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Questions for Volume Junkies: Male vs Female? Intermediate vs Advanced?

TL;DR: study was run on a group of female lifters with at least 3 years experience, age 24-25 years old, length of study: 24 months. Study compared 10RM improvements on 4 groups, each group performed a different number of sets per workout (5, 10, 15, 20), with only one muscle group per workout, and only 3 workouts per week. The 5 set group had better pec development and the 10 set group had better quad development. Both 5 and 10 set groups showed the most improvement across the board on 10RM strength and muscle gains.

This study is fairly decisive regarding what most would call “intermediate lifter” females, but i am curious about its’ applicability to males. Reason being is simply that we have significantly more testosterone, and for those of us that have been training for a while.

I think an argument can be made that advanced lifters do not need a full week to recover from say 10 sets per muscle group. This argument is probably best displayed by those doing upper/lower splits 2-3x per week, or PPL 2x per week. Is increasing density to hit a muscle grouping (small group, not big group like “push” or “pull”) twice per week still effective if you’re only doing 5 working sets per grouping? IMO it makes more sense to increase density, but also keep some of those working sets, say 8-10 working sets per muscle grouping twice per week.

“muscle grouping” is separated into 11 parts, per @Chris_Colucci as follows: back, chest, quads, hamstrings, shoulders, triceps, biceps, abs, traps, forearms, calves
I’m happy to be proven wrong here, I’m an admitted volume junkie but i’d rather train effectively.

I don’t really follow what you’ve written here. Do you want to do 16-20 sets per week by hitting the muscle group twice in a week and do 8-10 working sets per muscle group per session?

You probably can, just keep RPE low (seems boring to me but YMMV)

I meant density as in training frequency. a lot of people like doing PPL for 3 training sessions per week, but as experience and ability to recover increase - one could essentially double-tap PPL in one week to fit in 6 training sessions.

I’m curious as to the applicability of confining working sets to only 10 sets per week per muscle grouping. If someone can recover from a full PPL routine (with 10 working sets/muscle grouping) and give it another run-through - i don’t see why they shouldn’t hit it for a seond run in one week.

sorry if im not explaining this well, i’m fumbling for the right wording so it makes sense (hopefully)

Why would your ability to recover improve if your training load goes up?

Just a stupid hypothetical, is it easier to recover from a 200 pound squat or a 700 pound squat?

FWIW, you can for sure do PPL in 6 training sessions, but you are going to have to adjust volume and/or intensity.

Maybe check this for reference,

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I guess i don’t view the two in a direct relation necessarily. As training load increases, your recovery will be harder - no question. But who/what says ability to recover cannot eclipse the demand of increased training load? hoping that makes sense

I dont see that increased training load equates to LONGER recovery as much as i see it equates to HARDER recovery. For example: if the relation were direct, every time you lift 1% more on a PR, it would take you 1% longer to recover. But this isn’t true, or else my 95lb squat in high school (which took well over a week to recover from) would mean my current 405lb squat would be complete doomstay levels of recovery.

I looked over the link, its a decent reference though i feel tracking progressive overload with this method is a nightmare. Still, good information.

No, but maybe your capacity to recover has an initial sharp increase and then it somewhat plateaus. Otherwise, wouldn’t you already be doing PPLPPL?

I’m already doing PPLPP(L) sometimes skipping the 2nd leg day, usually due to recovery from deadlifts and previous squats. Would probably be better served doing PPL rest PPL rest, rinse and repeat, but I’m hitting fairly heavy weights for squats (365 for 5x5) and deads (425 for 5x5). I guess my point is that if i reduced to running PPL only once per week, i couldn’t increase my deadlifts or squats anywhere near enough to justify the loss in systemic load over the course of the week. Like at most, i might see my squat increase by 10-15 lb - but that doesnt make up for the ~28,000lb systemic load decrease without hitting legs a 2nd time (i ran the total load of my leg days for the 28k).

Its probably just the volume junkie in me speaking, but i just dont see how the slight increase in some weights 1x per week would be more beneficial than running 2x per week if i’m able to recover.

Welp… Ok.
First thing - the heavier you train, the longer the recovery. Harder recovery is the same - it means also recovering longer.
It might not be exactly the same as adding 1% weight means 1% recovery, but that is a fact that a beginner can do all 4 big lifts in 1 training session 2-3 times a week. Thats how i start my clients - we do 4 main lifts every training session, 2-3 times a week, we add 1,25kg each side on every lift every training. When that becomes harder, we add same plate on lower body lifts and every other session for upper body. When that stalls, we move to Bench/Squat, Ohp/DL split and continue adding weight until that stalls - we test our 5RM max and do 531 2 day split.
It is an absolute fact that a beginner can deadlift and squat in same session 2-3 times a week for months. No one who is strong, can do it in one session. Rarelly someone can do it twice a week.
Very strong lifters, like Chad Wesley Smith squat only once every 10 days.
The original Lilliebridge Method also had them Squating and Deadlifting once every 14 days.
The stronger you get, the more time you need to recover.

Second - women are MUCH BETTER at handling volume. It has shit to do with testosterone. It has to do with CNS. Women are build to endure more suffering. When i was running marathons i studied that alot, and since i have a basic degree in biology, i always end up reading paleonthological stuff.
Basically, homo sapiens were built to travel long distances, thats why we are good at marathons. Females, however, were build to travel the same distances WHILE preagnant and/or WITH baby on hands.

There also was a comparison done by Juggernaut team, with Chad Wesley Smith that compared amount of maximum recoverable volume.
So we know(and now you too) that the bigger the lifts, the less volume you can handle. The result of the comparison was that and Intermediate male lifter could do HALF the volume, that an ELITE female could do.
Taking into consideration that elite strenght would require twice the recovery that is needed by an intermediate, it comes to females being able to tolerate 3-4 times the volume a male can.

Sure, we can debate that the reason why females can tolerate so much more is because elite females lift as much as an intermediate males, but STILL even if we take half of their recovery away because of the load difference, females still can tolerate at least twice as much.

The thing about the recovery is not in testosterone and muscle as such. Its mostly in CNS. Our CNS does not change too much because we train. The higher the load, the more punishment for our CNS which always is at simmilar level. Thats why you can deadlift 100lbs three times a week, 250lbs twice a week, 500lbs once, and when you reach 800+ it is rare to see people doing that every week, OR if they do, they back way off the squats.
It is common in powerlifting that when you push a heavy squat or dead a bit more frequently(more frequent than once every 10 days, for example) to back off the other lift a lot. There are lots of good lifters that will say that you cant progress on squat and dead at the same time at all.
If id put my GF through the same training i do, she would be whining and bitching all the time but she also would be ready to go again after 2 days. Me - not so much. I train every lift once every 8 days and sometimes i think that i need a bit extra in between lower body sessions. Many times i have considered doing LillieBridge method and just do squats one week, deads the other.


First off, responses like this are why I love this forum.

I’ll be honest, when i first started lifting i remember being near paralyzed after my first leg day, and for months afterwards my leg days were still rough to recover from. Now i’m usually recovered (no more DOMS) from a heavy leg day (squatting 365 for 5x5) in 3-5 days, diet depending. Not saying that 365 for reps is crazy heavy, but it is in the advanced spectrum. I can’t say i’ve tried it, but i would be very surprised if holding off squatting for 10 days would induce such a large increase in squat weight as to justify the lack of density i’d be comitted to.

Fun fact: there was a group of hoomans that used to “hunt” by literally distance running their prey do death.

was this done in scope of volume comparative to %1RM? I’d be interested to read more about this. Furthermore, if the study I linked above says females did best at 10 sets per muscle per week, and the study you posted says males can only handle HALF that, then intuition says intermediate males should only be doing 5 sets per muscle per week… not trying to pooh pooh either your information or mine, just trying to reach an understanding, because 5 sets/muscle/week seems disgustingly low IMO.

My understanding and rationalization for prioritizing exercises that induced some spinal compression was to trigger CNS response - and by continuation - increase natural HGH and Test levels. I can’t find the study, but i read a T-Nation article years ago stating that it was theorhetically possible to squat your way to bigger arms via CNS response (of course the auther was exaggerating this claim).

I’m out of touch with a lot in the realm of powerlifting, i like increasing my squat, deadlift and incline press, but overall i don’t do much in regard to true powerlifting. I admit that it is very difficult to make progress in both squats and deadlifts, especially in the same week, unless intensity is reduced drastically in one of the two. Will strongly consider focussing deadlifts one week and squats the next (will also have to read up on LillieBridge).

It bears mentioning that i am also ‘natural’ in the sense that i am not and never have been on gear, but i have done the dirty with SARMs about 2 years ago. I’ve read way too many conflicting articles regarding recovery for natties, some saying “more training density, more volume for natties” and others saying “less volume, less density for natties”. It is no secret that I like my volume; I’ve done fairly well at high volume, high density training for a while now, so this is why/where i’m torn. Focussing on tonnage/progressive overload has done far more for me than any 3x per week program, furthermore - reducing my training that heavily would cost my weekly tonnage far more than my daily tonnage would improve. It just seems to be a bad trade-off

It is actually a fact that DOMS has nothing to do with recovery. Unless i do something i have never done, i never have DOMS.
DOMS means - DELAYED onset muscle sorness. My GF has horrible cramping DOMS after glute bridges, but has none from real exercises and she deadlifts 240.
DOMS is just an acid buildup in muscles that hasnt been properly flushed out. You can have horrible DOMS and be recovered, and you can have none and be close to destroying yourself.

Thats called endurance hunting and there are at least 2 tribes in africa that still do it, yea. Takes 2-3 days to run down an animal, but they do it.

Those studies are not connected - they just compared their client data on their training app, cuz its supposed to plan for you, based on your training records etc.
ANYWAYS, doing 5-6 sets per muscle a week is NOT unheard off.
Mentzer and his clients. Dorian Yates. Dave Palumbo. Im sure there are more bodybuilders who have done low volume and got results. I actually believe that its not the volume as much as it is progressive overload, because we can see people getting good results doing whatever the fuck.
No matter what program, there are those who do good and those who do bad. Its mostly genetics.
Mentzer actually played around with an idea of 1 training session in 7 days. Workout A and B. So 2 workouts over 14 days. It might be crazy, but 5 sets per muscle is not that crazy. I believe i have done it like this for some time a while back for legs.
So we take 531 deadlifts. We do our warmups, we do our top set AMRAP. That takes around 45mins for me but its actually 1 set, because all before the AMRAP are warmups. After that i would do 3x10-12 of Good Mornings. And done for that. Then some abs, some quads, but thats actually it for deadlifts.

I remember something like this like 15 years ago, but thats all bullshit. You cant stimulate your natural anything to see ANY benefits.
Boosting natural test and GH is complete bullshit unless you have never had any natural test, or if you are like 50 with a shit lifestyle and then you start working out, stimlating natural test and dieting good. Then, you might feel the extra 1 point of test you increase.
Most people walk around with, lets say 800 test. Then they take average dose of steroids and they bump it up to 2000 test and FAIL to get ANY gains. What does a bump from 800 to 850 would look like?

I believe that what works for natural works for enhanced. I dont think that some extra test changes our bodies so much that we can do retarded shit and get away with it.
Me, for example, i overtrain easy. I can get down with a fever from doing a 5x5 of deadlifts. And i have taken all there is to take in hopes to battle this and be able to do more. If we talk deadlifts then most days i can just do top set amrap and then move to leg curls, lol. And i have done grams of test and tren, and GH. Nothing changes it. In fact i dont see much difference being on 300mg test and 1g of test. At least not for me.
So as i mentioned - it comes down to genetics. Those who are the good ones, will gain good on different methods and will blow up on drugs. Those with worse genetics will look for the problem their whole lives and still not find it, then start taking drugs and realise that it does not change too much. There are tons of people who take steroids and look completely beginner natty.

I train my natty clients the same way i train myself. Unless something hurts them or they need something else for a weird reason, i never teach anyone something i wouldnt do myself. And i do have some strooooong babes that i train. I have never felt that what i would do as enhanced for some reason doesnt work for them. The only difference is that my clients never train more than twice a week(its mostly money thing as we live in a poor country and private trainers cost a lot, so no one can afford it more that twice a week).


I think you missed the ones saying frequent sessions, with low volume, and high intensity.

How hard are you pushing your sets?

Look to videos of Dorian Yates (Blood and guts) and EliteFTS “Train your ass off” if you need reference

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so then i have to ask… how does one know if they are ‘recovered’ then? if that is too vague, how do YOU know when you are recovered?

I’m in no position to judge Mentzer, Yates, or Palumbo for their training method; Mentzer basically branded HIT, Yates continued off that with his own spin, as did Palumbo to my knowledge. As i said, i’m in no position to judge their training methods as they were all giants, but they were heavily scrutinized for their routines by a LOT of the bodybuilding world. I know later on Mentzer took his methods even further and reduced his clients’ training density even more, which was even more scrutinized but clearly showed results.

It appears so far that when people do ‘whatever the fuck’ with enough intensity, they will still make considerable gains and results. No argument.
Maybe my question would be better aimed at the method of progressive overload… The way i have seen it, Progressive Overload (PO) has been advocated for in terms of increased training session tonnage, and increased exercise tonnage. Both of which make sense, but there is some overlap in application. How do you apply progressive overload for yourself/your clients?

I agree with this to an extent, but the additional strength that tends to come with gear will certainly push lift numbers far higher than if staying natty (pending different response per individual). Gear, for a lot of people, increases 1RM numbers drastically - by extension increasing muscle damage such that far lower volume will still generate far more damage, requiring more recovery. Not trying to refute what your point is, just checking for accuracy from my own observations.

I train squats, deads, and incline bench specifically towards progressive overload, so all of those i push myself about as far as I can go safely, though i could probably do more sets at the same weight, i don’t think i can manage much more in terms of reps/set… at most maybe 1 more rep.

As for my isolation work, i train pretty hard. i could push myself further, but it would start sacrificing form/technique. Not sure the practicality of sacrificing technique for the sake of more intensity :sweat_smile:

Will look up Blood and Guts and EliteFTS

I get the feeling Mr Carter had a point he wanted proving and based his study and answers around that which is easy to do in research.

The big thing in this is diet. The people who ate in a best calorie surplus would put on the most muscle.

Also Pauls obsession with doing 3-4 sets and not calling them sets because they aren’t ‘working sets’ is nonsense. Volume is all volume as it all has an impact on the muscle. Even if its a set thats far from failure it can still assist with hypertrophy as demonstrated by 531BBB variations.


I’m a huge Paul Carter fanboy, but i admit this is not one of his better articles. it has good potential, but it certainly came off that he used the study to prove an answer rather than evaluating the study and concluding.

I agree, but there are also MANY people who claim that the benefit of increased volume eventually converges with lack of recovery. Then looking into recovery - there is no “true” way to test if you’re recovered… So that leaves lifters at the whim of either over-training or under-training with little evidence to prove the value of increased volume. :man_facepalming:

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To note those studies have been mostly retracted for major data problems.


I didn’t read through the whole article, but i very much appreciate you sharing this. I saw the original articles mentioned above in the thread and why they were retracted, one literally for made up data and one for highly unlikely data :roll_eyes:

Again, thank you for sharing this - if only the retraction had made as much of a splash as the initial findings did.

I haven’t read a lot of this thread, because a lot of the posts are too long but, in my opinion, this is what’s valuable; volume of tonnage with relevant Intensity. Maximum recoverable volume, training the muscle to failure, training each muscle group frequently during the week, and focusing on progression every session.

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well this is why lifting and building muscle is complicated and only in rare occasions does one succeed in it.
we cant tell… sometimes we feel ok but we cant lift shit… sometimes we feel like shit and everything feels heavy but the weight does go up and we end up with PRs.
I think that knowing when we are recovered is the single factor that we need to actually be able to measure all other factors needed, like - volume. If one could tell WHEN he is recovered, he could just compare his recovery time after different training sessions of higher and lower volume.
The problem is - we cant know, because in recovery, simmilar as to sex drive and erection problems there are SOOOO many extra factors that its impossible to isolate one thing.
I really like how Wendler said it in his latest podcast - its better to undertrain than to overtrain.
Also, keep in mind that there are 2 different recoveries. One is muscle. My muscles are never sore. After a heavy leg day i might be a bit more stiff somewhere but i could warm up extra, stretch a bit longer and be ready to repeat the same workout. CNS is something else.
Taking steroids helps with muscle recovery but not as much CNS recovery so you can lift more, muscles adapt faster, lift even more and then go down with CNS fatigue which is a major problem for me. I just get fever, muscle aches and pains, low libido, depression - super easy if i dont watch out.


I find sometimes as well that when i have a sore (achy muscles in my back) and i do an upper/ lower, my 2nd session i still smash the weights and do really well even with sore muscles. Where as sometimes i don’t have a sore chest for example but my 2nd upper workout sucks.

I’m guessing there is a lot of things in place, like nutrition, sleep, stress etc. and more importantly what you are used to doing. I’m sure you could build up a tolerance for volume over time.

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