Tag: History of Strength

3 Sets x 10 Reps: The History, Logic and Reasoning

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Earlier in the week I was fortunate enough to spend time with a friend of mine who has recently qualified as a physiotherapist. Discussing the relative merits of different exercises and training protocols, my friend lamented his profession’s reliance on cookie cutter protocols for rehabbing patients. In their view, many physiotherapists tended to prescribe 10 reps x 3 sets on exercises for patients regardless of their training experience, interest or age.

Now admittedly my friend has been strength training for the better part of a decade, which perhaps explains his enthusiasm for varying rep ranges across populations. Indeed in their training lifetime, they’ve used 5 x 5, 3 x 8, 1 x 20 and a host of other schemes. Hence they’ve experienced the effects that different protocols can produce. Ruminating however on their complaints, I realised that even outside the world of physiotherapy, people can adhere to rep ranges with a quasi-religious real. After all, when was the last time you heard someone promote 4 sets x 11 reps? Sacrilege….rep ranges must be divisible by 2 in the vast majority of cases!

Indeed, it’s not just the world of physiotherapy that has become enamoured with 3 sets x 10 reps. Many beginner and advanced programmes promote likewise. Certainly when I finished my first ‘real’ programme of 5 x 5, I was encouraged by older lifters to move to 10 x 3 for an introduction into bodybuilding. So with this in mind, today’s post examines the history of ’10 x 3′, a training protocol favoured it seems by gym goers and professional clinicians alike.

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Marian Mason: England’s Trailblazing Woman of Fitness

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Although sporting historians have long noted the importance of Englishwomen in the development of sport in general, few studies have devoted themselves to the study of callisthenics. Those that do, often employ problematic timelines. Indeed, although Fletcher, McKrone and Holt famously argued that women used sport and callisthenics to gain some form of social freedoms, all dated their studies from the latter half of the nineteenth-century. A decision which has done a great injustice to Marian Mason, England’s first female physical fitness instructor, who beginning in the 1820s, ran one of the most sought after training studios in all of England.

What is Strength?

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So often in today’s world of World’s Strongest Man, Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting, the assumption that strength is defined by maximum weight lifted goes unchallenged. It is as if we accept unquestioningly that the person who can lift 500 pounds once is stronger than the those who can ‘only’ lift 400 pounds for reps.

It’s important to remember that strength was and is, a highly contested issue. Today we are going to look at a 20th century European strongman’s views on what strength really means.