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Problem Chins

Q: I’ve been hitting it heavy for a few months, so I’m going to your 10×10 Mass Workout for three weeks. I’ve done two workouts so far. One exercise for each muscle with 10×10 feels great, and the pump is awesome. One problem I have is chins—there is no way I can do 10 sets of 10 reps with only 30 seconds of rest between them. I know I can do pulldowns instead, but I believe chins are the superior back builder. Any suggestions?

A: You have a few choices. Famous Hollywood trainer Vince “Iron Guru” Gironda favored 8×8. You could try that instead of 10×10. Vince called that his “honest” muscle-building workout, and his trainees’ muscles got bigger, fuller shapes with 8×8.

One of the most famous current proponents of the 10×10 method is Olympic coach and muscle-size-and-strength expert Charles Poliquin. Here’s his advice to those who can’t manage 10×10 on chins:

“The law of repeated efforts will enable you to develop the work capacity to perform all 10 sets…. Start at 10 sets of five reps as your first goal so that you can accumulate volume. Then progress to 10 sets of six, and so on.”

So once you get all 10 sets—or almost all—for five reps, add a rep at your next workout so you attempt 10×6. Keep striving to bump up your rep count.

Also, there’s no hard-and-fast rule that 30 seconds is the ideal between-sets rest. You can use 45 seconds or even one minute. For sarcoplasmic-expansion stress—building the energy fluid in the fibers—which is what 10×10 is all about, one minute should be the upper limit.

As for your comment that chins are better than pulldowns, maybe not better—just different. Pulldowns enable you to angle your torso for a unique lat-fiber hit. There’s really no way to angle your torso on chins to vary the stress on your back.

To get a best-of-both-worlds double hit, you could start a 10×10 sequence on chins, and when you can no longer get 10, move to pulldowns. You’ll have to experiment with the poundage so that your first set of pulldowns is not too easy but also not close to failure.

Say your chins go something like 10, 10, 10, 9. That’s four sets. Rest 30 seconds, and then move to pulldowns. Your reps should go something like 10, 10, 10, 9, 9, 8. Your lats will be thoroughly pumped after hitting two slightly different angles of pull. It’s a great double attack to get your back jacked.

Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF DVD and Size Surge programs, see the ads sections beginning on pages 194 and 120. Also visit  and for info on X-Rep, 4X and 3D POF methods and e-books.  IM

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