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More Muscle in Less Time with Ten Sets Workouts

The next time you change your workout routine, consider a program that targets your muscles with laser-like precision but that you can still complete in less than 30 minutes. It's called German Volume Training or the Ten Sets Method. Here's how it works.

Your goal is to complete 10 SETS of 10 REPS using the same weight for each exercise. The weight you start with is the one you're going to finish with. Each cycle of 10 sets is designed to target one muscle group, with a goal of working two muscle groups per workout.

For those of you who don't know the difference between a set and rep, here's what they mean. Rep is short for repetition. Each rep is one lift or complete exercise movement. A set is the number of reps you do in a row before stopping.

What makes the ten sets method so difficult is your recuperation time. You're only allowed to rest for 60 seconds between sets, not a moment more.

Forcing your muscles to perform the same movement up to 100 times, sends a shock through your body that triggers rapid muscle fiber growth and significant size gains. This technique can also help someone who's been stuck at the same level break through a training plateau. There are three things to consider when designing a proper Ten Sets program.

  1. THE WEIGHT you choose; you should be able to lift for 20 reps to failure if necessary. If you've measured your One Rep Max, it's about 60% of your One Rep Max. The first two or three sets might seem easy with this weight, but each set will get progressively harder. By the time you're on the 8th or 9th set, you'll be struggling to complete just a few reps.

  2. THE EXERCISES that work best are multi-jointed ones. You want to target a wide range of muscles in the area you're trying to train.

  3. REST is essential to give your body time to heal. If you're planning a Ten Sets routine, remember to give the body part you worked a full day off to repair and rebuild. Your muscles are going to be sore and you don't want to overtrain them.

Unlike traditional workouts, you don't keep making it more challenging by increasing the weight. Instead, you'll cut down on the rest periods between sets. Once you complete all 10 sets and all 10 reps, drop your rest time from 60 seconds to 55 seconds. You'll continue to drop the rest, 5 seconds at a time, until you're down to 45 seconds.

If you can complete all ten sets with only 45 seconds of rest between each one, then it's time to increase the weight. A small increase of 4-5% in weight is generally more than enough. Remember, when you increase the weight, put your rest time between sets back up to 60 seconds.

An excellent way to break up your training is to spread it over five days.

DAY ONE target chest (bench press or incline press) and back (pulldowns or seated cable row).

Day two rest.

DAY THREE work your legs (squats or leg presses) and abs (lying leg curls or low-cable pull-ins).

Day four rest.

DAY FIVE hit your arms (barbell curls or cable triceps pressdown) and shoulders (dumbbell press or seated barbell).

Those of you who are more advanced can add a bit of "finishing" work that targets an individual muscle. For example, if you want to focus on your biceps, add three more sets of 10-20 reps of a biceps exercise at the end of your workout.

The Ten Set Method is a great way to build both strength and muscle mass. It's so taxing on your muscles; you should only continue it for two to four weeks before you go back to a more traditional workout program. If you're ready to push yourself and are prepared for some muscle soreness, your next workout is waiting.

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Updated 12/21/2012