John U once answered some post saying that “This is my favorite program for size. I’ll superset barbell cheat curls with weighted dips for five sets, I’ll move on to seated dumbell curls and close-grip bench press for 4 sets, and finally on to wide-grip preacher curls and decline tricep extensions for 4 sets.” He says he stays with 6-8 reps. But flaxoil says he likes this program, but also says “Another thing to watch is volume. I see so many people, doing 15 sets for both biceps and triceps, when many of them who are not seeing results could be doing far better for gains if they’d cut down to 4-8 sets max per part.” So which is it flaxoil? Do you like John u’s which looks like 13 sets for biceps and 13 sets for triceps, or your 4-8 sets per muscle?
Justin, it mainly depends on how you respond to the training. I believe Flaxoil is implying that most people have trouble gaining with a volume. These people that do 15 sets for both biceps and triceps usually are not using heavy enough weight. The 6-8 reps for my arms are about >/= 80% of my max lift, so doing less weight for more reps is counterproductive for me and with less working sets I have difficulty putting on mass. Other people may be different in fact I know so. You have to experiment with your routine. I am certainly no genetic freak for size but I have a natural recovery ability that I have not seen matched by anyone yet, so higher volume workouts work much better for me. I am in the gym 6 days/week and train 1.5-2.5 hours. I have been doing this for 2 years and this is what works for me. My take home advice is to stick with a weight that is >/= 80% of you max lift. However many reps you get with that are what you should train with then adjust the amount of sets accordingly. Higher reps = less total sets, lower reps = higher total sets. TOTAL time-under-tension (TUT) is what you look for when adjusting the sets, so tempo is important also.
John U is correct in stating that I am just specifying that I believe too many people use too high of volume for their workouts, but as in his case, it can work well! Some people can grow like a weed using high volume, but others like myself grow best when doing low volume sets. Have you seen which volume works best for yourself up to this point? I did high volume for years as it was all I was ever told to do - I listened to the magazines and was given a bum steer. Too many people believe that the cookie-cutter theories on training are the only way to do it, and that isn’t true. When I cut my volume down to 2/3 or 1/2 of what I’d previously been doing, I saw size and strength gains that were wonderful compared to what I’d been getting with my old routines. But, in my case, that’s just my genetic makeup. I was afraid to do lower volume for a while because I thought that quantity = quality, that you needed to spend an hour in the gym to see results, when I can now go in for 25 minutes and develop greater strength than I did in twice that time. My body is extremely prone to overtraining, and that’s just the way I have to plan my workouts around. You may be like me, you may be like John, or you may be somewhere in between. Now that you’ve seen John’s style workout, here’s a quick rundown of my current 6-week plan that I’m using to bridge over to my next session of microcyclic periodization:
Monday - Chest - Incline DB Press, 3x6 @ 85-90% 1rm, then Hammer Strength decline for 3x6 @ 90% 1rm
Tuesday - Legs - Ass-to-floor squats, 3x6 @ 70% 1rm (weight is only around 70% 1rm due to recovery from knee injury) Leg Curl 3x6@ 90% 1rm, and 2 drop sets of seted calf raises starting at 90% 1rm and stripping plates until near failure. My calves are too damned big as it is, so I don’t need much training for them!
Wednesday - Arms - Barbell curls, 3x6 @ 85-90% 1rm superset with skullcrushers done 3x6 @ 85-90% 1rm. Next is Incline DB hammer curls, 3x6@ 85-90% 1rm, superset with lying DB triceps extensions, done 3x6 @ 85-90% 1rm.
Thursday - Rest
Friday - Shoulders - DB lateral raises, done 3x6 @ 85% 1rm, next is BB presses 3x6 @ 85-90% 1rm, and I wrap it up with DB rear delt flyes, 2x10 @ 60% 1rm (my rear delts respond better to lighter weight and higher reps)
Saturday - Back day! Start with Pull-ups, 3x6 done slowly to insure that the last rep on each set is a slow negative that takes me near or to failure. Next are Deadlifts, done 3x6 @ 80-90% 1rm, then over to DB bent over rows for 3x6@ 85-90% 1rm, then lastly over to the Smith machine where I do one-handed shrugs (yes, one-handed, as it allows for different positioning) for 3x6 @ 85-90% 1rm.
That’s my current program in a nutshell. It’s been doing well, and where I’d thought that after my last great periodization plan my strength would level off or drop a bit, instead it has continued to increase slowly.
Keep experimenting with varying rep schemes and set numbers for volume. Try my way, try John U’s way, and try something in-between. Sooner or later you’re going to find what works for you!