X-Force to provide sufficient stimulus to the glutes and adductors.
I also find that without some type of row my middle back muscles don’t get enough work.
Finally , I would alternate between a shoulder press and lateral raise to maximus the development of the medial deltoid.
But that said, I am only looking at it from my point of view and experience with my own personal goals in mind.


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Photo taken last night.
Just cut back on a few treats this week (not all though).


I have just completed my new A routine .
Overall a good very tough session.
A couple of issues with both the barbell squat and standing shoulder press.
For the Squat I had planned to try out my own 8-16-16-32-8-16 technique. But during my warm up I noticed a problem with the turnarounds and realised it would be extremely difficult to execute the reps to the standard I expect of myself with a free weight movement like a squat .
So I made the decision to change the protocol to a 2-10 one (2 seconds up, 10 seconds down).
This was very tough and I failed after 5 or 6 (I actually lost count) cycles/reps.
With the Standing Shoulder Press I did a lower TUL variation of 8-16-16-32-8-16 , which was 4-8-8-16-4-8.
I failed attempting the 3rd positive rep a couple of seconds into the 4 second rep.
Overall a TUL of 38 seconds.
So I have 3 options to consider for the next time I do the Shoulder Press.

  1. Carry on with the same weight and aim to complete the 3rd rep cycle
  2. Just keep it to 2 rep cycles. So it would be just 4-8-8-16.
  3. Change the protocol.

I am swaying between options one and two presently.


I completed the new B workout last night .
The big plusses were that all the new protocols/adaptations felt right on the exercises I had chosen , and the weights were all very challenging (in some cases very challenging), whilst achieving the target reps.
The only exception being the 20/20/20 on the weighted Chin up, where I achieved the appropriate time (20 second negative, 20 second positive, 20 second negative) , but failed to complete the last 20 % of the positive rep.
I still plan to increase the weight on the chin at the next B workout , but it will only be a small increase.
My reasons for this are that I expect a slight improvement in skill , I will be more mentally prepared for that last part of the positive, and that hopefully I have stimulated an adaptive response .
The combination of these 3 factors I expect will allow me to achieve the target next time with slightly more resistance.


I agree with you completely Mark!

If you don’t mind me asking, apart from boredom, why would you advocate variation and on what sort of basis?

Thanks for the very interesting information you post here btw!

Although boredom in itself is a good enough reason to vary a programme. Personally I like to look at variety in the positive sense, rather than “nonvariation” in the negative (boring) sense.
Training for so many years, especially using a system as brutal as HIT , it is extremely difficult to maintain the “fire in the belly”.
But trying out new protocols, exercises, rep ranges etc, create fresh and different challenges and fuel my motivation and have me eager to get to the gym .
Being a bodybuilder I am constantly looking for ways to “tweak the stimulus” and make those tiny improvements to several areas of my physique.
Maintaining the same routine for a long period even with a decent increase in loads in many exercises , has in recent years always taken me down the same route , which is a little growth surge at the start , then a plateau in growth (irrespective of changes in volume and frequency, even when weights are increasing) , and then a loss of that initial gain.
When I was doing split routines I kept one core exercise per muscle group where I focussed on load, and then added one or 2 other exercises where I would vary things every workout and would focus ONLY on fatiguing the muscle and not load.
In recent times doing whole body routines , I have found that I need 2 routines to effectively work the whole body and that after 3 cycles of each I find my body adapting to the protocol. If I had a training partner I would probably continue for a couple more cycles, but training by myself I want to keep the reps honest and of high quality , and that after 3 cycles I start to lose that in pursuit on hitting targets.
I’m also of the believe that as one closes in on their genetic potential that growth stimulus will only occur in exceptional circumstances via an “unusual” source.
Dr Darden’s Negative Emphasised routines provide the possibility of such events occurring, but only if I can individualise it to myself.
Variety has proven to work for me for a long time now, but to do so I have to retain a “progressive element” within the workout .
I hope this has answered your question, although I have probably created several more ! :grin:


I find the loss of initial gain puzzling.

That regime reminds me of many of Dr Ken’s routines!

Thank you for taking the time to reply and sharing your knowledge and insight here Mark.


My hypothesis over the loss of the initial gain is that it is due to the lessening of the quality of reps over time and the increase in weights due to neuromuscular factors.
Just an hypothesis though.

I don’t want to derail your conversation here, but one additional argument for using a larger variety of exercises is reduction of overuse injuries. Perhaps that is less relevant for HIT guys using machines. But if you are a power lifter, for example, it might set you up for overuse injuries if all you ever did was squat, bench, and deadlift. A lot of those guys include a lot of variations on the main lifts, just to give the joints and connective tissues a respite.

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