What Is Training Volume?
In my previous article, I focused on the importance of training at higher frequencies and maximizing the potential to train body parts sooner, and bring about an adaptive response from the training stimulus sooner, however to effectively achieve this, we must be constantly re-evaluating our training volume.
What is training volume? – in short, it’s the total amount of work we do, be it in a session, across a week, or across a larger training block of 6-12 weeks. As we increase training volume, our ability to train at a higher frequency is diminished, as we are placing larger recovery demands on our bodies. The more damage we cause, the longer it takes to be able to efficiently train that body part again, often in sessions of 20+ sets on a single body part, a trainee may feel the need to wait 6-7 days before being able to re-train that body part. In the last article, we established this wasn’t optimal, therefore a reduction in volume is needed to allow for increased frequency.
One of the most simplistic approaches is to take your normal training volume, be it 20 sets, and divide this now across two sessions. So both leg sessions in a weekly period would only have 10 sets. What is now different is all of these ten sets are taken to failure or very close. So the intensity at which you are working has considerably increased. The number of those sets which you do take to failure and the total amount of work in general is person specific, and the best feedback tool for addressing training volume, is to monitor your log book , to see which sets are consistently increasing , and those which are stalling , or even regressing. Some trainees can train at high volume , high frequency and high intensity, I.e Ronnie. Others who train at such incredibly high intensity need much less volume to get the job done, i.e Dorian.
Monitoring your ability to progress your lifts will dictate if you can afford to slide your volume up or down, as we all know, progressively overloading mechanical tension ( while maintaining perfect form) is the most efficient way to bring about hypertrophy.
A mistake people often make with their log book, is to repeat the same sessions too often. When training at higher frequencies , I would favour 3 variations to each session. If training legs twice a week, I would make leg session 1 quad dominant with maybe 6 sets for quads, 4 for hamstrings. And then the second session of the week the reverse. Of these there would be 3 variations to each. Therefore we only repeat a session once every 3 weeks. This will then allow us to make log book progress every time we repeat a session, and the stronger we can get with perfect form, over a long period of time, without having to change exercises, will see huge leaps forward in muscle mass.
Do we need more volume to make more progress? This idea is often pushed forward. However this idea is flawed in that training volume is not an infinitely progress-able tool. We reach a point of diminishing returns which then costs us our ability to train at higher frequency. Strength progression is however , pretty much infinitely progress able. Ask yourself, are you as strong as Dallas? I’m guessing the answer is no. Therefore you can keep progressing your lifts in the pursuit of obtaining that level of muscle mass. If you are progressing lifts frequently , because your volume allows for that sufficient recovery, you will make larger progress in the long run.
So now we understand the balance between training volume and frequency , the final aspect that needs discussing is intensity. Which I will cover in my next article.
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