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Setting up a Hypertrophy-Specific Training? Cycle: Part IV Training Database Advanced Training Tips Setting up a Hypertrophy-Specific Training? Cycle: Part IV

Go to: Setting up a Hypertrophy-Specific Training? Cycle: Part IV

By Charles T. Ridgely

How Much Volume Should be Used?

This is probably the most puzzling question in the realm of bodybuilding. The question of volume is complex, being intimately hinged on a variety of factors which go far beyond the scope of this writing. Of course, in order to set up a HST cycle (or any other cycle, for that matter), one must have some idea of how much volume is required to stimulate muscle growth.

In the simplest of terms, volume may be viewed as the number of repetitions performed multiplied by the number of sets performed. In other words, the total volume of an exercise is equal to the total number of repetitions, or the number times you actually move the weight. Accordingly, the total volume of the exercise is directly proportional to the total amount of work performed during the exercise.

Let?s consider some examples using HST mesocycles. Suppose you perform one set of an exercise during the 15s, 10s, and 5s. Your total volume is then 15 reps, 10 reps, and 5 reps, respectively, as summarized in the following table.

Mesocycle Sets Reps/Set Volume
15s 1 15 15 Reps
10s 1 10 10 Reps
5s 1 5 5 Reps

This immediately tells us that your total volume is dropping over the course of the cycle. Of course, volume is not the only thing that is dropping. In fact, several important factors are dropping, one of which being the total amount of work that you are performing with the exercise.

Now suppose that you perform one set during the 15s, two sets during the 10s, and three sets during the 5s. Your total volume is then 15 reps, 20 reps, and 15 reps, respectively.

Mesocycle Sets Reps/Set Volume
15s 1 15 15 Reps
10s 2 10, 10 20 Reps
5s 3 5, 5, 5 15 Reps

As can be seem in the table above, your volume increases from the 15s to the 10s, but then drops when you get to the 5s. This may be a beneficial amount of volume, depending on the level of weight you are using, as well as your physical conditioning at the time you perform the cycle.

Another, somewhat counterintuitive, example is performing one set during the 15s, one set of 10 reps followed by two sets of 5 reps during the 10s, and then four sets during the 5s. In this case, your total volume is 15 reps, 20 reps, and 20 reps, respectively.

Mesocycle Sets Reps/Set Volume
15s 1 15 15 Reps
10s 3 10, 5, 5 20 Reps
5s 4 5, 5, 5, 5 20 Reps

With this approach, your volume increases from the 15s to the 10s, and then stays constant through the 5s.

Some may argue that mixing set-rep schemes during the 10s is not productive. But it must be remembered that we are not gauging muscle growth on the level of fatigue induced during sets. Rather, mechanical load is the primary stimulus for muscle growth, as well as the total number of times you are capable of lifting that load. Some lifters may not be able to perform two whole sets of the 10s when they reach their 10RM weight. Based on this reasoning, the only way to achieve the desired volume with the mechanical load on the bar may be to perform smaller sets following the first, primary set of 10s.

The same reasoning can be leveled at the 5s, as well. Suppose you cannot achieve 5 reps with the last two sets of the 5s. You can either give up or you can do more, smaller sets until you reach the desired level of volume. The following table shows one example wherein the 5s are performed with smaller sets.

Mesocycle Sets Reps/Set Volume
15s 1 15 15 Reps
10s 3 10, 5, 5 20 Reps
5s 4 5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 20 Reps

Clearly, in the 5s, this lifter was forced to stop short of 5 reps on the third set in order to avoid muscular failure due to fatigue. To make up for this, the lifter performed three more sets having three reps, two reps, and finally one rep. Doing this enabled this lifter to achieve the desired level of volume, and thus the desired level of work, while avoiding muscular failure arising due to fatigue.

The bottom line on volume is: you should use as much volume as you can while still remaining healthy and without injuring yourself. Because this is a very individual criterion, the amount of volume you should use is also going to be very individualistic. You will have to find out for yourself what is best for you. The HST FAQ offers loads of advice to assist you in finding the volume which is best for you. Barrowing from the HST FAQ, the general consensus is as follows.

Increase your volume if:
  • you?re never sore;
  • you?re never tired; or
  • you?re not growing

Maintain your volume if:
  • you?re slightly sore most of the time;
  • you?re tired enough to sleep well, but not so tired that you lose motivation to train; or
  • you?re noticeably ?fuller.?

Decrease your volume if:
  • you?re experiencing over use pain, and strain symptoms in your joints and/or muscles;
  • you?re tired and irritable all the time, yet don?t sleep well; or
  • your strength levels are significantly decreasing.

Please feel free to consult the HST FAQ for a far more thorough explanation of the factors affecting volume, as well as many other factors affecting your training.

Good luck,

Charles T. Ridgely

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