T Nation

Stimulant Transition - Intensity vs Volume

Hey Christian

I’ve been running your Strength-Skill Circuit for about 4 months now and I just want to say a big thanks, this program has produce great results in strength and size, plus thoroughly enjoyed running it. But my motivation has dropped and I’m looking for a new training stimulus.

Then the other day I came across your Built for Battle program and that has increased my excitement and motivation to begin a new training period.

On the assistance work:
For the Strength-Skill Circuit, the assistance hypertrophy work in limiting cortisol production, you recommended 2 warm sets and then 1 working set to failure/beyond per exercise which work well for me. But for Built for Battle, the assistance hypertrophy work you recommend 3 working sets so a more volume base protocol.

So, my question is, why do you recommend the volume assistance hypertrophy work rather than 2 warm up and 1 working set to failure in Built for Battle, won’t this elevate cortisol levels? For my learning, can you elaborate why you have chosen the volume protocol (benefits) and I’m presuming, how it won’t affect cortisol levels?

Thanks for all your workings and help, has really taken my training and results to another level :call_me_hand:

Mick P

It’s not as simple as saying that volume = cortisol. If you read my latest article on overtraining, you now that 6 training variables can play a role in increasing cortisol. Yes, volume is one of the two main ones but understand that volume is not simply sets x reps… in reality range of motion and the amount of muscle involved matter too.

For example 100 reps of calves raise will not have the same impact as 100 reps of squats. Volume impacts cortisol mostly via an increase in energy requirements. So, 3-4 work sets on isolation exercises will not really yield a huge cortisol increase.

Thanks Christian for the feedback.

That makes sense, so out of interest, why did you add volume work for the assistance work in Built for Battle and intensity assistance work for Strength Skill Circuit? Does it just come down to individual preference or is there more to it? Maybe because the Built for Battle assistance work is in a circuit format which lends better to volume work? Keen to learn.

Thanks again,

BTW did a Neural Charge Workout today for the first time, a few hours later I’m feeling pumped/fuller and more alert. Great piece of training tool to have in my arsenal so thanks for that gem.

Mick P

Honestly, both workouts are actually plans I did for myself and when I did the Strength-skill work I felt like ripping the head off of a lion afterwards and was in the mindset to push sets to the limit whereas the Built for Battle is more intense neurologically (more different exercises, and you push harder on 2 of the workouts than for the strength circuits) so pushing to the limit on assistance work felt horrible so I simply added assistance work at a lower level of intensivess, just getting some work and blood in.

Ok that makes sense, so both produce the same result just determined on state of effort you can produce resulting from effort displayed/how you feel after the main workout.

I just came across your Look like Bodybuilder, Perform like an Athlete program today as well which has also got me motivated, so for reference, would the intensity or volume assistance hypertrophy work be better implemented with this program?

Also for reference when applying the two (intensity or volume) for assistance work, does frequency change when applying the two? What’s a good protocol to follow here for future learning? (Intensity 3x week vs Volume 2x week from what I can gather, that sound right).

I cannot get over how powerful those NCT mini sessions are, I also liked your reference in the example video of between sets walking to the next exercise position as if your stalking your prey, man that gets you in the zone and heightens your focus, something I will transfer to my main workouts, love it.

Mike P

I believe that volume and intensiveness both provide a stimulus for growth and a certain amount of each is required to get growth.

For example if you do a lot of volume but all your sets are stopped 4-5 reps short of failure you will get minimal gains. Similarly, if you train to failure or even beyond, but only do 1 set per muscle per week, you will also get minimal gains.

I believe that past the beginner stage you need at least 6 sets/muscle per week and your work sets to be at least 7/10 as far as intensiveness is concerned.

And from there, there is an inverse relationship between intensiveness and volume REQUIRED.

For example if your work sets are a 9 or 10 on average you will only need around 6 work sets per week per muscle (direct or indirect stimulation). If it’s at an average RPE of 7 you will likely need 12 or maybe even 15 weekly work sets for best results.

While no studies have looked into the relative effectiveness of various intensiveness/volume pairings (and it would be hard to do anyway because its hard to externally evaluate intensiveness) I believe that…

  • 6-8 weekly work sets/muscle at an RPE of 9-10
  • 9-11 weekly work sets/muscle at an RPE of 8
  • 12-14 weekly work sets/muscle at an RPE pf 7

Are all pretty much equivalent provided that one uses a similar loading/rep range.

What a great piece of information, thanks for sharing, copied this and saved for future reference.

I’m interested, if looking at the Look like a Bodybuilder, Perform like an Athlete program taking into account the main workout of it, how do you figure out how much assistance work you need to do and what would be better to use, intensity or volume? Say if you want to touch up arms, quads and Lateral delts? Would following the assistance layout you did for Built for Battle work?

Also, you mentioned ‘I believe that volume and intensiveness both provide a stimulus for growth and a certain amount of each is required to get growth’, in terms of your Best Damn Program protocol, how does this match up as it only focuses on intensity sets and around 3 sets per week per muscle, short of 6 sets? Or am I missing something with this?

Thanks again, about to hit a NCT session before work, get me focused.

Mike P

Honestly, at this point it is largely a matter of personal preference. Some naturally prefer to do more volume while others need to take their work sets to failure. I go with what motivates the person the most, normally.

To quote Jim Wendler “It’s just assistance work”

Ok understand Ill see how I feel once I finish the main portion of the workout. I dont mind both, particularly alternating between the two, seems to stimulate my training desires.

Thanks again for the help,

Mike P