One of the most common questions that come up with weight training is how many exercises and sets you should perform; how long should you workout for. There are arguments for both sides of the fence.
Two of the greatest bodybuilders, six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates and eight-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney, believed in short intense workouts for maximum muscle growth. Dorian Yates was noted to perform only two working sets per exercise and sometimes just one working set.
Then you some equally successful bodybuilders that follow a high volume method of training. Arnold Schwarzenegger (and several others) are known for training with extreme high volume. Both methods have proven to build mega muscle.
Low vs High Volume Training
Obviously both methods work because these guys were conquering champions in their sport. So when it comes to the rest of us who simply enjoy training yet may not compete, what method is best?
Of the many benefits bodybuilding and strength training offer, one of them is that there are really no rules. Training methods have various impacts on individuals as we’re all different. Much of this has to do with genetics in regards to how our muscles respond.
With this being said, it’s clear that both low and high volume training methods can produce some massive results in new muscle growth and strength. The key here is to find what works for you, and more importantly, when to change it up.
Low Volume Training
Low volume workouts are great when you want to train with all-out intensity. But for this method to be effective, you must train until you reach absolute muscle failure.
You’ll only be hitting about three to four exercises per body part, and performing one to two working sets for each exercise. These working sets are the sets you should train until failure on. So we can add high intensity workouts to low volume training as they go together.
Some bodybuilders and weight trainers believe that being in the gym too long can be counterproductive and actually diminish muscle gains. One of the things that makes a low volume training workout convenient is that you’re in and out of the gym quickly. You’ll walk out of the gym pumped, and knowing that you gave max effort of every working set.
Another important factor of low volume training is recovery. You’re going to be pushing your muscles to their maximum potential so you’ll need to make sure you get the proper nutrition and supplements for your muscles to recover and grow. Below is a sample low volume workout for chest.
Low Volume Workout Example:
Bench Press: 3 x 10-12
Incline Dumbbell Press: 2 x 10-12
Cable Flyes: 2 x 12-15
High Volume Training
With high volume training you’ll typically be performing anywhere from four to six exercises per body part hitting three to five sets each exercise. Some may start out doing four to five sets for the first several exercises, then for the last few they may only do three sets.
The idea with this weight training program is more is better. However, with high volume training you won’t be going to failure, or at least not often.
High volume workouts doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be training with light weights or with low intensity. You should still be training hard and heavy. During this phase you will certainly need to up your carb intake and take in some extra amino acids for recovery.
You’ll be in the gym longer with high volume training so more than likely you’re going to burn more calories than usual. Below is an example of a high volume workout for back.
High Volume Workout Example:
Deadlifts: 5 x 6-10
Barbell Rows: 4 x 10-12
Seated Rows: 4 x 10-12
Dumbbell Rows: 4 x 10-12
Lat Pulldowns: 4 x 12-15
Alternating High & Low Volume Workouts
So are high volume workouts better, or low volume workouts? I believe both weight training methods can be used to maximize muscle gains. It’s good to change up your workout routine from time to time.
You’ll probably experience more long term muscle growth if you were to do high volume workouts for, let’s say three weeks followed by low volume workouts for three weeks, rather than doing just one method for that six weeks. The same applies to rep ranges in your workouts.
Here’s a quick reference guide to implementing both high volume and low volume training into your workout routine:
Weeks 1-3: High Volume Workouts
Weeks 4-6: Low Volume Workouts
Weeks 7-9: High Volume Workouts
Weeks 10-12: Low Volume Workouts
Making slight changes in your workouts every few weeks will shock your muscles. You don’t necessarily have to make extreme changes though. In other words, you can perform the same exercises with both high volume and low volume training, or at least keep your core mass building exercises.
Try changing the volume of your workouts every few weeks as described above and see if that leads to new muscle gains. You can set a schedule or just go by how you feel. Either way, going through both phases or low and high volume training can be extremely effective at helping you build more muscle.
Train with Passion,