No matter what time of the year it is, one thing which we all training enthusiasts always have in our minds is “How to get bigger.” If you have been around training experts and by training experts, I mean those with gigantic muscles; you’d be already aware that increasing muscle isn’t just about a specific type of exercise, and protein shakes, but also about the regular volume you should use.
Undoubtedly strength training volume has always been a controversial topic; as the majority of the people often argue about the right number of sets. That’s perhaps true as well; after all, every individual is unique and distinct in their respective goals, training experience, diet, intensity tolerance, genetic, and, most importantly, recovery period. As a result, it indeed isn’t false to say that a single recommendation wouldn’t fit all.
Ahaa! No need to worry, as luckily training experts around the world have carefully analyzed volume patterns and proportional improvement in muscle mass and strength. Consequently, they have recommended an approximate range called “Optimal Volume Range” that suits most weight trainers.
The More the Good?
There’s a common misconception among most trainers that more is better, including more weight, more volume, more intensity, and more training hours. However, it must be comprehended that this is an absolutely false claim. Medical experts and training analysts clearly warn that over-training can increase the risk of injury, slow progress, and lead to increased symptoms.
Now to keep it simple, Weight training volume is the number of exercises, sets, and reps you do of a certain muscle group regularly, that eventually play a key role in an overall increase in muscle mass. It’s basically the specific calculation of how much work you are doing within a prescribed period-day, week, or even month.
Studies have proven that as we increase the volume, we tend to get bigger and stronger. Thus, as long as your diet and recovery are in check, you can always put more time with the iron for increased muscle mass.
However, as mentioned above as well, there are certain aspects that you must look before determining the ideal volume for oneself, which include:
Your Fitness Level and Training Age
Determining your training age is an initial yet extremely significant factor to consider before determining the right volume for oneself. To make it clear, your training age involves the overall time you have been training for. Ahaa! This isn’t something that can be determined in a single quantity (like my training age is eight months). Instead, it’s more like a concept that reflects your body’s willingness to exercise. Your training age usually comprises of:
- How long you have been training and whether you have taken any extended breaks anytime soon.
- How active you are in your day to day routine.
- What physical activities/sports are you involved in, and for how long.
Conclusively, the person who has rarely exercised in his lifespan should start off with low volume. On the other hand, those who have been weight training for several years may begin with heavy volumes. In simple words, you must first determine your training age before deciding the ideal volume.
Determine Your Goals
We all train for different reasons; as a result, our goals are entirely unique. Many of us train primarily to improve our body shape and increase our muscle, while many trains to enhance strength for convenience in their day to day routine. In this regard, the amounts of volume you use greatly depend upon your respective goals. Every training goal requires a different number of reps per set, however, usually, it’s recommended:
- 12+ reps per set-To enhance muscular endurance and improve cardio.
- 6 to 12 reps per set- In order to increase overall strength and muscle tone.
- Maximum 5 reps per set-Primarily for boosting muscle mass or power.
Besides, always make sure that the higher the rep range, the lighter the weight. While lower the rep range, heavier the weight.
Start with low, then get high!-The 10% Rule
While training, your goal must always be to move “well”, and not “heavy”. Once you get confident you’re your current volume, then you may gradually increase your rep range. In this aspect, it’s highly recommended to follow the 10% rule (usually followed in the practice of running marathons). By this standard rule, you are suggested to increase your training volume by only ten percent per week. For instance, if you are deadlifting 50 pounds for 7 sets of 5 reps during week one, you may increase the volume by ten percent during week two.
No matter what calculations you are using to determine your average volume per training session, it’s extremely important for every weight trainer to first comprehend how to actually measure the volume.
You can conveniently measure the appropriate volume by hours or minutes when your train at high performance, or according to the number of set/reps. In the case of hybrid training, measuring volume would require both the duration and the number of sets/reps.
Volume undoubtedly is a vital indicator of your increased size; however, other variables also play an extremely crucial role in determining your overall improvement. Your level of preparedness for ideal training volume greatly varies based upon your physical and psychological factors.
In case you are constantly losing on proper sleep, and having an inappropriate or weak diet, you may find it extremely difficult to raise your training volume. In fact, maintaining the previous one would be pretty difficult as well.
At times, every bodybuilder has recovery issues; however, in such a case, you should worry less and focus more on better sleep and diet. At such instance, your foremost priority should be to maintain the regular training volume instead of hiking up the scale. If you ever try to raise the volume bar without proper recovery, trust me, you are going to make things super worse!
Every training enthusiast reading this guide must firmly understand that Progress is never a straight line. Indeed, there would be good days when you will easily break all your previous rep records; and of course, bad ones when a single deadlift would seem unbearable! You just need to be patient and give yourself proper recovery time, and believe me, within no time, you will be shocked by the results!
The Optimal Volume Range
As mentioned above as well, although every individual is unique, however, the optimal volume range set by expert trainers usually fits most training enthusiasts. Whether it is for a bigger muscle group or smaller muscle group, this optimal volume range can work perfectly for all!
- For bigger muscle groups, 60-120 total reps are recommended per week.
- For smaller muscle groups, 30-60 total reps are recommended per week.
For the ultimate convenience of our readers, we have further divided these muscle groups into specific regions, and clearly mention the suggested volume as follow:
- Chest-60-120 reps per week.
- Back-60-120 reps per week.
- Quadriceps-60-120 reps per week.
- Hamstrings- 60-120 reps per week.
- Shoulders:-30-60 reps per week.
- Biceps:-30-60 reps per week.
- Triceps-30-60 reps per week.
- Calves-30-60 reps per week.
- Abs-30-60 reps per week.
A significant aspect to comprehend here is that these volume ranges aren’t obligatory to follow any sort of more or less volume can be equally effective as long as your body is comfortable with it quite simply; it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you!
What about Volume Per-workout?
Looking at the above-stated recommendation, you’d have most probably thought, why is the volume suggested “per week” and not “per volume”? Well, fortunately, you can break it down the volume according to your workout routine. However, for that, you’d require to apply the above stated optimal range according to the frequency of your weight training.
In simpler words, the appropriate number of set/reps is dependent upon whether you’d be working out once, twice, or thrice a week.
Although many people find training once a week and covering the volume of the entire week convenient for themselves; Yet, I personally am not a big fan of it. You are absolutely free to try covering your entire week load in a single day; however, we don’t recommend it primarily because:
Proven Scientific Research
Medical Research and the detailed study concludes that specifically targeting certain muscle groups twice or thrice a week, with fewer set/reps, is far more beneficial than working out the entire volume at once. Trainer experts around the world who follow this justify that they have observed greater muscle mass by distributing their weekly volume into multiple sessions.
Lower Risk of Injury
Luckily, by dividing your weekly volume into multiple sessions, you can reduce the risk of avoidable injuries. Limited sets that are distributed throughout the week will prevent you from over-training and its possible impacts. Not just that, but by staying in your zone throughout the workout, you will also be safe from absent-minded injuries
The intensity of your training program and the respective volume you use plays a significant role in tearing down muscle tissue and triggering hypertrophic growth. Thus, training twice or thrice a week with fewer sets is proven to maximize your intensity in every workout. Plus, it keeps you safe from burnouts!
Training Each Muscle Group only Once A week
In case you are still convinced to only train once a week due to shortage of time, or any other reason, we’d suggest you follow:
- For big muscle groups, 60-120 reps per workout would be ideal, considering just one workout for that group in the entire week.
- For small muscle groups, 30-60 reps per workout would be ideal, considering just one workout for that group in the entire week.
Training Each Muscle Group twice a week
This routine is highly popular among intermediate and advanced level trainees, as it equally splits the weekly volume into two sessions. As a result, training volume becomes much more convenient to utilize,
While trying two sessions per week, we’d suggest you to follow:
- For big muscle groups, 30-60 reps per workout would be ideal, considering only two workouts for that group in the entire week.
- For small muscle groups, 15-30 reps per workout would be ideal, considering only two workouts for that group in the entire week.
Training Each Muscle Group Thrice a week
This frequency is highly recommended to every beginner out there, as its safest and most effective routine out there! Just like the previous ones, the weekly volume is equally split into three training sessions for trainee’s ease.
While trying three sessions per week, we’d suggest you follow:
- For big muscle groups, 20-40 reps per workout would be ideal, considering only three workouts for that group in the entire week.
- For small muscle groups, 10-20 reps per workout would be ideal, considering only three workouts for that group in the entire week.
What should be the ideal Volume Routine for you?
As mentioned above as well, every beginner out there must focus more on “good” progress than “heavy” progress. Thus, we suggest beginner trainee’s to utilize full-body workouts (single exercise per muscle group) thrice a week such as:
- Monday-Full-Body Workout #1
- Tuesday-Rest Day / Cardio
- Wednesday-Full-Body Workout #2
- Thursday- Rest Day
- Friday-Full-Body Workout #3
- Saturday-Rest Day / Cardio
- Sunday-Rest Day
On the other hand, if you are already experienced with heavy volume training, you may follow an advanced volume routine that involves both upper body and lower body workouts. For instance:
- Monday-Lower Body #1
- Tuesday- Upper Body #1
- Wednesday- Rest Day / Cardio
- Thursday-Lower Body #2
- Friday-Upper Body #2
- Saturday- Rest Day / Cardio
- Sunday-Rest Day
Undoubtedly, with the right volume, intensity, and diet, you will be able to achieve all your fitness goals super quick. However, this all requires patience and constant determination. Unfortunately, many individuals follow improper practices and routines while training; as a result, they suffer from serious long term injuries. Therefore, you must never cross the line regarding intensity, volume, or any other training aspect.
Our expert team of researchers has carefully compiled this authentic guide, and thus we hope it will be helpful in your training sessions. In case you still have any further queries, we are always here!