I recently got a question about the difference between 3 sets of 10 and 10 sets of 3. Now, that wasn’t the actual question but it illustrates the concept we were talking about.
The question is basically why would you do one over the other. Now in, the context of the example, if you used the same weight for both protocols, the difference between them is simply the time it would take you to build up the volume. One set of ten reps performed at a steady tempo will yield a greater metabolic effect than one set of three at the same tempo. This is because it take time for what are called metabolites to build up as you burn muscle glycogen through the number of reps. Now, the total amount of work done through all reps and sets is the same and you could possibly manipulate your rest to yield a similar result from the 10x3 as the 3x10 but it simply much easier to do a bigger set to get the desired effect.
Now, the metabolite effect is going to stimulate hypertrophy (muscle growth) because of the increased demand for larger amounts of time doing work. In the 10x3, if we were using greater weights then we would be in more of a general strength building phase which would capitalize on the hypertrophy work we did with the 3x10 type of lifting.
Now, in general, all of these protocols are on a spectrum. You can get stronger with high rep low weight and you can get bigger with low rep high weight. The amount of each is going to depend on a lot of factors and that at the extremes of the spectrum will not yield as great an effect as lifting for a specific adaptation would. High reps will see perhaps only a modest increase in strength and high weight may only see a modest increase in size.
These are generalities though and you must experiment on yourself to see which one is going to yield the greatest result for you. This, I think is going to be the theme of this blog. Self experimentation.
I will post more on this subject I’m sure, but in the meantime, if you are looking for more information on this, check out Renaissance Periodization and Juggernaut Training Systems on YouTube for a lot of awesome information.
Below is a JuggLife Podcast episode discussing some of what I talked about above.