From here on in, this series is pretty advanced, so if you’re a beginner only really starting out ‘lifting’ – this stuff probably WILL go way over your head.
Don’t worry if you’re clueless, it probably means you just need some guidance on where to go next,
Anyhow – when you get past the Beginner stages of lifting (At least 1 Year of consistent Lifting at least 3-4 times a week using Mainly compound Movements and PROGRESSING in those too), this is where training with a purpose, proper structure and using proven ‘Hypertrophy’ guidelines is a must.
Otherwise, you’ll be pissing in the wind with your ‘Size’ goals.
That is, of course, if you actually want to gain Muscle.
See Gaining ain’t easy, and it’s certainly not something that happens by chance, but at least this series will put some concrete guidelines into play for you, so let’s dive in.
VOLUME – YOUR KEY DRIVER FOR PACKING ON SIZE
Ok, so I assume you’ve been training for well over a Year, you’ve built a nice base of Strength & Muscle but can’t seem to progress much from there?
Firstly, that’s life, there’s only so long you can ride out the ‘Newbie Gains’ as they’re called,
It doesn’t mean you can’t progress any further, just don’t expect it to be as ‘fast’ as it was when you first started training…
So on to Volume,
Up to a point, more Volume is better (1) and there seems to be a rough ‘minimum’ that we can start to plug into our Training per muscle group, per week.
So read that again,
– Per Muscle Group
– Per Week
For example, this threshold is around 10+ Sets Per Muscle Group/Week (1),
So let’s say you want to build your Chest, that’s 10 Sets of Chest across the Week to start with,
NOT going to the Gym on a Monday and doing 16 different exercises for your Chest that bodybuilding.com told you to do.
So it’s simple really, that could be,
DAY 1: 3 Sets of Barbell Bench Press and 2 sets of Dumbbell Bench Press
DAY 2 (2-4 Days Later): 3 Sets of Dumbbell Bench Press and 2 sets of Cable Flys
So now you’ve something to START WITH… But, where do you go from here?
This leads us into the question of ‘how much’ do you need to do across a Training Phase to maximise your Gains.
First, I’m going to use non-fancy training terms here so you can really understand this when we get further into it,
- A Week’s Training = Your Training Week (Fancy term is Microcycle)
- 4-6 Week’s of this Training Block = Your Training Phase (Fancy term is Mesocycle)
- What’s your Ultimate Goal here? = Your Bigger Picture Goal (Fancy term is Macrocycle)
So if you know you could start around 10 sets per muscle group/week – what happens in Weeks 2, 3, 4?
Do you just keep banging out this rough set target or what?
This is where I have Guys like Mike Israetel (2) to thank for the work he’s put in to get these upcoming Guidelines across 🙂
I’ll be going deeper into this in the Future but the easiest way to understand this is,
– 10 Sets per Muscle Group Per Week CAN be a rough starting Guideline
– Remember the fundamental Principle of Overload from Part 1 of this Series? You NEED to overload your next session/week.
– So you can increase in VOLUME, week by week, up until what you can RECOVER from. (Mike call’s this your Max Recoverable Volume)
So in a nutshell, you’re adding 1-2 sets a week to the Muscle Groups you’re training,
Now this is HIGHLY individual and Beginners/Intermediates ‘will get away’ being on the lower end of the Scale, while those that are more advanced, the higher end – but that’s a topic for another day. Right now, I want to drill home the driving factor here of VOLUME.
BUT WHY LIKE THAT?
Remember back in part one of this Series? The principle of overload states that you need to do MORE over time.
You need to progress,
Yes you could do that with reps,
Yes you could do that by adding more weight,
But remember, we’re talking about Hypertrophy here and packing on Size, and the easiest way to do that (to build up that volume) is focus on adding sets as the week’s progress (Overload).
Here’s why adding sets comes out better than just keeping the sets the same and adding weight,
The Total Volume is much Greater, and I’ve popped in two lines to show the differences too.
You just need to remember what the goal is here, not Strength per say, even though you will get Stronger, that’s not the priority. The priority is to build Muscle, so Volume is your main focus.
BASELINE, MAXIMUMS & AVERAGES
So to round this off, the idea of volume here is straight-forward enough,
1: You can start around 10 Sets per muscle group/week.
2: You work up to the Maximum Volume you can do over a 4-6 Week period (usually). 16-18 sets can be a good place to start.
But one thing I left out is the idea of the ‘Sweet’ Spot for Volume, if a baseline to start from around 10sets per muscle group,
And the Maximum you can recover from is somewhere in the range of 16-18 or 20 sets,
In the middle of that (or the Average of those two) is where you make the most gains – or as Mike Israetel calls it, ‘Maximum Adaptive Volume’,
BUT – because you need to ‘overload’ each week, it doesn’t mean you come in to the gym every day and ‘do this’ amount of volume, and like I said above, you start at a baseline and work up.
So when you look at what the average is, this is what Mike is talking about;
For the purpose of this series I won’t go into more detail on those terms, because Mike does a way better Job of explaining that over HERE (2) on his blog if you want to geek out more on it.
ROUND UP ON VOLUME
So hopefully that’s given you an insight into the ‘Volume’ needed to Grow – I’ve left out a LOT here because it’ll be coming next in this series,
But just remember, this is something to start with, work off and tweak going forward – most of this stuff is highly individual.
So hopefully you’ll back here for part #4 of this series where we’ll dive into another topic that most people get wrong, which is, ‘how hard’ you should be pushing week to week with your training.
If you like this too, I’d greatly appreciate it if you could share it around for me or tag any friends that could do with reading this, the fact you’ve read this far proves you give a shit about your training & progression, so share the love & keep your friends in the know 😉
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1: Schoenfeld et. al. (2017) ‘Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis.’ Journal of Sports Sciences, 017 Jun; 35(11):1073-1082: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27433992
2: Israetel, M. (2017) Article: ‘Training Volume Landmarks for Muscle Growth’, https://renaissanceperiodization.com/training-volume-landmarks-muscle-growth/