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Concurrent Training: Balancing Aesthetics and Strength in Your Training-Part 4: Training Volume and


Just a heads up, this is the most involved post of the series. Make sure you're able to dedicate a few quiet moments to reading this post if you want to really absorb it.

We know that overall training volume (sets x reps x weight, also known as tonnage) is one of THE most important variables to consider when designing an effective training program. It is important to remember that training intensity (in this case, % 1RM) also has a large effect on progress. If you use tonnage as your method for calculating volume, training intensity is accounted for in this metric, rather than being a separate variable to track. Therefore, we can quantify that tonnage is a main predictor of adaptation (progress).

18-35% of muscular development is due to relative training intensity, or the percent of your max that you are lifting. In fact, research shows significant benefits to muscle hypertrophy with training intensities of 95% and higher, marking heavy sets of 2 or 3 reps as advantageous for both powerlifters looking to increase 1RM and bodybuilders looking to increase muscle size and development. The other 65% of muscular development is due to things like volume manipulation, cellular swelling, and exercise variation, among others.

When designing an individual training program, there are several things to keep in mind with regards to volume, intensity, and periodization:

  • Make sure to train in a variety of rep ranges, ensuring consistent progression of various goals, as well as adequate CNS and muscle recovery.

  • Frequency-Increasing the weekly training frequency of each lift or major muscle group is a great way to add varying rep ranges to a lifter's training. The next post will detail examples of how to incorporate varying rep ranges across a microcycle (training week). See part 3 for more on frequency.

  • Intensity-For bodybuilding or hypertrophy goals, training at 60-90% of 1RM is ideal. For powerlifting and absolute strength goals, training between 80-100% of 1RM is ideal. Training in varying rep ranges will also allow a lifter to train at varying intensities within a micro (training week) or mesocycle (training block).

  • Rep Range-As a general rule of thumb, rep range should be determined by the number of muscles involved. The more muscle groups involved in an exercise (i.e. heavy compounds), the lower the rep range should be. Exercises with less muscles/muscle groups involved can and should generally be trained in the higher rep ranges. There is certainly some overlap here, but some general guidelines:

  • Heavy compounds and competition specific lifts (Squat, bench, deadlift, etc): 1 or more reps per set