The worst thing that could happen to a person with potential is to have everybody kiss his ass and laud every word he says without any critical thought. The second worse would be for him to like it.
I don't know how many trainees you've observed but 1.) it ain't hardly any time under the bar versus what a beginner really needs to hone in a lift and 2) it ain't "quality" time after the first couple weeks at most. It's more like crap time.
I understand. You thought he asked what's better, 3 sets of 5 or sets of 10.
The problem, however, is that you are looking at it on a workout to workout basis. AND I would think, assuming that beginners recover from that, again, by some magical means based on what Rippetoe says. So you say, well, it's a good range and they don't crap out on form. But the ONLY parameter they can use, since we've picked the sets and reps, is loading the bar. And if you read those comments I linked to (because I don't want to write all that again) you'll see where I said that form DOES crap out. This is not theory. This is observation. It happens. Why it happens would be the theory and I have plenty but more productive would be to observe what avoids it happening.
And the same thing would happen with any range if all they could do was load the bar day in and day out with that static volume.
People talk about how beginners instinctually progress and they say they will put a little more weight on the bar each time. But they say it as if it is the ONLY thing a beginner will do.
They will put a little more weight on the bar, 'instinctually'. They will also add reps to an established number of sets and reps 'instinctually' and they may even add a set 'instinctually'. They will do all of that because 'instinct' dictates that their body has certain capacities for recovery and progression and this fluctuates. It is NOT static.
I've said a billion times and I will stick by it. Loading the bar does NOT indicate progression if no other assessment is made.
There is no reason for form to go to crap based on rep range if appropriate progression if used. But the idea that form does NOT go to crap on 3x5 "just because" is completely erroneous. It does an it will. Not because of the rep range but because of the parameters of progression that do not allow for adjustment BASED on quality.
At GUS there are beginners progressing very quickly using a full range of reps depending on the placement and needs of the movement, and what's more they're technique IMPROVES as they go...instead of slowly turning them into a pile of crap with a bar on top. It's not a race and the fastest possible progression is not the best.
There are many other problems with that range given the average intensity one of the biggest of which is repeated exposure on a chronic basis. The simple and quite 'classic' fact is that a beginner needs more exposure to the exercise most of the time.
There is absolutely no reason to believe that a beginner can't squat, say 4x7 and still maintain quality. But if you told that beginner to only load the bar every time while maintaining that range you can bet quality would not stay constant. And it wouldn't matter what rep and set range you used. Becuase it has nothing to do with intensity per se but to do with how quickly the workload ramps up.
I doubt anybody ever really bothers to really look at the workload on these 3x5's like simple math. Look at the percentages.
Let me point out something that I think is most important card in this house of cards. The 'definition' of a novice or beginner as one who will recover from the workload on a workout to workout basis. There is not scientific definition of a beginning strength trainee and the idea that there could be one is ridiculous. I've posted so much stuff on this discussing different aspects of it but lets just assume that our beginner doe NOT recover on a workout to workout basis from this progressive increase in workload.
Do the math. Take out that card. The whole house of cards will collapse. It is shaky as hell. If you look at an argument that is built on ONE premise you could not consider it a valid argument. If that premise was furthermore itself an assumption rather than an established fact or observation, you'd HAVE to call bullshit.