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Intensity/Failure vs. Volume

Apologies in advance if I posted in the wrong category – this looks like the best fit to me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the pros/cons of shorter/longer workouts. I love Dorian’s philosophy on training to and beyond failure, then allowing the body adequate time to recover. The sandpaper analogy makes perfect sense. He’s said that in his heyday he trained 4X per week, usually for 45 minutes at a time – which doesn’t sound like much, but obviously can be plenty if you push it in your workouts like he did.

However, I don’t have a training partner to help with spotting/partial/forced reps (and pushing me, which is key), and I also don’t have the safety of machines, as I work out in a home gym. So I’m wondering: is it still possible to apply the Arthur Jones/Mike Mentzer/Dorian philosophy of “extreme intensity” to training? Would that be beneficial?

One anecdote that especially got me thinking about this: I usually work out for 75-90 minutes. Today my wife arrived to pick me up at the gym (today was one of the rare days in which I have access to a gym) and mistakenly got there 30 minutes early. Not wanting to make her sit in the car (good husband award, I know), I told her I’d be out in 5 minutes. Knowing I only had those 5 minutes to work with, and I wouldn’t be stretching out my energy, I channeled everything into those final sets and absolutely crushed the rest of my workout.

As I walked out, it really felt like I got more out of those 5 minutes than I normally would in the final 30. So maybe a 30 minute workout can be more effective than a 90-minute one, despite the difference in volume.

This is almost exactly what Paul Carter and guys have been discussing for 1100+ posts here: Question to You Guys: What Do You THINK is the Main Driver for Muscle Growth?

Out of curiosity, what did this look like, specifically? What did you originally have planned and what did you adjust?

It absolutely can, zero doubt, but it needs to be programmed properly. As a one-off session like you had, it’s totally fine to just crush it, walk away, and get back to the regular plan next session.

But if you were going to train that way for weeks or months at a time, things like recovery, training frequency/bodypart split, volume per workout, etc. would need to be sorted out to avoid just grinding yourself down.

I appreciate the response, Chris.

I’ve read through some of this thread – such a good one – and clearly need to spend more time with it. Sorry for the redundant question.

What’s interesting is, I didn’t adapt the exercises I was doing. I was working on a back/biceps workout and was already through the back portion. I was just getting started on biceps and was doing hammer curls. However, instead of stopping where I normally would – around 10 reps, where I’d feel gassed – I dug super deep down inside and pushed each set to 15-16 reps. I’m sure I looked like a massive douche bag with all my grunting while doing curls, but my RPE was an 11/10 on these sets.

THIS is what I’m really hoping to figure out as I formulate my future programming. I don’t sense that I’ve yet discerned how to program for true intensity, given the aforementioned variables (home gym, no training partner, etc). The mere fact that I can train for 90 minutes, 6-7 days a week is clear evidence that I’m not pushing it hard enough. I’d love to experiment with the Jones/Mentzer/Yates approach, if I can sort out those variables you mentioned.

I wasn’t trying to say it’s redundant, just that the topic’s being discussed in-depth so giving that thread a read and/or chiming in there could help too.

These articles both talk about setting up that type of routine: https://www.t-nation.com/training/pump-down-the-volume

https://www.t-nation.com/training/bigger-muscles-shorter-workouts

Paul Carter also has this plan to design your own routine: https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/how-to-build-your-own-training-program

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