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Question to You Guys: What Do You THINK is the Main Driver for Muscle Growth?


Frequency -

Volume -

Effort -

Progressive Overload -

Truly, it’s a synergistic combination of these factors. But if you had to pinpoint which one you think is most directly correlated with muscle growth, which is it?


It’s progressive overload.

Frequency, volume, and effort (and don’t forget food!) are all drivers that get you to progressive overload.

But at the end of the day you have to add reps AND add weight.

If you go from squatting 315x5 to 315x10 your legs will get bigger and stronger.
If you go from squatting 315x10 to 405x3 your legs will get bigger and stronger.
If you go from squatting 405x3 to 405x10 your legs will get bigger and stronger.

It’s goal dependent but progressive overload (progress in general) reigns supreme IMO.


Frequency and volume only come into play if effort and overload are there. What good is 10x10 5x per week if you use only 3kg dumbbells for 5 years without breaking a sweat?

The results we see from CAT training would suggest that if you put all your intent into the bar, then as long as the weight is challenging it doesn’t necessarily need to change. But you could argue CAT is progressive overload, increasing bar speed being the overload. It will need to overload in intensity at some point but we’re not saying 1 without any of the others. We are saying highest priority. So put in more effort over adding weight to the bar.

I’ve also seen some fairly “dumb” programming do wonders when the athlete has true buy-in


  1. Effort
  2. Overload
  3. Volume
  4. Frequency

Frequency last because I’d rather see someone do 5x5 once per week that 1x1 3 times per week. Again, these are not isolated from each other, so if you are doing 5x5 now, you might be better off splitting your volume rather than adding more.

So maybe my true answer is “it depends” haha



My workset weights can be effected by time of day, nutrition, fatigue, etc. I may not see an increase in volume or observable progressive overload. As long as I smash the workout with skullsplitting effort, I will grow.



I can follow a program that’s perfect in frequency, volume, and progressive overload but if I’m not working hard enough then nothing happens.

If I’m able to suck it up and push through the pain (not the injury type of pain) then I can stimulate growth.

350 sets, drop sets, and rest/pause sets are all examples of the right kind of pain.

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Good stuff guys! Keep em comin…


What is happening there is that when the loading is appropriate enough and the bar velocity is very high (meaning, you’re exploding very hard into and through the concentric) then you activate the high threshold motor units. This is usually done by training with more maximal loading and going to or close to failure (the SIZE principle). But with compensatory acceleration you don’t need to use heavier loading so long as you’re “asking” the body to activate as many motor units as possible. Which is why there tends to be a lot of carryover from CAT training with sub-max loads into maximally loaded sets later.


Agree that effort is #1.

Look at two people that have been “working out” for the same amount of time but have different results. Go watch them work out. The one that brings the effort and intensity will have vastly superior results. I don’t care works out more often or longer; give me the one that brings the effort.

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But problem with effort is you can work REALLY hard and still not get big and strong. You can stay in incredible shape just busting your ass. I feel like effort is a given. You have to give effort. You can have a KILLER workout with 135lbs, but that’s not going to help you deadlift 500.

It’s all based on goals. If your goal is to be in incredible shape EFFORT is #1.

But if your goal is to get STRONG or big you are going to have add weight to the bar eventually. That’s progressive overload. Preferably adding reps then weight.

All good programs have some form of it built in.

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All the big, strong guys I see have one thing in common: they’ve been doing this consistently for a long time.

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I’m not sure what the reason was but a while back I managed to increase my pull ups from 5 to 12 in 7-8 weeks.

I done this by including Smith machine Pendlay rows (5 sets of 10) after pull ups 3 sets of “amrap-1”. Until this point I’d never had mind muscle connection to the upper back. But this way I could. I could feel the tension in my mid upper back.

Now if I want to increase back size I do more pull ups. If I want to do more pull ups I do high volume Smith machine Pendlay rows.

Im not sure if this is mind muscle connection, addressing a weakness else where in the back or simply increasing volume. But I hope it helps.


Effort is what makes the other three work… the other three are different, more precise kinds of effort. Sort of like asking, which is best for you: apples, oranges, bananas, or fruit.

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Progression balanced with recovery is my guess

I am doing a new routine based on pushing rep records via 350 method
Also way less sets and only three days a week

Really curious to see how it effects me as I have always been a
10x3-5 type trainer, but have spent long periods stagnated
Or fizzling out only to go back to same weights months later


The discussion was regarding muscular growth rather than strength though.


Progressive overload needs effort.

Increasing volume needs effort.

Training muscles/lifts frequently needs effort (if you increase intensity and or volume via progressive overload).

Recovering from all the bullshit your doing need effort (more or less).

So… My two cents is effort. How hard your push yourself is the most important factor, but of course nothing works individually. Effort is not enough by its own, but all the other things are depended from it.


Effort will DICTATE volume.

You can train hard or for a long time but not both.


I’d say it’s a combination of effort and overload.

Many studies and authorities agree on the fact it doesn’t really matter how you train, if you train to failure every time at REASONABLE volume.

I mean entire point of progressive olverload is to tell your body “you are not strong enough - you need to build muscle in order to handle the weight”. Remember building muscle is not natural for our bodies. It’s survival mechanism. If you don’t force your body to build muscle, it’d much rather jsut store fat instead.

My current training for most groups is something like:
2 sets of heavy weight in range of 4-6
6 sets of moderate weight in range of 10
2 dropsets with light weight

Now how does it apply to progressive overload and failure? Let’s say in my example I do concetration curls for biceps:
2 sets of 17,5 kg x 6 reps
6 sets of 12,5 kg x 10 reps
2 dropsets of 7 kg (up to 40 reps)

When I am able to do full 2 sets of 6 reps with 17,5 kg, I’ll try to do 2 sets with 20 kg, if I can do 6 sets of 12,5 kg I’ll go with 15 kg and when I sucessfully do 2 sets of 40 without pauses with 7 kg, I can try 8 kg.

Of course I most likely won’t be able to immediately add this weight instantly. I’ll probably end up failing at my first attempt and do like 6 + 3 reps, 10, 10, 8, 6, 5 and 20 + 15. When I fail in my set, I finish it with the previous weight. So it’s like 10 x 15 kg, 10 x 15 kg, 8 x 15 kg + 2 x 12.5 kg, 6 x 15 kg + 4 x 12.5 kg, 5 x 15 kg + 5 x 12.5 kg in case of moderate wieght part for example.

If everything goes smoothly from training to training I am able to do consecutively more reps before failing, to a point, when I can do my full part of sets without failure. Then I add kilograms again.

Of course it’s not some kind of magic or my creation, but it is what works best for me. Just an example.

Considering how our boides work (they need stimulus to grow), I’d say if anything is most important it’s overload + effort. Because you want to make your body constantly progress and you can only achieve that by telling it it NEEDS to be bigger. And you won’t achieve it if you won’t progress and you won’t be giving 110% every time.



Like a couple others said, effort drives everything else. I also think that’s true in all other aspects of life.


True. If we consider effort as intensity.


I think effort plays a more important roll in muscle size than anything else. I think DC training in itself kinda proved that. Some guys have gotten huge using those methods. All you do is have a moderately heavy weight and take it to failure 3x within a minute roughly. Giving you 12-15 reps total for that muscle group.

I personally gained most of
My muscle running 5/3/1 for 1 1/2 years and just going balls to the walls on Pr set and then doing 1 back off set to failure. Maybe no ideal for everyone but worked well for me for a long time.