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Texans Fitness Corner

Welcome to Dan Riley's latest installment of Texans Fitness Corner. The response continues to be overwhelming. We will continue to post selected answers to your questions throughout the year. Join in by shooting over an e-mail to

*NOTE: Before engaging in any new physical activity, always consult your physician.*

I am a strength coach at a high school in Cincinnati. I read an article you had written for Coach magazine. The article discussed a 10-8-6 workout. Can you give me a little background on that routine and compare it to a one set of failure routine?

-- Ed, Cincinnati

One of the problems of writing something for publication is that people might read it. Once it is in print it becomes part of your legacy forever. There are some things I have changed through the years and will continue to change if facts become available to dictate a change.

For example, in their book, "The Seven Minute Rotator Cuff Solution," the authors describe in vivid detail the gradual structural degradation that occurs to the shoulder capsule from performing the following movements; lat pulldowns behind the neck, seated presses behind the neck, and upright rows. In the past I had published material that included each of these movements as part of our exercise regimen.

I now discourage these movements because of the medical justification against performing them. I've had coaches and former players remind me that I once advocated these activities. As I stated earlier, put something in writing and it becomes part of your legacy.

I encourage variety in our program. We promote variety by changing the order of exercise, the exercises performed, the equipment used to perform the exercise, and the manner in which the exercise is performed. For several years I employed a routine that included among other exercises, the bench press, the incline press, and the seated press. Three sets of each exercise were performed. We called it "The 10 - 8 - 6 routine."

The sets consisted of 10 reps, 8 reps, and 6 reps. It's a standard routine used by many coaches. It is a workout popularized by Dr. Greg Shepherd (Bigger, Faster, Stronger).

When our players used this routine they would complete 10 reps of an exercise with maximum or near maximum weight. They would wait 1½ minutes and perform a second set of 8 reps, again with maximum or near maximum weight.

The amount of weight used on the second set would decrease (must decrease if the effort on the first set was all out or near all out). Our players would wait 1½ minutes and perform a third and final set of 6 reps.

We use the Electric Coach to document information. The Electric Coach is a computer program used to track and store workout data. Mike Gittleson, current strength coach at the University of Michigan, designed it.

We recorded the 10 - 8 - 6 routine for several years. One year we experimented with this routine by eliminating the third set of 6 reps. We called it our "10 - 8 routine" (pretty innovative huh?).

At the end of the year we observed our players were getting the same results by performing two quality sets of 10 and 8 reps, as they did with the 10 - 8 - 6 routine. We decided to permanently eliminate the third set of 6 reps. It saved both time and energy.

We have several 10 - 8 routines using different equipment. For example, we have a dumbbell 10 - 8 routine, and a Smith machine 10 - 8 routine. The only difference between these two routines is when performing the bench press, the incline press, or the seated press; our players will use either dumbbells or a Smith machine. Varying the equipment is one way to create variety.

Our players will perform one set of 10 reps (rest 90 seconds) followed by a set of 8 reps. This includes a volume of 18 reps for each exercise, a total of 54 reps for all three exercises. Keep in mind these routines include other exercises but it is only the bench, incline, and seated press that our players perform 10 & 8 reps.

In your question Ed, you asked me to compare our 10 - 8 - 6 (we now use a 10 - 8) routine to a single set routine.

We also have a single set dumbbell and Smith machine routine to complement our 10 - 8 routines (more variety). We call these routines the Dumbbell Elevator and the Smith Machine Elevator.

Our zero to 90-degree adjustable benches can be set at five different angles. We call each angle a "Floor." The "First floor," indicates the adjustable bench is set at zero degrees. This will allow our players to perform a flat back (supine) bench press on the Smith machine or with dumbbells.

After completing an all out set of 10 reps on the First Floor, the athlete moves to an exercise for the upper back. He then returns to the adjustable bench to perform a set on the Second Floor. We raise the adjustable bench up one setting. The angle is somewhere between a flat back bench press and an incline press.

The lifter performs an all out set of ten reps on the second floor and moves to an exercise for the posterior deltoid. The player then returns to the adjustable bench and raises it one setting higher to the Third Floor (the angle is comparable to an incline press).

Upon completion of ten reps on the Third Floor our players perform an isolation exercise for the shoulders and then returns to the adjustable bench. The bench is raised one more setting to the Fourth Floor (this angle is somewhere between an incline press and a seated press). The last exercise (seated press) is performed on the Fifth floor.

In your question you asked me to compare our 10 - 8 routine, to our one set to failure routine. With quality exercise the concern is always the volume of work performed. Too much quality exercise will prevent recovery.

The amount of work performed in each of these routines (10 - 8 or the Elevators) is the same.

As I mentioned earlier, the total number of pushing reps (bench press, incline press, seated press) in the 10 - 8 routine is 54 reps. The total number of pushing reps in either of the Elevator routines is 50 reps (one set of ten reps on each Floor).

The volume of work performed (total number of reps) between our 10 - 8 routines and our single set routines, is nearly identical.

Take my advice Ed, hop on the Elevator and go for a ride! If the Elevator is full, spice up your day with a little "10 - 8" action.

For many years you have advocated "whole body" training routines (upper and lower body performed during the same workout). The last few years it appears that most of your players perform split routines (neck and upper body one day, hips, legs, & midsection the next).

Why the change in philosophy? Have you found better results with a split routine vs. a whole body routine? Doesn't the extra time spent in the weight room with a split routine impinge on the athlete's recovery? Would you advocate a split routine of this type for high school players or for general fitness minded people?

-- Jim, Pottstown, PA

Whenever I have the chance to meet with college students, I explain to them that they should gather as much theoretical information as they can find. This will help them justify how they organize and implement their own strength and conditioning programs when they become a coach.

In the classroom and laboratory, teachers and researchers have the luxury of making decisions in a clinical antiseptic setting. When they become coaches students will be forced to make decisions in a practical setting (the real world). They will quickly learn there are many obstacles to overcome regarding the administration of a strength and conditioning program.

In his book "The Stress of Life," author Hans Selye discusses his General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) theory. It is the foundation of the "Double Progressive Resistance Theory." Oversimplified it states, stress a muscle and it will adapt …. stress it too much and failing adaptation occurs.

Selye states the body has only one system to recover from any stress. The body is constantly expending energy and it is also working continuously to replenish this energy. Athletes use the same energy system to recover from; practice, games, weight lifting, running, injuries, a cold, an illness, a lack of sleep, and many other energy depleting activities.

In your question you asked, "Doesn't the extra time spent in the weight room with a split routine impinge on the athlete's recovery?" Our players perform the same number of exercises when we split a routine or if they perform all of the exercises in one workout. Therefore the accumulative amount of time spent in the weight room, and the amount of energy expended, will be the same.

What might impinge on the player's ability to recover, is performing too much exercise on successive days.

In the past I advocated performing all strength-training exercises (total body workout) in one exercise session. I believed this would allow the body the next day or two to completely recover from the workout.

Splitting the routine forces the body to expend energy on consecutive days. Different body parts are trained on alternate days, but the same energy system is used. Athletes don't have an upper body energy tank and a lower body energy tank.

I've mentioned in prior installations "In-season Training" is the period of the year to emphasize training the most. During the season is the most difficult time to administer a strength program. Our players spend endless hours meeting, practicing, playing the game, traveling to away games, and trying to find time for their personal life.

Our players will perform an intense total body workout on Monday, the day after a game. They will be tired and sore from the Sunday game. The lifting session will help alleviate the soreness and serve as the first workout for that week.

On Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday morning, our players will complete a second upper body only workout before practice. They will complete a second lower body workout after practice. This schedule works best for our players.

Should all athletes use this same plan? My advice to you and all coaches is to adapt to your particular setting and try to do what is best for your athletes.

As I mentioned earlier there are many things that interfere with an ideal training regimen. All athletes and coaches must adapt and design a plan that best prepares the athlete to compete. I don't know if splitting a routine compromises maximum gains and complete recovery. Strength coaches may have to adjust the amount of exercise their athletes perform (to prevent over-training).

You asked, "do we get better results with a total body or a split-routine?" My opinion is I don't think it makes a difference. Again I would defer to personal preference or the circumstances dictated by your athlete's schedule.

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