One Exercise Per Muscle Group?

September 26, 2011

Today, I’d like to look at the idea of focusing on just one exercise per muscle group, compared to using a variety of exercises. If you have never tried a workout where you do 8-10 sets of the same exercise, you will probably be in for a shock. This is a tough workout! It looks basic in nature, but is simply another tweak you can add to your routine if you are at a sticking point. I’ll discuss how limiting your exercises down to one per muscle group can help with both increasing strength as well as muscle size.

One Exercise Per Muscle Group

[“There Can Be Only One!” I Had to throw in a quote from one of the best movies ever. I don’t care if Rotten Tomatoes gave Highlander 67%…this movie is awesome! The Queen Song they play while flashing back to MacLeod’s wife growing old and dying while he stays young…gives me chills every time. Brilliant stuff!]

Probably Not Something I’d Recommend Long Term

Think of this mainly as a tool to use when you want to break through a plateau. If a lot of your lifts are stuck and you can’t seem to get through this sticking point, this is the exact type of thing that will get things rolling again. Same with adding size…this will push muscles back into growth mode. My recommendation is to use this method in 4-6 week bursts.

Strength Training VS Building Muscle With One Exercise

This method works equally well for increasing strength as it does for building muscle. The main difference will be rep ranges and rest periods. If you are aiming for size, you will want to use this method to fatigue the muscles from set to set…or what I like to call “cumulative fatigue”. If you are aiming to use this to increase strength without size, then you will aim for low reps while avoiding fatigue and failure. This will give positive feedback to your nervous system, which will result in stronger contractions (and more strength) over time.

10 Sets of 3 Reps [For Strength]

Multiple sets of 3 reps is a great way to add strength and increase density without adding a lot of size to the muscle. If you are after strength & size, simply use a weight that forces you to get closer to failure each set.

  • Pick a weight you could press for roughly 5-6 reps and use that weight on all 10 sets.
  • Stop at 3 reps even though you could do more.
  • Rest one minute between sets, but increase the rest if you feel any sign of fatigue.
  • Aim to get 3 reps for all 10 sets.

10 Sets of 10 Reps [For Size]

This is a pretty common rep and set range for size. This isn’t the best thing for strength, but will shock the heck out of a stubborn muscle group. I tried this last week on incline dumbbell presses …It absolutely smoked my chest. I’ll tell you that story in a sec, but first here is how to do this set and rep setup.

  • Pick a weight you can lift 15 times and use that weight on all 10 sets.
  • Stop at 10 reps.
  • Rest one minute between each set…do NOT increase the rest period no matter how fatigued the muscles are feeling.
  • Aim for 10 reps on all 10 sets (gets hard at the end).

Awesome Back Exercise I Used for 10 X 10 Last Week!

[I was reading a bit about old school trainer, Vince Gironda, last week and was reminded about an exercise I’ve only read about it text. This is called the “Gironda 45 Degree Pulley Row” and it fries your back! It isolates your lats during the first part of the motion and the second part feels like a seated row. It is like a seated row that burns badly. Especially if you are doing 10 sets of 10!]

My Experience Doing Incline Dumbbell Press 10 X 10

I typically use 80-85 pound dumbbells when I am doing 5 sets of 5 on the incline dumbbell press. Last week, when I decided to give the 10 X 10 workout a shot…I figured 50 pounds would be an easy weight for my first time around. I WAS WRONG! On the 5th set, I couldn’t get past 8 reps. On the 7th set, I couldn’t get past 6 reps. On the 8th set I was at around 5. On the last two sets I dropped the weight to 35 pounds…and it was a struggle to get 10 full reps! Nest week I will use 40 pounds dumbbells.

Figured I Would Maybe Do a Few Sets of Bench After This

The bench press is not my strong point. Anything over 225 pounds feels heavy. That being said…I was NOT prepared for how smoked my chest was after doing those 10 sets of incline dumbbell presses. When I attempted a 135 pound warmup set, I had a hard time pressing 135 pounds 5 times. Typically I feel like I could throw that weight to the ceiling if I had to. After doing 10 sets of inclines it felt around 225 pounds! My entire chest was smoked from inclines. You really only do need one exercise per body part when doing 10 sets of 10 reps! A similar thing happened when I tried doing a few sets of chin ups after doing the Vince Gironda 45 Degree Pulley Row.

8 Sets of 8 Reps [Muscle Building With Fat Loss]

So Mike Westerdal, the guy who helped me put together the Visual Impact Exercise Demo Ebook, is giving away a really cool free report this week. It is Vince Gironda’s Go-To workout for simultaneous muscle fiber growth and fat loss.

8 sets of 8

[Click on the cover above to get the free 17 page ebook.]

Gironda’s Top Routine for Getting Muscles Growing Again

Vince Gironda was no less than a training legend. He used a huge portfolio of workouts and this was one of his favorites. The big highlight here is that this particular workout takes no more than 30 minutes. It isn’t a circuit routine, but shares some similarities to modern circuit routines. It uses 2 exercises per body part, but they are performed in a special way.

So 3 More “Plateau Busters” to Implement in Your Workouts

  • Strength Plateau? Try 10 Sets of 3 Reps
  • Size Plateau? Try 10 Sets of 10 Reps
  • Size Plateau and a Little Chubby? 8 Sets of 8 Reps

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It's like a Ford Pinto compared to my new site...which is like a Ferrari. Click the link to head over to my new site.

Starting Over...R.I.P. Fitness Black Book!

Thanks for reading all these years!


----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

jason @ personal trainer November 1, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Took your advice on this and boy was I hurting. But a day later and the benefits were obvious as I could do my own set a lot better.

The plateau was broken and I could move on – and more importantly, upwards.

Going to recommend this to some of my clients who’ve stagnated! Let’s see them hurt too! LOL

Frank November 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm

I’ve tried the 10×10 before and it leaves my muscles fried! Will have to try the 10×3 and see how that feels.

Definitely going to recommend this to my friends. Oh, and the movie too! 🙂

Rayca November 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I tried 10 x 10 this morning for shoulders. OMG. Absolutely pumped and was such a nice change.

Stan November 8, 2011 at 9:12 am

Really interesting read! Had not heard the concept of 10 reps for 10 sets to break through plateaus. Will give this a try as I’ve been maxed out on bench for a while.

Exercise On Abs November 9, 2011 at 10:13 am

Vince Gironda is the greatest ! Love the part about dips..

EZ November 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Did anyone of you downloaded the free Vince Gironda 8×8 17 page ebook? I can not find the link. Rusty? Can you please help?



EZ November 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Actually I clicked the link but it does not take me to the free ebook.

fitness health November 13, 2011 at 8:59 am

awesome rusty, think I will be giving the 10 x 10 a shot next, week looks like a good compound exercise movement going on.
Cheers for the info

David @ The Natural Health Service November 19, 2011 at 7:24 am

When I first read about the 10 sets of 10 method some years ago it said to use a weight that you could normally do 20 reps with (rather than 15 as you said). Although this would feel light at first it gets much harder as you go on. But I guess you found that out with your incline dumbbell presses. I’ve never tried it though as I’ve never done well on high volume.

It’s also important to mention that if you are doing this sort of training to gain size you need to eat a lot at the same time (depending on your body fat percentage of course).

I’ve seen that pdf of Vince Gironda 8 X 8 and think alternating two exercises in the way he describes is a good idea. Might try that at some time.

Final point, I think if you don’t gain size on a higher rep count programme it’s because you’re not strong enough to lift sufficient weight for that rep range in order to make the size gains. So focus more on strength first.

Coach Calorie December 2, 2011 at 9:30 am

I’ve done both the 10×10 and 8×8 and found that I couldn’t sustain that amount of volume for much longer than a couple weeks. If you are trying to bulk up and are eating plenty of calories, I can see how these training methods could benefit. If on the other hand you are dieting, I think it’s a sure recipe for under recovering.

Helcio Sabatella December 7, 2011 at 10:37 am

Who Wants to live forever? I DO !!! The pumping iron Theme is great song and classics are classics. Vince Gironda, Larry scott, Charles Atlas.
You will never get the size of a Bull eatting like a bird …]

Keep Pumping!!!

Bodybuilder Meal December 28, 2011 at 9:27 pm

One lift per workout could actually seemingly be a pretty good idea. As long as you’re continually working on progressive overload, I don’t see why you still won’t be able to grow either way.

Hire Fitness January 9, 2012 at 6:07 am

We should go under a proper Gym trainer so that we can do needful exercises & make proper diet chart accordingly.

Right now, We can see everywhere, mostly people are suffering from high weight problem.
They frustrate from this common problem & start using many kinds of pills.
But remember : Pills may be helpful for weight loss but people should be careful as some pills are very harmful for
their body system.
The body symptoms may be separate of all people & pills does not suite to everybody.
Even, if you are patient & suffering from any disease, firstly you should contact to your doctor before
taking any kind of pills.

After-all, you can start gym, any kind of Exercises or yoga classes. These are very helpful
for heavy weight losses naturally .

Vans schoenen online kopen January 17, 2012 at 2:32 am

I back that advice up!
Really do one exercise and not more per muscle group.
It will do you more good for your body.
You will also see faster results.

Jon (AKA J-Spot Jon) Pietrunti January 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm

This is fantastic advice, especially for all of the “hard-gainers” out there trying to put on size and strength.

Personally, I have had great results using similar set/rep schemes as described above. With focused training like this, there is no need to really use more than one exercise.

I have also had excellent results with this protocol in my quest for advanced calisthenic exercises (i.e. One-arm Push-ups and Chins).

Thanks for the great post! Keep it up!

Matt January 30, 2012 at 10:29 am

I am a restarting my muscle building journey. I often go through my lazy phases. My problem is, I get to a certain size and I don’t want to get any bigger. So, I lay off working out to avoid getting too big. Is there any recommendations that I can do to still remain active (avoiding getting lazy), but not become too huge?

Jared February 22, 2012 at 7:40 pm

But aren’t we supposed to do one exercise per muscle group on a full-body routine even if the sets are 3-4 at most?

Are you now saying that if you don’t so at least 10 sets you need another exercise for the same muscle group even on a full-body worlout or two-days split?

Andrew February 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Hi Rusty,
I was just wondering is there anyway to target one muscle group and lose muscle from just that group? I played lots of soccer throughout my life and now have pretty big quads I would like to shrink down a little. Any help would be greatly appreciated

Woody February 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I got here for the workout information and secrets of success ans stayed for the Highlander reference. One of my favorite all time movies. You know it’s good when Queen devotes a whole album to the soundtrack in order and never calls it a soundtrack.

I use P90x routine and it follows a lot of your suggestions and really helps break through those plateaus, which is key if you don’t want any of your routines becoming stagnate and really want to see continued results.

Andy March 9, 2012 at 11:02 am


Great article and a new way of looking at size and strength training. Will be definitely looking at the 10×10 workout and post back with my findings.


Jim March 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm

this is great! i have recently been doing 5 sets and have thought that is a good amount to be doing but I never thought of boosting it up to 10 sets. this is great advice I am pumped to try out.

John Oxnard April 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I will definitely give this a try. 10 reps will be hard but hey, “no pain no gain”.

Gary June 2, 2012 at 4:29 am

The good thing about exercising one muscle group at a time is that it gives you more control over sculpting your body. E.g., if your abs are looking a bit ill-defined then perform some exercise routine that targets those. If your arms are looking a bit flabby, find an exercise that builds them up.

Kitchen worktops guy June 6, 2012 at 7:00 am

That’s my life motto, man.

rob link June 14, 2012 at 9:36 am

I find this article extremely interesting. However what single exercise would work best for shoulders? Being there are 3 distinct muscles ? Thank you

Vix- Miss Fitness Life June 23, 2012 at 12:41 am

10 x 10 is an absolute killer- I was sore for days. Girls try starting with 5 x 10 for a great workout when you want to mix it up!

Vanessa June 30, 2012 at 9:35 am

Thank you for sharing your expertise, I recently began working out; my goal is to get in shape and eat healthier! I have found this post to be very interesting! Thank you!

6 Pack Abs Guy August 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Good topics. It throws out the old adage 3 sets of 10. 8 sets of 8 is much better and NOT focusing on one group – this is what we talk about when teaching how to work out and how to get 6 pack abs. Just doing crunches and sit-ups all day long will not get you six pack abs – its the combination of many exercises.

Peter August 23, 2012 at 3:59 am

hunnnn, it sounds good. I tried 10 X 10 as like Video you have put but i must say it’s very difficult to do.

Well, thanks for guiding, I’m going to try your other tips

Roy February 12, 2013 at 10:05 am

I been working out hard for a little over a year now, and I lost over 50 pounds now. I been hitting the weights allot harder, and even though I can see some results it’s really slow. What’s the best way to get Lean, and lose this belly?

Yash March 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Hey Rusty…
I have recently started following your VI workout and have lost 3-4 kgs in a span of 2 weeks. My major worry is Moobs… Will it be possible for you to do some write up on moobs.. What kinda exercises to focus… volume and stuff like that…I guess it is a major issue with fat people like me…. Would really help.

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