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Bodybuilding’s Numbers Game


Q: What do you think of the 10-8-6 program? I started lifting in the ’70s, and health clubs commonly prescribed it for beginners.

A: What you’re describing is a simply a pyramid program, and the short answer to your question is, “It’s fine.”

I don’t know where or when it originated, but a colleague of mine said he was first introduced to the program in 1972, when he joined Bob’s Athletic Club in Fremont, California. The gym was named after its owner, Bob Perata, and it was one of those basic, primarily free-weight gyms of the past where bodybuilders, weightlifters and the general population all trained together and everyone helped each other out. In fact, the loyalty and trust of the membership was such that you could purchase a key to the gym from Bob and train at any hour of the day or night. The most notable member of the gym was Ed Corney, who challenged Franco Columbu for the ’75 Mr. Olympia lightweight title. Corney appeared on the cover of Charles Gains’ book Pumping Iron as well as on the poster for the movie. If you don’t own those items, find them.

My colleague said that the 10-8-6 program was especially motivating for beginners because with fewer reps on the second and third sets you could use heavier weights—in effect, it gave the illusion that you were getting stronger throughout the workout. Because trainees did low reps and because the protocol was designed for beginners, three sets were enough for them to make progress. Often, or at least apparently at Bob’s, trainees would use the program for a month and then move on to something else for variety—sometimes simply adding another set, doing permutations such as 12-10-8-6 for more muscle and 10-8-6-4 for more strength.

I must also note that one similar program, called the 5-4-3-2-1 method, was a favorite of former world powerlifting champion Mauro Di Pasquale , M.D. One problem with many weight trainees who use relatively higher reps is that they don’t know how to recruit higher-threshold muscle fibers. They might be able to bench-press 300 pounds for 10 reps but might have trouble with 325 for a single; even though they’re strong, they cannot demonstrate their true strength with a one-rep maximum. By gradually adding two to three percent more weight per set, the 5-4-3-2-1 method “teaches” you to recruit those more powerful muscle fibers.

 

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com.  IM

 

 

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