ONE OF THE MAIN DRIVERS OF MUSCLE GROWTH
The number of reps times the number of sets times the amount of weight you do in a workout is called Volume.
Sets x Reps x Weight= Total Volume or Total Workload.
Let’s say you perform Squats, 3 sets for 5 reps with 125lbs. To find your total volume you would do: 125lbs x 3 sets x 5 reps= 1875lbs Total Volume or Total Workload
How much volume that a person can do will vary be each individual.
Factors such as:
- Genetics, some people just have the ability to recover faster than others, so they can handle a little more volume.
- The type of training split (divides training sessions by body sections) you’re on, as bro splits (body part splits) can have more daily volume on a specific muscle group than a full body, even though the total weekly volume will be similar, which is what actually matters.
- How long you’ve been lifting, as beginners usually don’t need as much volume as advanced lifters. Which is obvious due to the fact that the longer you’ve been lifting, the more volume you should be able to do, e.g. lifting more weight, or more sets per body part.
- Your lifestyle outside of the gym, including your nutrition, your amount of sleep, your job e.g. having a sitting desk job vs being a mail carrier. Do you party or drink a lot?
All of these activities will have an effect on the amount of volume you can recover from, which is why total volume will vary person to person.
Some people respond better to higher volume, while others respond better to lower volume. With this in mind there is a minimum amount of weekly volume needed, but as long as you are progressively overloading, you will hit that mark.
The For sure way to not make gains is by going into the gym and doing the same amount of sets, reps, and weight over and over again with no plan for progression.
If your body is doing the same repeated tasks over and over again, it has no new stimulus to adapt to, and since your body is able to perform the tasks without any difficulty or struggle, it has absolutely no reason to grow. Make sense?
So, know we that total workload/Total volume = Weight x Sets x Reps.
So, How should we actually utilize volume?
It’s best to look at volume from the perspective of total weekly volume and not daily volume. Keeping in mind that protein synthesis only lasts 24-48 hours, if you come in and hit chest on Monday, you’ll see growth and stimulation up until that Wednesday. THAT’S IT. No more chest growth for that week.
Some people have the mindset of:
“Ok, well I’ll just make sure that I smash my chest then”
Going into the gym, doing upwards of 25 sets for chest in a single session, but regardless of the amount of work put in on that Monday, the growth stops 48 hours later. And your chest isn’t stimulated any more that week as you’ve only train it once.
Plus we have to look at the Quality of those sets. The fact that there can only be so much growth and work done in a given session, before you start getting diminished returns, due to being fatigued and “spent” from the previous exercises; not allowing you to lift maximum weight.
This is why splits like upper/lower or Full Body are most effective because you’re getting continued protein synthesis by stimulating each muscle group multiple times in a single week.
Scientifically speaking, Full body is the most optimal way to train, as you’re basically coming in every two days (the same duration of protein synthesis, 48 hours) and hitting all muscle groups and are stimulating each effectively, efficiently and consistently.
Plus you’re still getting the same amount of total volume, except you’re receiving more benefits from it being spreaded throughout the week which allows you to be fresh for every session, receiving the continued protein synthesis for maximum growth.
As an extra benefit, since you’re fresh for set of every muscle group, you’re gonna have better quality sets, reps and you’ll be able to do more total work. Even tho you’re doing the same amount of reps and sets as a bro split, you’ll have more total workload because you’ll be able to move more weight, due to not being fatigued.
Remember, Total volume is Reps x Sets x Weight.
Using the example from earlier, if you perform Squats: 3 sets of 5 reps with 135lbs.
To find your total volume you would do: 125lbs x 3 sets x 5 reps= 1875lbs
Let’s look at the total volume of a “Bro Split” compared to a Full Body routine.
If I only train chest on Monday and my workout looks something like this:
Bench press: 3×5 135lbs = 2025lbs
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3×8 60lbs = 1440lbs
High cable chest fly: 3×10 50lbs = 1500lbs
Low cable chest fly: 3×10 25lbs = 750lbs
Chest press machine: 2×8 45lbs = 720lbs
Due to the chest being a pretty small muscle and that muscle fatigues from each set and rep, my performance will decrease with each exercise and my total volume for that whole chest day is 6480lbs.
This also equals my total volume for that entire week since I’m doing a “Bro split” and only having a frequency of training chest 1x per week.
(3x5x135=1650) +(3x8x60=1440) +(3x10x50=1500) +(3x10x25=750) +(2x8x45lbs=720) =6480lbs
Now let’s compare that to you doing a full body routine and training chest 3x per week.
Monday: bench press: 5×5 130lbs = 3250lbs
Wednesday: Incline benchpress: 4×8 110lbs = 3520lbs
Close Grip Bench Press: 3×8 90lbs = 2400lbs
Friday: bench press: 4×10 100lbs = 4000lbs
TOTAL VOLUME= 12930LBS
Like seriously?? Do I even need to go on?
That’s literally twice the chest volume of the Bro Split, even though it’s less exercises.
In summary, by performing a full body routine:
- You have a much higher frequency (3x per week, training every 2 days)
- You’re elevating protein synthesis optimally, every 2 days, which means your chest grows more consistently throughout the week due to stimulating your muscles more frequently.
- You are fresh for every set, which means you can also lift more weight.
- Plenty of time to recover do to only training 3x per week, but also have the option to add in additional days for cardio/calisthenics/accessory work if desired.
If I doing a Bro split/body part split, my chest stops growing two days after that chest day, plus I’m probably super sore for the next few days, so I won’t be able to hit it again effectively, which means my chest won’t grow again until my next chest day.
As far as weekly volume, ideally you’ll want to be in the 40-70 reps range for each muscle group per session, 2-3 times per week. Or 80-210 reps for each muscle group per week.
You won’t have to worry about the details of this though, as I’ve already structured this out within your training plan. It’s more so for your own knowledge base.
If you’re a beginner, you don’t need as much volume to set the proper growth stimulus, usually around 40 reps, 2-3 times per week.
But the more advanced you become, the more volume you need. This happens automatically though as you grow stronger, due to your ability to handle more weight.
For example, let’s say when you started lifting two months ago, you could only benchpress 135lbs 5×5. (5x5x135=3375lbs)
But today, you benched 170lbs 5×5 (5x5x170= 4250lbs)
Although you didn’t add more reps or sets, your total volume still increased automatically, due to you adding more weight from getting stronger over time.
If you’re not sure if you should adjust your volume, First ask, “Am I making progress?”
If yes, don’t change anything because progression is what we want and is an indicator that your volume is in the sweet spot.
If you’re not progressing, Do you feel you’ve recovered?
If you do feel recovered, increase the volume.
For example, you started with 40 reps each muscle group per session, twice per week, now you will increase it to 45-50 reps per muscle group per training 2x per week.
BUT, if you don’t feel you’ve recovered, then it’s time to take a deload. (we will cover deloads later). If you are progressing again after your deload, don’t change the volume. If you still aren’t progressing after your deload, reduce the volume.