Human Performance & Athletic Development
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Training Volume is KING

Volume is king.

Before we get started, we will briefly go over terms in reference to training.

Intensity: The amount of effort required to complete a movement or a series of movements. If you're doing 95% of your 1RPM for 1-2 reps that is intense. If you're hitting a set of 8-12 reps at 80% that would qualify as intense as well.

Load: The amount of resistance being moved.

Volume: The total amount of load being moved in a given training session. Reps x Sets x Load.

Overall Volume: The total amount of work (Reps x Sets x Load) of the entire training program whether you break it down by week, blocks, or cycle.

Why Is Volume King?

When I say volume is king, this refers to the fact that in order to get stronger, leaner, faster, or increase endurance you must train to increase your overall training volume. The more volume of training that is completed and recovered from, the more adaptation there is to gain. For our body to adapt, we must provide enough reason to do so. 

What I do not mean is that you should go from squatting 3 sets for 10 to 10 sets of 10 the next day. This will be way too taxing on your body and will take an immense amount of time to recover from. Your goal is to put in as much effort as you can and then in turn recover from your training. Increasing volume follows the principle of progressive overload which leads to more stress.

More Overall Stress = More Overall gains

This process occurs overtime and the most intelligent way is through periodization. Periodization is the the planning of your training that will induce adaptation with planned incremental increases in overall volume whether it's through training intensity, volume, and or both.

Specifically, the two most practiced periodization programs include linear and non-linear periodization in which you set up an exercise program that progressively induces overload. Linear periodization programs typically set up high volume with low intensity sets that progressively flip toward lower volume and higher intensity. Non-linear periodization varies volume/intensity sets depending on training goal throughout the week. In this style, known as the conjugate system, you could train high volume/low intensity squats (4x12x65% of 1RM) one day and later on in the training week have a low volume/high intensity squat session (5x3x90% of 1RM).

Each of these training systems expose you toward a progressive overload to accumulate fatigue and induce an adaptation.

How Do I Calculate Overall Training Volume

Simply, you would calculate total sets x reps x load. We will keep squats as the reference exercise. If you performed a 3 sets of 10 squats at 200 pounds you would simple plug your numbers into the equation; 3 sets x 10 reps x 200 LBS= 6,000 LBS of overall volume. Now apply that same method for all your exercises in your training and you will have the overall training volume.

Adding Volume

Knowing when to add volume is key to advancing your program. Depending on your current program, you will most likely have a built scheme to induce volume. Multiple factors go into when you should add volume such as skill of movement, current training level, goals, to state a few. Adding volume is not a terribly difficult endeavor to do when the time is appropriate.

Take the squat above for example. If you're currently performing 3x10x200 you have 6,000 LBS of training volume in the squat. Increasing the load by 10 LBS or 1 set to the same rep scheme seems small but lets look at the difference.

Increase load 10 LBS: 3 Sets x 10 Reps x 210 LBS= 6,300 LBS

Adding 1 Set: 4 Sets x 10 Reps x 200 LBS= 8,000 LBS

As you can see, each of these small changes increases the amount of overall volume. Adding 1 set dramatically increases the total volume and here is when other factors come into play. It is not about doing the absolute maximum you can do, but completing the maximum amount of volume that you can recover from. Hence why I stated that you should not immediately jump into doing an extreme amount of volume simply due to the fact that recovery from that volume will take an immense amount of time.

Acute Volume vs. Overall Volume

Let's keep the squat example running to show this. Instead of option 1, increasing load, you decide to jump to increasing by a set. That is an acute volume increase but let's say that adding the one set completely puts you into some serious DOMS and you cannot train as hard or frequent within the week. In this case, you will sacrifice acute volume for overall volume. Let's take a look at this and remember that overall volume is the most important in inducing training adaptation. 

Scenario: Both individuals, Frank and Harry (cool names, I know) decide to up their training volume.

Harry: Decides to up the load and squat 2x weekly

Frank: Decides to go up a set and squat 2x weekly

Both guys have the same training response and training history so they are essentially comparible. Except Frank has crazy DOMS and can't recover.

Harry: 3 Sets x 10 Reps x 210 LBS= 6,300 LBS x 2 = 12,600 LBS

Frank: 4 Sets x 10 Reps x 200 LBS= 8,000 LBS x 2 = 16,000 LBS

Frank could not recover so he had to drop his second squat session since he did not fully recover from the first. This put's his overall training volume at 8,000 LBS.

The math is clear, Harry was able to induce more stress overtime which leads to more adaptation. Now, I am not saying that one method is better than the other. As I stated earlier, it is about the amount of volume you can recover from.

If Frank could in fact recover from that increase in volume and handle the load appropriately, over time he will have more adaptation than Harry. The take home from this message is that more overall volume is more conducive than an acute, high volume session.

To Conclude

You can increase overall training volume in multiple ways. Whether it is increasing the load, intensity, or rep volume you will have to increase your work to achieve physical and/or strength gains. Be sensible and add volume to increase your training effectiveness.

Not sure how? Get a coach in your area or contact myself and we can get to work!