Let’s talk about training volume and how to use it properly!
First of all, let me explain you what volume means. This is the total amount of poundages lifted during the workout per muscle group, and the key factors are: amount of exercises, sets, reps and weights used. Let me give you an example in comparison with a powerlifter. Yes, powerlifter is stronger (especially in lower rep ranges) than a bodybuilder, but he doesn’t stand even close in terms of total volume per workout performed. Using the example with squats, powerlifter squats 400 pounds for 2 reps and performs 4 sets. So 400x2x4 equals 3200 pounds lifted (considering those squats is the whole workout for the sake of today’s topic). Now, bodybuilder squats 300 pounds for 6 reps and performs 6 sets. So 300x6x6 equals 10800! pounds lifted! You see, he total volume is around 3 times more! That’s how most top bodybuilders train, BUT… YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING… SERIOUSLY!
You might be thinking: well, I am just going to skyrocket my training volume then and see crazy gains! Stop right there, it isn’t as simple my friend. If it was possible, then there wouldn’t be such thing as overtraining. The problem with volume is, it’s much easier to overtrain if you take it a little too far!
So as soon as you get “experienced enough” and build decent strength foundation, the following examples are where you can start. Yes I’ve mentioned experience and good enough strength because serious increase in volume IS NOT for beginners. In this case, it’s not because you are going to overtrain, but because doing 10 sets of 5 exercises per muscle group with baby weights equals jerking off at home in terms of effectiveness.
So the perfect strategy is when you first achieve a good strength foundation for major compound movements and then, as your progress in terms of intensity (increasing weights) starts to slowly fade away, ONLY then you SLOWLY move into increasing volume as well! (remember you should always try your best to still keep increasing poundages, even at much slower pace and by very little increases)
So let’s get into a bit more specifics on how to increase your volume properly. First of all, check out THIS video on the importance of recovery factors and how to avoid overtraining, since increasing volume will require a lot of good post-workout recovery. Now onto the main principles:
– First and foremost, by the time you start the process described below, you must be using a very deep split, because increasing workout volume for more than one muscle group per workout is going to skyrocket your overall training time. You should never go over an hour of an actual workout if you hit one muscle group!
– As you add extra sets, reps and exercises, you should decrease your rest between sets! Remember – you should stay within 1 hour! The purpose is to complete more volume for the same duration!
– First – increase the rep range in ONE EXERCISE PER MUSCLE GROUP up to 12 reps every week (there are some exceptions to that though)! Until all exercises have achieved given rep range!
– Second, after first is completely achieved – start adding EXTRA SET PER EXERCISE PER MUSCLE GROUP every week, until you achieve 6 working sets of each exercise per muscle group.
– Then, ADD AN EXTRA EXERCISE PER MUSCLE GROUP, starting with 3 working sets of 8 reps.
THEN REPEAT THE PROCESS AGAIN IF YOU WANT (AND HAVE TO) KEEP PUSHING!
The thing is, as we all know, there is 100 ways to skin a cat (or whatever it says, I hate that dumb quote anyway). This way isn’t the only way to increase volume, but in my opinion, this option is the most middle-ground that will allow you to see progress fast enough without getting fucked up. (Again if you recover well enough!) At some point anyway, you body will no longer handle recovering from increasing volume if you train naturally (meaning without hormonal support), so you have to listen to your body and stop when it tells you to!
Anyway, most of you know that I am believer in minimalist approach: getting the most from doing the least needed work! I’m not really into doing more and more to achieve results, so I highly recommend you to keep volume approximately the same throughout the year (with cycling it up and down throughout the year), and increasing it A LITTLE BIT only a few months before upcoming events (photoshoots, contests, etc.) I truly believe that you can keep improving by working on your exercise execution and intensity (weights/loads). Keep volume for when it’s truly needed!
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