This article for InfiniteLabs.com is being brought to you by the numbers 5, 10, and 20. You like that Sesame Street reference? In all seriousness, the 5-10-20 system isn’t nearly as popular now as it was in the past but that doesn’t mean it won’t help you make progress with your fitness goals.
By Roger Lockridge
Here’s how 5-10-20 works. You pick a bodypart and devote three exercises for that bodypart. The first one should definitely be a compound movement, the second one can be either compound or an isolation exercise, and the third lift would preferably be an isolation choice. You then perform the method in the order you choose the exercises. The first movement you perform for sets of 5 reps. The goal here is to work on power and strength. Your second one is done for 10 reps. At this point, the focus is on muscle growth. The final one? You guessed it. You do 20 reps and endurance will be the factor at play.
Basic 5-10-20 Routine
There are two styles to this training method. For beginners, this method would be best. As an example to illustrate, let’s design a basic workout for quadriceps. The three exercises of choice will be the squat, leg press, and leg extension. In the basic version, you would perform 3 sets of 5 reps for squats, 3 sets of 10 reps for the leg press, and 3 sets of 20 for the extensions. You would rest for 1-2 minutes between each set. In a training log, it would look like this.
Squats – 3 work sets of 5, 5, 5 reps.
Leg Press – 3 work sets of 10, 10, 10 reps.
Leg Extension – 3 work sets of 20, 20, 20 reps.
For those of you that have more weight room experience, that strategy might appear too simple. That doesn’t mean you should ignore this training because you can make it work for you. To up the intensity, you can take those 3 same exercises and perform them consecutively without rest. This is called a tri-set and it’s like a superset but you have three exercises instead of two. Going back to the quad training example from before, the reps would stay the same but the order changes. Here’s how that would look in your log.
1a – Squats – 5 reps.
1b – Leg Press – 10 reps.
1c – Leg Extension – 20 reps.
The objective is to perform as many tri-sets as you can in the time you have to train. Let’s say you perform 5 rounds of all three exercises this program. That means you performed 15 individual sets. That is a lot of volume in a short amount of time.
Obviously, this isn’t a program for quads only. You can make 5-10-20 programs for any bodypart you like. Just remember that the order of exercises are compound, compound or isolation, and isolation. Within a few weeks you should see some improvement in any or all aspects of your training.