In the last while I have read quit a bit about some of the top lifters in decades past, like Ed Coan, Kirk Karwoski, John Kuc, etc. The thing that really stands out is that these guys were using very low training volumes compared to what is common nowadays. More than three work sets was pretty much unheard of. Even now, Dave Ricks’ training consists of working up to a top set of (depending where in the training cycle) 3 or 5 reps followed by some relatively light assistance work which he doesn’t push hard or even increases the weight on. Light squat and bench days are 50%x8x3 sets. And he has the 93kg open squat record at 57 years old.
It has been theorized that the majority of training effects are produced by the first work set, with marginal increases for each subsequent set - but a significant increase in fatigue and muscle damage. Could it be that we could actually make better gains in the long term by simply not training so hard?