Are you getting the adequate progress from your training program? If not, volume may be the problem.
Volume is a highly neglected component of most training regimes. But what is volume exactly?
Putting it in simple English, this factor refers to the total amount of weight lifted in one workout, defined as (weight) x (repetitions) x (sets) for each weight used in the given training session added together.
For example, a bench press session might look something like:
125 x 5 = 625
150 x 5 =750
225 x 3 = 675
255 x 2 = 510
Adding all of these numbers together we get 625 + 750 + 675 + 510 = 2560 pounds of volume.
Research also concludes that volume is one of the crucial concerns in training for both strength and hypertrophy (1). That is, as we increase volume we tend to get stronger and bigger overtime. As we do more and more work, we progress more (2).
In order for you to better understand the importance of training volume, we are going to thoroughly showcase all the necessary details regarding this topic so you can implement these techniques right away!
Volume and Hypertrophy
Volume training for muscular development can be extremely confusing. The issue which most people face would be the problem of tracking volume with different exercises for each body part.
Dips and skullcrushers are both exercises that target the triceps, but since they have different mechanical advantages, it’s fairly unlikely that you’re going to be able to lift the same weight in both movements.
However, this doesn’t mean that doing dips is inferior to the skullcrusher movement. It is just going to be measured on a different magnitude. And then, of course we have the important compound exercises.
For instance, a bench press also works the triceps, but it also impacts the pectoral and deltoid muscles. Now, which muscle should the volume be accounted for? And what if we split them, which muscle will get which percentage of the compound lift?
The solution is simple:
Don’t overthink it! Focus on improving your overall volume load with each specific exercise every time you go to the gym. That means if you have a total volume of X for the skullcrushers, you aim to do more the next time you perform them, even if you’re going to be doing other triceps exercises for your next workout.
You could also just focus on one lift per workout. For example, one workout you may want to improve your volume on the bench press, but you’ll let the rest of the exercises performed have a similar volume to what you’ve done in your previous workout sessions.
Volume and Strength
Training to get stronger is a bit different from training for hypertrophy. The key thing when trying to increase strength are high intensity lifts that range usually in the 1-6 rep range, above the 75% of the 1RM.
Studies have proven that this rep range provides the adequate muscular adaption our body needs to handle heavy weights in order to get stronger. And for this reason you should strictly follow the mentioned rep pattern.
Now, how do we calculate the volume when training for strength?
All you have to do is to simply count only your reps that are greater than the 75% of the 1RM.
For example, we are going to look at a squat training that involved the following numbers:
225 x 2 = 450
245 x 2 x 4 = 1960
Adding these numbers together, we get a total of 2410 pounds.
So we are not counting our warm-up sets or any other sets that involve less workload of the 75% of our 1RM. Next time we hit the gym we should try to beat the number mentioned above, adding more volume to our workout and ultimately gaining more strength.
And just like the volume training for hypertrophy, it is best to simply track volume for each exercise individually, trying to improve that over time rather than trying to convert the whole workout to a larger number.
Important Facts to Keep in Mind
You should always track your performance over time in order to know if you’re doing a good job or not. Generally, we might expect to be stronger every single workout, although this won’t be the case for most of us. That is absolutely fine, the only crucial aspect would be our gradual increase in strength or muscular development as time passes (3).
A lot of people are trying to either gain strength or muscle gains quickly, but they are using the same old volume pattern and rep ranges over and over again. You simply have to increase your volume load as you progress, there is no way around it. However, you should increase volume in a rather slow and safe manner.
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