T Nation

My Experience with Reducing the Volume


So, I had been very frustrated with my lack of progress recently (and in fact, I had started going the wrong way, and losing strength in some exercises). I tried to justify this, that I was cutting, eating less, and doing cardio 5-6x/week. But I was still frustrated. I was also constantly run-down, and tired, and unmotivated in other aspects of my life.

On a whim, not even from reading anything, I devised a plan. I decided I didn't want to cut down on the amount of exercises I was doing, so I cut it down to 1 set to failure of each exercise. I kept the same split, because I like it.

Day 1 - Chest/low intensity cardio
Day 2 - Back/ HIIT Cardio
Day 3 - Low intensity Cardio/Abs
Day 4 - Legs
Day 5 - Shoulders/ Low intensity Cardio
Day 6 - Arms/Walk
Day 7 - HIIT Cardio/Abs - or skiing or basketball.

I've been doing 7-8 exercises for large muscle groups, and 4-5 for smaller. I like this because it can hit the different areas of the muscle, without having to do 18 sets for the muscle group. This has been 3 or 4 weeks now.

Amazingly enough, despite the cardio, and the 2600-2800 calorie diet (about 500-700 below maintenance), I have been progressing again. 1 rep here or there. But most importantly, I am not losing strength, and I am able to be vibrant and energetic in other aspects of my life.

Many would argue that I shouldn't have been overtrained from 5 cardio sessions and 5 lifting sessions with 12-15 sets per session... but for me, I was run down... and now I am back on the right track. Just wanted to share my experience.



Thanks for that.. I am having similar results by only doing 8-10 sets per muscle group instead of 15 like I used to..


I can't even imagine doing 7-8 exercises for JUST chest. Legs would be the ONLY thing I would do 7-8 on since there's several different GROUPS of muscles: quads, hams, glutes, calves. i can see 2 quad, 2 ham, 2 calves and maybe another.

But for chest you would have to do:
flat bb press
flat db press
incline bb press
incline db press
decline bb press
decline db press
....just to get to six. Then what, flies and cross-overs?



Inc DB
Hammer flat
Hammer Inc
Pushups 45 lb x failure
Bench 135 x failure


could it be that you are now hardly working out in the gym? Maybe you aren't burning up all the calories you are eating. So now getting sufficiant food instead of burning it off on endless sets of bench?

Just thinking outloud. either way, good job on getting your lifts to move.


It's hard to tell what people consider a set these days.

I could say that I did 4 sets on incline db bench today for 8-12 reps.

Now, most people may think that is 4 all out sets, or 1-2 short of failure.

In reality it looked like this:

Set1: 20kg x 12 (easy)
Set2: 25kg x 10 (easy)
Set3: 35kg x 8 (hard)
Set4: 37.5kg x 8 (fuck!)

So really it was only 2x8.

This is why you need to be careful when you are going to follow a program someone suggests to you. 4x8-12 hard sets is a BIG BIG difference from 2 hard sets. Which may not give as much progress.

Also, people say IFBB pro's do insane volume because they describe their workouts as 4-5 exercises of 5-6 sets each, and really they only do 1-2 top sets per exercise.

It's a big pet peeve of mine latley, I wish people would just specify abit more about their workouts.


That is not progression.

That is you doing much lower volume so you are able to complete one set to the best of your ability.

Also if fat loss is your goal, that's a bad idea. Less work=Less calories burned.

Hate to burst your bubble man


Ok. So not really 7-8 exercises, 3-4 sets, then. I would assume your pushups and 135 bench is just one set? What is the set-rep your doing for these? Is this the order in which you do them?



Yeah, every exercise is just 1 set each.

Bench (2 warm up sets) - 1 x 8-10
Inc DB 1 x 8-10
Hammer Flat 1 x 8-10
Hammer Inc 1 x 8-10
Fly's 1 x 10-12
X-overs 1 x 12-15
Push-ups 45 lbs x failure
Bench - 135 x failure (generally 15-20 reps... I go really slow, and just try to really feel it for the burnout set).

I'm only taking 1 min between sets, so I'm in and out in under 20 minutes for each workout.

Back follows the same format. I alternate between vertical/horizontal pulls. 8 sets in all. Same with other muscle groups, but only 4-5 for bi's and 4-5 for tri's.


Is that to me? I know the difference between progression, and not. And yes, while I am doing only 1 set all out for each, I wouldn't call it progression unless I was getting stronger on that 1 set.

Each week, for the past 4 weeks, I have added 1 rep to most exercises each session. When I was doing 12-15 sets per muscle group, I was losing strength or barely maintaining. Now I am energized, and attck it hard for 20 min, and then get out and move on with life. I'm pretty satisfied so far...

Oh, and I am burning enough calories through cardio and diet, I'm sure. Each cardio session is 500 calories.



And OP... That many exercises per muscle-group? What numbers are you putting up at the moment? Unless they're on the high side, then some faster progression and less exercises may really be more useful than just doing a ton of work and progressing by 1 tiny rep here and there (not trying to be a dick here at all).


So, was it 7-8 exercises, 1 set each before, or now? I'm a little confused cause you mentioned you USED to do 12-15 sets. But in your last response to me you said 1 set each for 8 exercises.

So are you saying you only dropped your total sets by 4? Please clarify, my heads getting cloudy.



haha, sorry. BEFORE (as in, for the past year or two), Ive been doing 15 sets for large muscle groups and 10-12 for smaller. Now, for the past month, I have been doing 7-8 total sets for large, and 4-5 for smaller. THat was the reduction in volume which has been helpful to me.

Cephalic - My numbers are not outstanding. I dont know whether maybe I just have shitty genetics, but I have been at this sicne I was 15 (almost 27 now). I have achieved PR's of

120 x 6, INC DB Bench,
315 x 6 SLDL,
315 x 8 Squats,
205 x 6 OHP,
BW +100 x 8 dips,
BW+90 x 6 Chins.

Nothing too impressive, but decent, IMO.

I have lost 10 pounds over the past 2 months, and now reside at 5'10'', 196 lbs, and under 10% bf.

I realize I could still progress further, in regards to strength, but as I have begun to get older, I have kind of found a satisfactory hemeostasis, where I like to be lean, and I enjoy my cardio these days.

It has been a long time since I have progressed consistently. Some of it might have to do with excessive drinking on one of the weekend nights. But that's part of my life I enjoy, and I wouldn't sacrifice it. So, with that in mind, a rep here or there, these days, is more than I could hope for (with reduced calories, and cardio, and drinking etc)


Not too impressive? Come on! I couldn't match that and I'm 215. Assuming you are using a full ROM on those lifts, that is plenty strong.


Yeah but I just listed the exercises Im strongest at. My BB BEnch is 225 x 8, and thats a good day. I still dont know how I can handle such heavy DB's, but my body just doesn't work with BB on that movement for some reason.

Also, those are PR's. I am prob 5-10 less on pressing movements now. OHP and DB Bench seem to have suffered the most from my diet/cutting. Pulling and legs has stayed consistent, though.

Either way, Im content with the progress so far, and just to kinda maintain and look good for now


I gotcha. Your other lifts are still quite strong. Kudos for keeping it humble. :slightly_smiling:


If you are cutting, and especially if you are doing low carbs, but Lowering the volume is the best option. Otherwise if you aren't going to limit carbs but just cut down calories or even eat around maintanence, then higher volume stuff like poliquin's plans will work well for cutting.

But I would never be doing cardio 5-6x a week, unless I was training for some even that required that activity.



so you were doing 7-8 exercises per muscle group... while training hard 5x a week... along with cardio 5x a week(2 of which HIIT)... all while eating 2500-2800 calories a day? And you were wondering why you felt drained and worn out?

Honestly I am not surprised. If what you are doing now is working, then great, but I think that it is a little over-kill to begin with.


No, when I was feeling drained, I was only doing ~4 exercises per bodypart, but like 3-4 sets each, for 12-15 total sets. Now, Im doing MORE exercises, but only 1 set each. Volume has essentially been halved, like Dewey Cox did to his brother.


BBoor82 your strength isn't too shabby on some of those exercises, but you know...
Chances are you could gain quite a bit more (and easier) if you did a less... Hmm... Crazy routine.

(you reduced the volume already, you could basically reduce it further to regular levels and see what happens)

Your call though.

If you're satisfied with where you're at, then of course there isn't much of a point to changing things.

Congratulations to you for your progress thus far, though I daresay that you've made it more difficult for yourself than necessary :wink: