T Nation

Intensity vs Volume


This is a very n00b type question sorry. I have been on T-Nation for quite some time reading forums and articles but have not ever replied to any posts. I thought I would ask the T-Nation members as I trust your knowledge.

My question is this, I am 17 and I'm not very buff at all. I'm 45Kg, BMI 16, 162cm, 5Ft 5inches(I think).

When a first started working out, about a year ago, I read "BodySculptingBibleForMen" it said for teenagers you should keep reps easily at 20 or above.

Not that long ago I got "Scrawny to Brawny" its mainly covers people like me (Ectomorph) and they recommended that a stereotypical ectomorph should keep reps short and sweet, 12. They said the reps need to be intense.

Now when I work out, if I do sets with 12reps I dont have to push myself as much and dont feel the same DOMS afterwards. With sets of 20reps I get really good (bad, however you look at it)intense DOMS afterwards. Is it true that if I do low reps (12), I will put extra strain on my growth plates and not get my full growth potential. Being 162cm I aint tall and dont want to stunt my growth but doing the wrong amounts of reps for myself.

What do I do?


Call an ambulance? Seriously Im not sure that the human body can sustain life much below 45kg (not even for a 5'5 person). At present you probably just needs drips and various other life support measures.

Once you get out of the hospital emergency department and get home I would recomend intensity over volumn, thats how I built my physique (on display in another thread).

(Note: I expect a sarcastic reply in due course from a poster who has read that other thread, just make sure its funny please).


I'd be leaning more towards Berardi's recommendations. He is a smart cookie and knows what he is talking about.

DOMS is not necessarily an indicator of improvement - don't use it as your guide to how effective a workout is.

The topic of growth plates has been brought up a few times before and (someone correct me if I'm wrong) I'm under the impression it's a bit of a myth.


Yeah sounds like a myth to me. I think its chemical signals that stop your growth plates growing not mechanical stress. Whats the stess supposed to do anyway, squash your growth plate cells to death so they dont work any more? Somehow I dont think it works like that.

As a newbie any program will probably work for you. If you are older and close to your genetic potential I think short but intense training (with like no more than six reps) is the way to go but volumn is probably better for a newbie (to build the endurance foundation as well as strength ie sarcoplasm as well as sacomere hypertrophy. Plus as a newbie your recovery ability is better so you can probably handle higher volumn).

Actually Ive used both ridiculous extremes of volumn training and ridiculous extremes of intensity training (I like to do most things to the extreme) and got good results from both so to be perfectly honest I dont know which works better as they have both worked for me.

(I do know that in my current state, ie nearing 40 and probably close to my genetic limit I cant do anything like the volumn I used to but I do get good maintanence for the physique I built with volumn with high intensity).


People's growth, at least during childhood, depends on the consuption of meat and exposure to sunlight. So play outside, go to the beach and eat all the meat you can get your hands on.


Performing weight training, with proper form, will not negatively affect your height/growth plate.

If you're looking to increase muscle size and strength, you should be working with a much lower rep range.

Additionally, DOMS is not a good indicator of muscular growth/response to training.

Go with the lower rep ranges and train with proper form.


You're 17, not 7. Lift heavy damnit.


Fat T Man is the only one who caught this: The guy only weighs 100 lbs!!

Go eat right now. As much as you can fit in your stomach. Then in two hours, eat again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You need to gain some damn weight. Don't worry so much about Berardi's recommendations right now, except just eating a lot of damn food. And read this:



Like has been said you need to eat! I was in the same situation as you when you were 16 (5'6, less then 110lbs/50kg) but thankfully I joined a gym.

The weight you use for sets of 20+ reps is going to be to light to elicit much of any muscle growth... soreness does not equal growth.

read this to get a better idea about the effects of using different intensity levels:


stick to the basic compound lifts (squats, deads, bench, rows, shoulder press, pull ups, dips), do a few sets in the 8-14 rep range and eat as much as possible including a protien source in each meal.


Forgot to mention in my first reply that by high volumn I still meant number of reps less than or equal to 8 (though number of sets can still be high - by high volumn I meant high total sets times reps times weight but not high reps). (Ten reps at the most if you must go high reps).

Really body building (even with high volumn training) is not an endurance sport.

Muscles fibers are most likely to increase in strength and hence cross sectional area (i.e. sacormere hypertrophy) when worked to within 90% of your 1 rep max. If you are doing more than 6 reps you are not really working to that intensity.

(Will also add that muscles can get stronger by changes in the nervous sytem supplying them so they can get stronger without getting bigger and they can also get bigger without getting stronger by increasing sarcoplasm volumn which is one thing high volumn will help with. Never the less by and large your musckes will gt stronger by you lifting heavier and heavier weights.

Around 80% or so of muscle volumn is fibre and so most potential for getting larger muscles comes from increaseing fibre cross sectional area and this is done via increaseing load lifted. This increase is mostly to occcur when stimulated by working within 90% of 1 rep max.

At the very least you want to be within 80% of 1 rep max or you are just wasting your time. Reps of twenty sets may be of minor use in stimulating sarcoplasm hypertrophy and may have some room in your programe but mostly I think you should be sticking with reps of 6 to 8 (even sets of 3 reps is good as long as total volumn is still high - but may be too taxing on nervous system to do too often).

Bottom line is you are doing too many reps (for either high volumn or high intensity training).


Ok, thx for all your replies.
I tohught my diet was ok. I dont want to get to serious or strict about this, I usually just go to the gym once a week. In both books I have it has training for 6 days of the week. I dont have time to go six times a week and I cant afford a home gym.

My weekday diet (I only go to gym on weekdays) is:
Breakfast:Two weet-bix with skim milk (for energy)
1 Omega3 Capsule
1 Vitamin C Tablet

Tuna Sandwhich (1 can of tuna in a sandwhich)(Cans are 185g)

2 Tuna Sandwhiches

3 80g eggs
2 Glasses milk
1 Vitamin C Tablet

Asian dishes with meat (usually stir fry)
Sometimes steak

If I go to the gym, I will go b4 my afternoon meal and have 1scoop of protein in protein shake and have Vitamin C tablet then.

Weekend Days:
Breakfast: None
Lunch: 6 Red Bean Dumplings
Dinner: Asian take-away


there really is no need to train 6 days a week, but don't expect to see alot of results any time soon going just 1 day a week.

If I were you I would be doing 3 full body workouts spread through out the week.


Shit man!! I wish at 17 years old I still had recess!! Damn...do you get a nap time too??


Although a nap time would be good lol we dont get it.

I could eat more if I wanted to but I'm a slow eater so by the time I have finished my two sandwhiches there is only 10min left to muck around, 3 sandwhiches and my 1hr lunch is none stop eating and nothing but lol


Don't complain about being so small and skinny if you don't eat and only train once a week.


Dude, dont get so worked up. I aint complaining about being small or skinny at all. I'm just asking a question of ok. I aint expecting huge results from what I currently do I just want to get the most out the time I do spend at the gym working out, if thats ok with you.


Wasn't that called Math Class?


Remedy this. Now.


You really, really need to eat breakfast, every day, if you want to put on any size.

So what's the concensus so far? Lower rep sets, heavier weight, eat more, don't skip breakfast, ever. And don't worry about your 'growth plates' just get outside, be active and eat right.

And ignore the bitchy remarks... unless you're the kind of person who can take those and turn them into motivation that is.


Nah I dont care about the bitchy remarks. Thanks for all the responses that were helpful. I will try and get up early enough on weekends to have breakfast =)
I'm REALLY, REALLY active just dont work out much is all. I'm really fit as in cardiovascular endurance and stuff just got no muscle mass which I would like to change eventually.

Just curious about the breakfast remark, I study Yr12 Health and my teacher said if you are trying to lose weight you should eat 5 small meals a day as it increases your matabolism burning more fat, wouldnt skipping breakfast have the opposite effect?
Anyways, Bye for now and thx again for the speedy and most helpful response. =)