T Nation

experience ?

i have noticed that since i have become more experienced and have more training under my belt i cant do nearly as much volume as i once could.

im sure you all remember the 2-3 hour arnold/weider 30 sets of chest blow out sessions that we all started out doing. when i trained like that i would finish my workout and still fell like doing more.

today being more experienced, performing one or two exercises per bodypart is more than enough.

now i know this is nothing new to us but i thought id share my findings anyway. imo as you become more experienced you learn to recruit a greater number of muscle fibers as well as having a nervous system that is equipped to handle bigger weight.

the demand on the body is much greater per set and therefore you dont need to or cant perform as high a volume as you once could.

anyone else experience this?

yeah, me too. Volume has gone for a crap but I seem to be getting more of a workout quicker.


Yeah i first noticed this when i switched to a 5x5 workout from just a typical pyramid working up to singles. if i can keep the intensity high throughout the entire 25 reps i’m completely drained and one excercise compound movement is usually enough, whereas i really didn’t havta have high intensity while pyramiding until the last couple sets.

“im sure you all remember the 2-3 hour arnold/weider 30 sets of chest blow out sessions that we all started out doing. when i trained like that i would finish my workout and still fell like doing more.”

Uh, no i dont.

Absolutely! I have noticed the same thing and have caught some grief from buddies I used to lift with. They say your volume sucks but all I know is ultimate strength gains are far outpacing theirs. I think you are right about the greater recruitment. IMO the max effort work is more draining than the old pyrimids I did.
It is nice to know there are others who have the same thoughts running through their heads. I leave the gym more tired now in 45-60 minutes than I used to in 2-2.5 hours.


As you have stated it is your body adjusting to the stimulus that you now put it under. Since you no longer do those lower weight, super high rep/set sessions your body just doesnt tolerate them.

Instead you are able to lift much more, but with less frequency than befor.

Is this good or bad? That is all dependent on your goals. If you simply want to be a strong mofo then lift heavy all the time. If you want some of each then a pendulum approach much like CT laid out in his most recent article is a great example to follow.

With that said, I personally like lifting heavy, but also enjoy bouts of high rep work, just to change it up, and keep the routine fresh and the body guessing.

I feel, and think many will agree, that even if pure strength is your goal, it is still a beneficial to throw in some high rep work every now and then.



Getting older has an effect as well. :wink:

I’ve finally come to terms that I am getting older, and I can’t do as much as I used to. The days of 75-120 minute workouts employing set-after-heavy-set just aren’t feasible, nor as productive.

Of course, there is a plus to this. I can use shorter workouts, and I can get in even better shape using different methods that weren’t as successful in the past.

I only did those long workouts when I first started working out.

For the longest time, I had been working out each muscle group once a week. I recently started ABBH, working each out twice a week, and I am impressed with the results. So, perhaps I was undertraining.


  1. The intensity and concentration during your workouts are far beyond what they were when you started out
  2. Your % of max weight used is way above what you used to use

…how many guys when they start out ever use anything near their 1RM in a workout? Much less 85% or 75% or 65% of their 1RM?
Very few.
They either go way too heavy too early and rebound using really light weight, or they start out pretty low so they can get through those 10 movement, 3x15 workouts and still have energy left over.

This is why the ‘richie rich’ business men at the club i work spend 2 hours everyday after work benching but have yet to add more than 15# to their 1RM…after 3 years of trying. They go for quantity not quality.

You’ve cut out the BS in your workouts and maximize a minimum of movements.

thanks guys im glad that others know what im talking about. well, except goldberg.

this has become more pronounced since i began training for strength instead of just a typical bb routine.

training for strength really conditions your nervous system to handle heavier weights. now when i do train for hypertrophy i am training with a much heavier weight then i could in the past. thus the physical drain.

Exactly heavysprout.

3x10 on bench for a newb might be at 135lbs. That same person doing 3x10 with 225 down the road has increased his work load by 66% even though his ‘volume’ is still the same.

IMO you really have to look at total work performed, not just the volume.

“IMO you really have to look at total work performed, not just the volume.”

good point! that is exactly what is happening here.

This is very common indeed! A beginner has a very low neural efficiency; as a result he cannot recruit and thus fatigue/stimulate a high percentage of his muscle fibers. He can thus handle a lot of volume as mostly the slow twitch fibers are recruited and fully stimulated (which have good endurance and respond well to a high volume of work).

As one gains in experience, his nervous system becomes more and more efficient at recruiting more motor units, especially high threshold (strong and powerful fibers). These fibers have a low tolerance for work. So basically, since your nervous system is so much more efficient, you can recruit and stimulate more motor units with a much lower volume of work. However, if you increase the volume too much you risk running into CNS overloading which will lead to stagnation.

Here’s something else. I’ve noticed that I can’t get as many reps with weight that I used to easily do 10-12 reps with in the past. Even though my 1RM may be the same or higher, I can’t get as many reps as I used to.

For example, years ago, I could bench 135 x 12-15. Now, it’s actually hard for me to get a set of 10, even though my bench is higher. So it’s true that as your training age increases, you have to decrease the reps to get the results you are after.

You may lift in the 8-10 range as a beginner for hypertrophy. But years down the road, you may only need 4-6 reps for the same response.

Louie simmons talked about the neural aspect (like CT said) when dealing with percentages. at 75% one should be able to do ten reps. This is no problem if you squat 300, but a 1000lb squatter would, in theory squat 750 for 10 reps. Yeah right. That would kill him. The reason he cant handle the volume is neural efficiency.