High Volume vs Low Volume Training


Powerful Upper Body Workout for Strength and HypertrophyOne 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.

On the other hand, there are equally successful bodybuilders that follow a high volume training method. Arnold  Schwarzenegger was known for training with extreme high volume workouts. And several other bodybuilders follow this concept.

Both methods have proven to build mega muscle. So which one is best? 


Low vs High Volume Training

high volume vs low volume heavy incline bench press

Obviously both methods work because these guys were conquering champions in their sport. But which method is best to build muscle for those of us who love to workout but aren’t Mr. Olympia competitors?

One of the confusing things about bodybuilding and strength training, there’s so many workout philosophies. And let’s not forget the abundance of experts in the gym. Yes, I’m being saracastic!

The truth is 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

Squat Day - High volume vs low volume

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 muscle building 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

315 lb Bench Press Lowered |

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 training doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be training with light weights or with low intensity. You should still be training hard and heavy.

You’ll be in the gym longer with high volume training so more than likely you’re going to burn more calories than usual. So it’s imperative to be consistent with your nutrition and muscle building supplements.

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

Deadlifts - High Volume vs Low Volume Training

So are high volume workouts better, or low volume workouts more effective for building muscle?

I believe both weight training methods can be used to maximize muscle gains.

You’ll probably experience more long term muscle growth by mixing them up. For example, you could do high volume workouts for eight weeks followed by low volume workouts for eight week.

Here’s a quick reference guide to implementing both high volume and low volume training into your workout routine:

  • Weeks 1-8: High Volume Workouts
  • Weeks 9-16: Low Volume Workouts
  • Weeks 17-24: High Volume Workouts
  • Weeks 25-32: Low Volume Workouts

Making changes in your workouts every several weeks will shock your muscles into growth.

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 low and high volume training phases can be extremely effective at helping you build more muscle.

Train with Passion,

Jason Stallworth

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