T Nation

Strength/Volume and Progression?


I have a little question about strength. So from what ive seen, building maximum strength and strength in the 4-6 rep range is the usual recomendation for someone needing to put on size. But at the same time, I have seen many individuals on different forums that stated they stopped worrying about maximum strength at a certain point and went higher volume, mainly for safety reasons. Its a little confusing here, because there are some that say <5 reps on something like squats is safer, while others say 12+ reps is safer. But for the sake of this thread, nots not worry about that. Lets assume that a strength plan might involve sets of 1-5, and a higher volume plan might involve clusters of 3-5 reps, but for a higher total volume.

Also, for the sake of this thread, lets assume that strength is a total volume of <25 reps, usually less than 15, and hypertrophy is a total volume of greater than 25. Yes, there are times when this isn't true, like HIT but lets ignore that for this, because HIT doesn't accomplish hypertrophy through volume, but instead intensity.

Ok, so im thinking for the most part, you should develop a certain level of maximum strength before you worry too much about volume methods. Sure you can include some Repetition work in your plan, but the overall focus should be maximum strength more than anything. Now im not sure what these values would be, maybe something like:

Bench - 1.5xBW
Pullups - 1.5xBW
Deadlift - 2xBW
Fr. Squat - 1.5xBW

These may or may not be arbitrary numbers, but heres what I was thinking.

Say you have a 150lb guy. He starts out, and can bench 180, squat 180, deadlift 225, and do 3 pullups. So he starts bulking, and doing something like 5x5, and maybe even some 5x3, etc. So his MAX strength goals at his weight, before he really focuses on volume should be...

Bench - 225
Pullup - 225
Deadlift - 300
Fr squat - 225

Now he wouldn't necessarily be testing a 1rm, but could use an estimation. Since he'll be working in the 3-5 rep range, he'll know that his 5rm is approximately 85% of his 1rm. So for bench when he can do 5 reps, or even better yet, sets of 5 reps with about 190lbs. its safe to say that he can probably bench 225.

And during this process, however many weeks it may take, he'll be eating to gain weight gradually, so maybe he'll end up at 165 when he reaches these strength goals. Then his next goal would be to use similar working weights, maybe 180-190 for the bench in the previous example, but start to ramp up the volume, until he can do a certain volume, say maybe 40 reps, or whatever. This could also be the time for higher volume plans like GVT or whatever. At this point he might be 170lbs or so.

Then he would re-calculate the target strength goals, and go back to lower volume strength training. And he would repeat this process, until he reached his desired weight, body comp, strength, etc.

So my main question is, Is this how most individuals should train. I know ive seen stuff like 20 rep squats, and Scott abel recomending sets of 2-3 minutes, but aren't these methods best saved until you have reached a certain level of strength?

And also, at what point do you not necessarily need more max strength to build more muscle, and focusing on volume would be more optimal? (do the strength goals ive outlined seem logical)

Thx in advance.


Dude just focus on getting stronger and you will be okay. When you can bench 315, squat 405 and deadlift 495 you will have a good idea what works for you. Just pick a rep range or scheme and get stronger at it.

I personally get the most benefits out of low reps. Now shut up and squat!


Well i agree, to some extent, but their definately is a difference between training for size, and training for strength, especially when you are concerned about body composition.

Currently im weighing about 190, and my current and strength goals are:

Bench-250 (285)
Pullup-260 (285)
Fr. Squat- 250 (285)
Deadlift- 405 (380,475)
Overhead press-150 (190)

While looking at this, I kinda decided that 2xBW for deadlift isn't that great, so 2.5xBW would put my goal around 475. Looking at how far I am from my goals, and the lifts, I can see that the overhead press, is going to be where I have the most room for improvement. Adding 30lbs to my front squat, or 75lbs to my deadlift wont be too dificult. And 35 lbs on my bench will be a challenge, but not anything crazy. And adding 25lbs to the pullup should be pretty easy.

So based on these observations, I need to put my focus on pressing strength, and develop everything else pretty even. So i'll likely be training my presses for the most part with a volume of 15-25, and the rest of the lifts a volume of more like 25-35. This should allow my presses to catch up, while i continue to build muscle, and minimize fat. When I reach those strength goals, i'll likely go on a more extreme bulk shooting for 215lbs, and i'll do something like 5x5, and 4x10.

Im not sure how long this will take, but having clear strength goals and future progressions seems to make my priorities seem clear.

And currently for strength im doing something similar to 5/3/1 for my big lifts, and sets of 8 for any assistance lifts.


I'll try to answer your question, as best as I can see it relates to how most individuals should train for strength. There are two specific elements you've touched on, intensity and volume.

The evidence in the literature tends to show that training within the 4RM (rep max) to 12RM intensity range elicits similar strength adaptation. Training at lower relative intensity and higher rep ranges tends to lead to more endurance changes in the muscle (not fitness, but time to exhaustion type measures). Training at very high intensities (above 90% 1RM) can improve strength, but the evidence for hypertrophy isn't very good owing to the lower total volumes of training that can be performed. This leads into the aspect of total volume

Recent best practice recommendations suggest that 4 sets at approximately 80% 1RM lead to the best strength improvements in advanced resistance trained individuals; for novices around 60% 1RM. However, there is a lack of evidence about higher volumes of training (6 sets or more) at this relatively high intensity (not that its bad, there just isn't much). There is some good evidence to show that training at slightly lower intensities (70% 1RM) allows an individual to perform higher total volumes leading to greater muscle hypertrophy, and more importantly, more balanced hypertrophy with the smaller, synergistic muscle groups. An excellent review showed that bodybuilders tended to train at lower intensities than olympic weight/powerlifter (in that 70-80% range), but achieved more balanced hypertrophy of both their type I and II muscle fibers (the little and big ones).

So, should the standard advanced trainer stick to just one rep range? There isn't really anything to say they shouldn't, as long as the absolute training load is still increasing with time (you're lifting more). However, a recent periodization model suggests that within a given week you should look to vary your rep ranges within the 4-12RM level.

There are lots of great examples on this website for how to vary your rep ranges and training loads which pretty much stick within the evidence range for strength and hypertrophy. Be cautious of high rep ranges and lower loads, aspects to individuality come in to it more when you're getting outside the accepted ranges.


Honestly I doubt you will see too many people who are very muscular but have trained purely with low reps. You will build muscle but i don't think it'll be optimal. to be honest i dont think its such a good idea to overcomplicate this stuff like this. as others have said just pick a rep range and get stronger over time on it. that's what is going to build muscle. doing 1-3 reps all the time usually wont enduce enough fatigue in the muscle to make it really grow bigger. when i look around me i just don't see guys who are big caring about the exact rep range they are on. i think you should add volume to muscle groups when you have lagging muscle groups.


Pick a weight that you can lift 4-6 times and train with it lifting as many reps as possible until you can lift it 8-10 times. Then add weight and start over.

You're welcome.

No need for a standing ovation...oh, you're too kind...


Why are so many focusing on 2xbodyweight deadlift, 1.5xBW chinups...? Rep ranges vary depending on your 'experience' level and the maximum intensity you can display. But as some have said don't go on the quest for the golden rep range.


Is this advice from experience or just from what you have read?


Both. Evidence in the literature generally tends to be accurate for best practice.