High Tension, Big Muscle

Q: I am a constant reader on the T-nation website, and I came across the Shotgun Method and then clicked on your blog at the bottom of the page. I kept reading on about different programs and saw the 10-8-6-15 Program. I am thinking of trying it out, but do you think I could make good gains? I have been doing 5x5 Starting Strength for 8 months and have gained around 11-12 kilos. Was 50kg when I first started, and now I'm at 62~ kg.

In addition, what's your view when changing programs around? I got bored of 5x5 and then I changed to a split routine, but I haven't quite found what's best suited [for me]. How many times do you think someone should change their program up, and how should they change it up? What's the time frame one should stay on a program?


My Answer: I'm a firm believer in changing programs often, especially if you are an intermediate to advanced lifter. Intermediate lifters should be changing their programs up every 2-3 weeks, but it depends on the program. For example, many of my programs have a change-up built in: 2-3 weeks of high density training, followed by 2-4 weeks of decompression.

But if you're talking about a single phase program, then you should not be on that program any longer than 3 weeks. Otherwise you will stagnate and hit a plateau.

With that said, you should see results by switching from the Starting Strength Program or the 5x5 method to the 10-8-6-15 Program. You'll grow, because you're doing three things:

1) You're exposing your muscles to more volume. If you've been doing the actual Starting Strength Program, then your volume for each exercise would have been 3x5 or a total volume of 15 reps. If you were following the 5x5 method (which is different), then your total volume would be 25 reps. The 10-8-6-15 Program will give you a higher volume of 39 reps per exercise. More volume means more growth for at least 2-3 weeks.

2) You're exposing your muscles to longer time under tension. Since you're performing higher repetitions, this will expose your muscles to longer time under tension. Whereas 5 reps with a heavy weight elicits a high testosterone response, higher reps with moderately heavy weight elicits moderate testosterone and high growth hormone release. In other words, higher reps (10-8-6-15) will hypertrophy your muscles through a different hormonal cocktail.

3) You're exposing your arms to direct work. Direct arm work makes a difference with regards to size and tone. This is why bodybuilders train them directly. You have to develop that neural connection and repeated effort to not only fully maximize arm size but to maximize the myogenic tone in the arms.

People get into trouble when they start thinking it's one extreme or the other: they do abbreviated programs with no direct arm work or they do muscle spinning routines with no heavy multi-joint free weight movements. You have to have a balanced physique, and that means direct arm work coupled with heavy compound movements.

Q: Hello how are you? I just saw one of your articles on Bodybuilding.com. The reason I am writing you is because I am about to start my career as a correctional officer and I was wondering if you thought my workout routine was good for this job.
I currently do circuit training taking 30 seconds between reps and different exercises. It looks something like this:

Bench press 3x12
Pullups 1 x max
Lat pulldowns 2x12
Squats 2x12
Push press 3x12
Leg press 2x12
Close grip bench press 2x10
EZ-bar curls 3x12
Pushups 2 x max

Any suggestions would be appreciated. I do this workout every other day and run or do some kind of cardio on the off days.

- L.F.

My Answer: Looks fine, but you need to clarify something. You said you do the above exercises in a circuit. That means you start off doing one set of bench presses, rest for 30 seconds, do a set of pull-ups, rest for 30 seconds and so on down the list. Each of these exercises you list has a different set number. Some exercises are one set, some are 3 sets. Normally in circuit training every exercise on the list has an equal number of sets. So I'm not sure if you're doing circuit training or you're just doing straight sets. Regardless, either way is fine.
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