What Exactly is High Volume Training and Why Is it Awesome?
I used to think that I trained pretty high volume… Then I started training with some guys who ACTUALLY work in high volume, and it seriously took my muscular growth to the next level in weeks. No shit, a noticeable increase in size whilst cutting.
First off, what is volume?
In weightlifting, volume refers to the amount of work you’re doing, such as the number of reps. VOLUME in this instance is typically the opposite of INTENSITY, which is the percentage of your 1-rep max that you’re working with.
As volume increases, intensity decreases, and vice versa. If you’re doing 30 reps of volume (say 3×10), you can’t sustain that with a 100% or even 80% intensity (percentage of your 1-rep max).
So, as volume increases, intensity decreases. This is the basis of how we design PowerBuilding workouts here at EPB. You start with a low-volume, high-intensity lift such as a back squat, say 3 sets of 3 reps. Then, we move on to our hypertrophy work which we find is best suited for low-intensity, high volume such as leg pressing 4 sets of 15 reps. The percentage of your max is low, but the number of reps is high.
So, what do we consider “HIGH” volume? I used to think 3 sets of 10 (or 30 reps) was pretty high volume. However, I began training with some real hardcore bodybuilders recently who work with relatively light weights and really crank the volume. Unlike me, these guys aren’t really concerned with how much they can lift, so they don’t ever really go very heavy. They just want to GROW. I’ve found that in the past two months of training my accessory lifts like this, i’ve made major progress in my muscular development, namely in my delts and biceps.
Considerations for performance-inclined meatheads
Instead of hitting 3 sets of 10 on hammer curls, i’m now doing sets of 15 for 4-5 sets. And i’m also adding more work per muscle. Instead of 1-2 bicep exercises, i’m doing 3-4 per workout. The other thing i’m focused on is being ultra conservative with the poundage of the weights and doing high quality reps, nice and slow. Not necessarily with an eccentric, but really focusing on “feeling” the muscle work, something that coming from a powerlifting and CrossFit background, I was never used to. It took a few sessions for me to really let go of those habits and to JUST focus on the muscles contracting.
I was always worried about “overtraining”, and then realized that this is (mostly) bullshit, especially when you consider the fact that most of this stuff you’re doing crazy high volume with is such a low percentage of your max.
The problem with adding a ton of volume is having enough time to complete the workouts! This type of training is best suited to people who bodypart splits, like one to two muscle groups per day. It’s hard to hit 5 exercises for back AND 5 for chest AND 5 for shoulders all in the same workout.
One way to save time is supersetting. For instance, if you’re doing chest and back, do one chest exercise immediately in to one back exercise, THEN rest. Killing two birds with one stone.
Try adding this high volume arm workout to a day where you train biceps:
A) Barbell Curl 3×10 (2-second eccentric, keep your elbows forward of your midline – you’ll be surprised how light you’ll have to go!)
B) Seated DB Hammer Curl + DB Skull Crusher 4×15 (Keep your chest tall on the hammer curls and DON’T swing the weights. Keep your elbows tucked in close on the skull crushers. Again, GO LIGHT!)
C) Straight bar cable curl 20-20-20-20
^On this one, you hit 20 cable curls, then drop the weight and do 20 more, then drop it and do 20 more, then drop weight once more 20 more. This is called a drop set. You should feel like a complete weakling at the end.
D) Straight bar underhand tricep pushdown 20-20-20-20
^Same as the cable curls
Anyways, try cranking up the volume and lowering the weight for your accessory work. Do more sets and reps, and let us know what happens!