High Volume Training: What’s the story? Part 2

In the last segment , I went over the concept of high-volume/high-frequency training.

To summarize briefly, high volume weight training as used by bodybuilders isn’t very productive; but a high volume of work used by strength athletes can be of benefit.

Why doesn’t it work so well for bodybuilders? Bro-ish bodybuilders use high volume because they’re after a pump. In their mind, the pump is more important than anything else; more important than progression, weight on the bar, or tension-time.

Since those concepts are the responsible factor behind muscle hypertrophy (aka, bigger muscles), these are what you should work on. Something like 5 sets of 5, or 3-4 sets of 10, or something along those lines will go a lot farther towards getting a muscle bigger than doing 10 variations of the same exercise for 5 sets of 12 each.

The story changes for a strength athlete. When you have an exercise that you want to improve, it makes sense to train it often. The nervous system likes repetition. If you’re a powerlifter, you want to get good at the squat, bench press, and deadlift. If you’re an Olympic weightlifter, you want to improve the clean & jerk and the snatch.

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High Volume Training: What’s the story?

When we discuss weight training, one of the key things we talk about is the volume of work done. Volume can mean different things to different people.

To Mike Mentzer and the HIT gang, volume was the number of sets done. Most bodybuilders still think in these terms; the number of sets per body part.

To athletes and strength coaches, volume takes on a different meaning. In this circle, volume is generally measured as the number of barbell lifts done (NL), or as the tonnage of a workout (sets * reps * weight used).

Volume is also manipulated by the frequency of workouts. If you lift once a week, you’ll have less volume than someone lifting three times a week, all things equal (note that this isn’t always the case; you can take the workload of a single workout and spread it across multiple sessions).

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