T Nation

Cosgrove vs GVT

Great criticism and breakdown of 2 routines

From the elitefts website

Dissecting Training Programs
By Alwyn Cosgrove, www.alwyncosgrove.com
For www.EliteFTS.com

Over the years I?ve attended several seminars, with some of the ?top? names (note sarcasm) in the industry and sat transfixed (or brainwashed) absorbing all of their material on training. Despite the apparent brilliance of these people ? whenever I got to reading the actual ?delivery system? of their knowledge ? i.e. their programming skills I was usually quite disappointed. This article is about stripping away the packaging and analyzing the contents, using principles that we know to be true.

Now before anyone becomes defensive it?s important to note that – everything works. Doing any form of training is usually beneficial, so anecdotal reports of gains made are not uncommon with even the worst program. It is also important to note that only over time will all errors be magnified, so you can ?get away with? a poor program when only using it for a short time. Now, this is not optimal of course, but it can account for some of the flaws in popular programs not being apparent at first glance.

First of all, let?s take a look at the time it takes to do some of the more popular programs:


The beauty of knowing how to interpret all the loading parameters is that you can predict exactly how long a workout will take. With this in mind, consider the following example:

This is from a well known ?National? training manual. One of the exercises in the program is listed as follows:

Multi planar lunges

1-3 sets
15-25 reps each leg
At a 422 tempo
With 45-90 seconds rest
(For those of you who do not understand tempo ? it refers to the speed of execution of a rep ? in this case, a four second eccentric, a 2 second pause and a 2 second concentric)

First of all this is a huge set and rep range (1 set of 15 or 3 sets of 25 ?15 or 75 reps?)and rest period range (one hundred per cent variance?!). This is not really programming ? more a wild-assed guess than anything else.

For the purposes of this example we will use the upper range of this example. Let?s do the math:

3 sets x (25 (reps) x 8 seconds (tempo) +90 seconds rest) = 3x 290s = 870 seconds.

The exercise is a lunge (unilateral) so this applies to both legs = 870s x 2 = 1740s

That?s 29 minutes of lunges.

Now if you can do twenty nine minutes of lunges I?d suggest that you likely don?t need to be doing lunges! But the reality is, this program has clearly never been used in the real world, the flaws are so apparent. The even more ridiculous thing is that these lunges are only one of THIRTEEN exercises with the same sets, reps, tempo and rest period in that program, not including warm ups etc.

Structural Balance

Let?s look at the extremely popular 10 sets of 10 reps program that has been around for the past few years and is presented as a hypertrophy method.

The original premise of the program calls for 10 sets of 10 reps with your 20 rep maximum load, performed in alternating sets. This is essentially leaving 50% of your reps ?in the tank? and pretty much violates the overload principle for hypertrophy. This is similar to trying to run your best mile by running at half that pace.

Fortunately, several authors saw the flaws in this program and tried to correct them. In the past year we have seen ?upgraded? versions of this program using 10 sets of 5 with your 10RM, or 10 sets of 3 with your 6RM. Neither of these programs, despite their improvements have addressed the fundamental flaw.

I guess the number 10 is important in Western Culture ? hence the popularity of all of these programs.

The second flaw in this system is the issue of balance as regards to loading the joints.

Here is the program as it appeared in a national fitness magazine:

Workout One

A1: Squats - 10 sets of 10 reps (this refers to a close stance full squat)
A2 Leg Curl - 10 sets of 10 reps
B1: Low Cable Tucks - 3 x 15
B2 Seated Calf Raise - 3 x 15
Workout Two

A1: Bench Press - 10 x 10
A2: Chin Ups - 10 x 10
B1: Incline DB Flies - 3 x 12
B2: DB Row - 3 x 12
Workout Three

A1: Dips - 10 x 10
A2: Incline DB Curls - 10 x10
B1: Bent over Lateral Raise - 3 x 12
B2: Seated Lateral Raise - 3 x 12
Let?s break the routine down in terms of reps per movement pattern:

Movements that can be considered quad or knee dominant: 100 reps of a multiple joint closed chain movement (the squat). This is paired with movements that can be considered hip or hamstring dominant (the leg curl): 100 reps of a single joint open chain movement.

Despite the total reps being the same for the quad and hip dominant portions of the lower body training, based on the exercise selection there is no way a trainee can match the volume because of loading issues. For example if the trainee can squat 200lbs, a 100lb leg curl would be impressive (and unlikely). This creates a massive loading imbalance around the knee joint and is likely to cause an injury. Conclusion: The quad and hip dominant movement patterns are not balanced.

Movements that can be considered horizontal push (chest, shoulders, and triceps): 200 reps (bench and dips) of multiple joint bilateral loaded movements

Whereas movements that can be considered horizontal pull (retracting the scapula): 36 reps (bent over lateral raise) of a single joint, unilaterally loaded movement.

So in this example, we not only have a imbalance in terms of reps performed (200 as opposed to 36, a ratio of 5.5:1 in terms of pure reps performed), and again, with the exercise selection (bench press and dips vs. bent over lateral raise) we cannot even approximate the loads used pulling as we do pushing. For example, a 200lb man bench pressing only 200lbs would have a total horizontal pushing volume of 40,000 lbs. If that same individual were able to handle 50lb dumbbells in each hand in the bent over lateral raise (a massive amount), then his horizontal pulling volume would total 3600lbs. This is a total volume ratio of over 11:1.

Conclusion: The Horizontal Pushing and Pulling components are extremely unbalanced and likely to create a potential joint problem around the shoulder girdle.

Vertical Pull: 100 reps of a closed chain multi-joint bilateral movement
Vertical Push: 36 reps of an open chain single joint unilateral movement
Once again we have an imbalance in terms of total reps, loading and exercise selection. If the same 200lb trainee can perform 100 chin-ups as is programmed, and could handle even 50% of their bodyweight in the seated DB lateral raise, (again a ridiculously high number) , we have an over 5:1 ratio.

Conclusion ? the vertical push and pull components of this program are not balanced in terms of total sets, reps or poundage

Finally let us look at the actual movements that occur at each joint.

Total reps that INTERNALLY rotate the shoulder: (bench, dips, chins, flies): 336
Total reps that EXTERNALLY rotate the shoulder: ZERO
Now this one is just plain scary. Based on the exercise selections and loading parameters we spend 336 reps internally rotating the shoulder joint, and absolutely zero reps externally rotating it. This would be considered excessive even if the client exhibited a massive tendency towards external rotation (which in my opinion would be beyond the level seen by an Olympic backstroke swimmer). But when you consider the fact that the majority of all clientele tend to exhibit an internally rotated appearance, due to our time spent driving, typing on computers, hunched over a desk etc then the likelihood of an average individual (again this average individual is exactly who this program was targeted at), needing more internal rotation is highly unlikely.

Conclusion: This program is likely to cause a massive imbalance in the rotator cuff.

Now these rep and load imbalances that have been presented are only for one cycle of the program. The program initially was written to be performed 5 times. So you can essentially multiply these problems by five.

It is also appropriate to mention that doing a program that is unbalanced in terms of joint angle is fine ? assuming the joints are healthy enough to handle it, or there is an existing imbalance in the first place. It seems hard to believe that there is a person who is as unbalanced as to need a program such as this however.

In summary, some commercial programs are like hot dogs, they look good and are very popular, but if you dissect them and get to know what was really inside them ? you wouldn?t touch them!

Alwyn Cosgrove

Alwyn gave that presentation at the DC Test Fest back in January. It was very good and terribly funny!