T Nation

Thoughts on Volume/Intensity

First off, if I’m wrong about anything here, let me know.

From what I understand, higher volume/lower intensity sets are better for beginners and higher intensity/lower volume sets are better for experienced lifters (with something in between for intermediate lifters). This gives time for neural adaptations and motor unit firing patters to improve.

I’m also thinking this should apply to every exercise; that is, if you’ve been training your bench press for 3 years, the first time you do a squat, you’re going to want to go high volume/low intensity, till your squat “grows up” a bit.

I think a fairly good way to go about these guidelines would be working with 10x3, then 6x5, and finally 3x10. This keeps the overall volume the same, but changes the volume/intensity of each set.

What do you guys think? Good plan? Horseshit?

The other thing I’ve been wondering about is trying to set specific goals for when an exercise should move from 10x3 to 6x5 or from 6x5 to 3x10. Perhaps when no gains have been made within the current parameters over a predetermined time? Maybe a certain amount of improvement in the 1RM? Predetermined weights in relation to bodyweight?

Any ideas?

[quote]CappedAndPlanIt wrote:
First off, if I’m wrong about anything here, let me know.

From what I understand, higher volume/lower intensity sets are better for beginners and higher intensity/lower volume sets are better for experienced lifters (with something in between for intermediate lifters). This gives time for neural adaptations and motor unit firing patters to improve.

I’m also thinking this should apply to every exercise; that is, if you’ve been training your bench press for 3 years, the first time you do a squat, you’re going to want to go high volume/low intensity, till your squat “grows up” a bit.

I think a fairly good way to go about these guidelines would be working with 10x3, then 6x5, and finally 3x10. This keeps the overall volume the same, but changes the volume/intensity of each set.

What do you guys think? Good plan? Horseshit?

The other thing I’ve been wondering about is trying to set specific goals for when an exercise should move from 10x3 to 6x5 or from 6x5 to 3x10. Perhaps when no gains have been made within the current parameters over a predetermined time? Maybe a certain amount of improvement in the 1RM? Predetermined weights in relation to bodyweight?

Any ideas?[/quote]

Strong Words:
“There’s nothing so uncertain as a sure thing”
Scotty Bowman

There are no bulletproof formulas friend. Trial and error, with lots of error until you settle on what works best for you. That’s just the way it is.

[quote]Tiribulus wrote:

Strong Words:
“There’s nothing so uncertain as a sure thing”
Scotty Bowman

There are no bulletproof formulas friend. Trial and error, with lots of error until you settle on what works best for you. That’s just the way it is.[/quote]

O…kaay…

I wasnt trying to “figure out the perfect plan” here. Just doing some thinking.

And by saying “Settle on what works best for you”… are you suggesting that (as per natural fiber type distribution) some people will always make their best gains in a particular rep range?

I thought one of the primary concepts was that everything works for a while, and nothing works forever. If thats true, I dont see how it can also be a matter of “finding what works for you”…because whatever that is… wont forever.

Mind expounding a bit?

The problem with your line of thinking, as Tribulus was alluding to, is that there aren’t “one size fits all” formulas that one can apply to bodybuilding/resistance training (with the exception perhaps of progressive overload).

Making blanket statements like “beginners should do lower intensity/higher volume and advance lifters do higher intensity/lower volume” isn’t a good idea. Sure, there might be some truth to the statement, but it won’t necessarily apply to everyone.

For instance, I personally wouldn’t suggest beginners to perform max lifts (or lifts with a really high percentage of their 1RM) simply because they may not have the form/experience with the lift to do so safely. Now, or course there will be exceptions to the rule, and therefore even that statement isn’t unquestioningly true.

As far as your statement concerning “things not working forever”…that’s true. However, there are a lot of small adjustments that one can make to a program (aside from changing rep schemes) that can help break through a plateau. One could adjust their diet, make slight variations on the exercises themselves, change the frequency of working each muscle, get more rest, include better recovery methods, etc…etc…etc…

I’m not trying to suggest that varying set/rep schemes is a bad idea, it’s not. But, unless your program has stopped producing results, or your goals change (say you decide that you want to get into powerlifting), or you just want to try something new, then you do not necessarily need to change your set/rep schemes.

Also, once you find out what set/rep scheme works best for you and your goals, then you should stick with that for as long as it keeps producing results. When it stops, try changing something up, it could be as simple as using a different grip width, or switching from barbells to dumbbells.

Hope this helps.

Good training,

Sentoguy

[quote]CappedAndPlanIt wrote:
Tiribulus wrote:

Strong Words:
“There’s nothing so uncertain as a sure thing”
Scotty Bowman

There are no bulletproof formulas friend. Trial and error, with lots of error until you settle on what works best for you. That’s just the way it is.

O…kaay…

I wasnt trying to “figure out the perfect plan” here. Just doing some thinking.

And by saying “Settle on what works best for you”… are you suggesting that (as per natural fiber type distribution) some people will always make their best gains in a particular rep range?

I thought one of the primary concepts was that everything works for a while, and nothing works forever. If thats true, I dont see how it can also be a matter of “finding what works for you”…because whatever that is… wont forever.

Mind expounding a bit?
[/quote]

wow you need to shut up and train. He isn’t talking about muscle fiber distribution and all that bullshit. You need to go lift some heavy shit. There is a trend that the guys who are overthinking and tinkering are in a lot of cases the guys who have made little to no improvement on their physique.

That is the mind set that tribulus was referring to when he made that statement. If there is one thing you can focus on, it is that making gains in heaviness of weight lifted is one of the best ways to monitor progression. You should try basing a program around that. KISS keep it simple…

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:

The problem with your line of thinking, as Tribulus was alluding to, is that there aren’t “one size fits all” formulas that one can apply to bodybuilding/resistance training (with the exception perhaps of progressive overload).[/quote]

rolls eyes So you’re telling me that not everything works the same for everyone. Where in my OP did I say I figured out he one size fits all forumula for everyone on the fucking planet? If someone writes an article about 5x5, or going over 90% intensity, or complexes, or kettlebells, or HIT… would you feel the need to remind them that one system doesn’t work the best for everyone?

[quote]
Making blanket statements like “beginners should do lower intensity/higher volume and advance lifters do higher intensity/lower volume” isn’t a good idea. Sure, there might be some truth to the statement, but it won’t necessarily apply to everyone.[/quote]

Again… “Theres some truth to it”… so maybe… just maybe… its a rational approach that can be applied to most? That “generally” its better to start with higher volume and progress to higher intensity, because “most” people should start that way?

[quote]
For instance, I personally wouldn’t suggest beginners to perform max lifts (or lifts with a really high percentage of their 1RM) simply because they may not have the form/experience with the lift to do so safely. Now, or course there will be exceptions to the rule, and therefore even that statement isn’t unquestioningly true.[/quote]
Again… your point is that not everything applies universally. Gotcha. But let me guess… you might JUST MIGHT suggest a beginner use a higher volume scheme because it would give them time to work on form/develop supporting/stabilizing musculature? Just maybe, with most trainers, even if it isnt 100% the best way with 100% of all people everywhere?

[quote]
As far as your statement concerning “things not working forever”…that’s true. However, there are a lot of small adjustments that one can make to a program (aside from changing rep schemes) that can help break through a plateau. One could adjust their diet, make slight variations on the exercises themselves, change the frequency of working each muscle, get more rest, include better recovery methods, etc…etc…etc…[/quote]
Ok, so perhaps, after finding what kind of volume/intensity you respond best to, start employing these different techniques?

[quote]
I’m not trying to suggest that varying set/rep schemes is a bad idea, it’s not. But, unless your program has stopped producing results, or your goals change (say you decide that you want to get into powerlifting), or you just want to try something new, then you do not necessarily need to change your set/rep schemes.[/quote]

…did you just ignore the part where I asked about when it would be best to change a rep scheme?

[quote]
Also, once you find out what set/rep scheme works best for you and your goals, then you should stick with that for as long as it keeps producing results. When it stops, try changing something up, it could be as simple as using a different grip width, or switching from barbells to dumbbells.

Hope this helps.

Good training,

Sentoguy[/quote]

[quote]That One Guy wrote:
CappedAndPlanIt wrote:
Tiribulus wrote:

Strong Words:
“There’s nothing so uncertain as a sure thing”
Scotty Bowman

There are no bulletproof formulas friend. Trial and error, with lots of error until you settle on what works best for you. That’s just the way it is.

O…kaay…

I wasnt trying to “figure out the perfect plan” here. Just doing some thinking.

And by saying “Settle on what works best for you”… are you suggesting that (as per natural fiber type distribution) some people will always make their best gains in a particular rep range?

I thought one of the primary concepts was that everything works for a while, and nothing works forever. If thats true, I dont see how it can also be a matter of “finding what works for you”…because whatever that is… wont forever.

Mind expounding a bit?

wow you need to shut up and train. He isn’t talking about muscle fiber distribution and all that bullshit. You need to go lift some heavy shit. There is a trend that the guys who are overthinking and tinkering are in a lot of cases the guys who have made little to no improvement on their physique.

That is the mind set that tribulus was referring to when he made that statement. If there is one thing you can focus on, it is that making gains in poundage lifting is one of the best ways to monitor progression. You should try basing a program around that. KISS keep it simple…[/quote]

Hey, when you’ve got something to add that isn’t “Use progressive overload”… come on back.

Till then, I’ll be exchanging ideas with people that have more class than to start discourse with “You need to shut up…”

[quote]CappedAndPlanIt wrote:
Sentoguy wrote:

The problem with your line of thinking, as Tribulus was alluding to, is that there aren’t “one size fits all” formulas that one can apply to bodybuilding/resistance training (with the exception perhaps of progressive overload).

rolls eyes So you’re telling me that not everything works the same for everyone. Where in my OP did I say I figured out he one size fits all forumula for everyone on the fucking planet? If someone writes an article about 5x5, or going over 90% intensity, or complexes, or kettlebells, or HIT… would you feel the need to remind them that one system doesn’t work the best for everyone?
[/quote]

Woah there fella. :wink: I wasn’t trying to insult you. No need to get upset.

Actually, that’s exactly what you did. You made the blanket statement that “Higher volume/lower intensity is better for beginners while lower volume/higher intensity is better for experienced lifters (with something in between for intermediate lifters).” That is, whether you meant for it to be or not, a blanket “one size fits all” statement.

My point is that some advanced guys respond well to high intensity/low volume, some respond well to high intensity/high volume, some respond well to lower intensity/higher volume and basically everything else in between. The same is true of beginners. Trying to figure out formulas for what volume/intensity levels you should be using based solely on your number of years training is foolish.

Once again, there are just too many variables involved to base your training purely on formulas. What sets/reps you use should be dependent on

  1. what your body responds best to (unfortunately for beginners who are looking for someone to give them the magical formula as to what that set/rep scheme is, this can only be determined through experience)

  2. your goals- if you got into powerlifting or Olympic lifting right off the bat, you can bet that you’d still be doing higher intensity lower volume workouts, even as a beginner.

Yes, motor skills and neuromuscular coordination are important aspects of lifting. But, the motor recruitment patterns involved in maximal, or near maximal, lifts are different from those of submaximal lifts. So, while I stated that I wouldn’t suggest for beginners to do max lifts, I said so from mostly a safety/liability standpoint.

Of course, if the trainee is already decently athletic and has good kinesthetic awareness, or they wanted to focus purely on strength, then I might have them go heavier sooner. Once again, it really depends on the individual and their goals.

Also, what makes you think that you can’t work on form/stabilization while lifting heavy?

I would say once you plateau, start employing some of these different techniques. Until then, if it’s working, keep doing it.

No… I mentioned that because you asked about when it was a good time to change set/rep schemes.

I was also trying to really drive home the concept that while changing set/rep schemes can be helpful in that it allows you to find out what works best for you, you don’t necessarily have to do it as you progress.

If one of the above situations occurs, then feel free to experiment with set/rep schemes. If not, don’t. Why would you stop doing something that’s working just because you were a year older/reached a certain % of bodyweight/etc…

Good training,

Sentoguy

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:

Actually, that’s exactly what you did. You made the blanket statement that “Higher volume/lower intensity is better for beginners while lower volume/higher intensity is better for experienced lifters (with something in between for intermediate lifters).” That is, whether you meant for it to be or not, a blanket “one size fits all” statement. [/quote]

I didn’t intend for that statement to be so final. What I was thinking was more along the lines of “Generally, in most cases, the best way to see what works for you is starting with low intensity/high volume and working towards high intensity/low volume.” You’re right though, that some respond best to high intensity/high volume.

Thats why I was thinking about ways to determine if/when you should consider changing volume/intensity ratios.

Good point. I was thinking more along the lines of the average person starting out in lifting (usually without specific goals such as powerlifting/o-lifting).

Because its much harder to keep perfect form when going heavy. Generally form seems to suffer the heavier someone goes, so I just didn’t think it would be optimal to go heavy to “work on form”. Maybe I’m wrong.

Ok, thanks.

[quote]

Good training,

Sentoguy[/quote]

[quote]CappedAndPlanIt wrote:
That One Guy wrote:
CappedAndPlanIt wrote:
Tiribulus wrote:

Strong Words:
“There’s nothing so uncertain as a sure thing”
Scotty Bowman

There are no bulletproof formulas friend. Trial and error, with lots of error until you settle on what works best for you. That’s just the way it is.

O…kaay…

I wasnt trying to “figure out the perfect plan” here. Just doing some thinking.

And by saying “Settle on what works best for you”… are you suggesting that (as per natural fiber type distribution) some people will always make their best gains in a particular rep range?

I thought one of the primary concepts was that everything works for a while, and nothing works forever. If thats true, I dont see how it can also be a matter of “finding what works for you”…because whatever that is… wont forever.

Mind expounding a bit?

wow you need to shut up and train. He isn’t talking about muscle fiber distribution and all that bullshit. You need to go lift some heavy shit. There is a trend that the guys who are overthinking and tinkering are in a lot of cases the guys who have made little to no improvement on their physique.

That is the mind set that tribulus was referring to when he made that statement. If there is one thing you can focus on, it is that making gains in poundage lifting is one of the best ways to monitor progression. You should try basing a program around that. KISS keep it simple…

Hey, when you’ve got something to add that isn’t “Use progressive overload”… come on back.

Till then, I’ll be exchanging ideas with people that have more class than to start discourse with “You need to shut up…”

[/quote]

sometimes shut up and train is what is needed to be said…

Calm down, man. I suggest you read up on periodisation phases.

And i’ve grown a lot better by letting my stomach swell a bit, training diligently and thinking less. I kind of have to limit my thinking.

3X8 is lovely for me, but when that stops working i’ll just try to take my max weights and step-load them up again on a 5x5 or something like that. By switching up set/rep schemes, i’m now surpassing for 8 reps what i could only bench 3 times in march. I’m sure that’s not even very acceptable.

Like the guys said, you’ve got to figure out your own self, man. Good luck. One caveat- i would suggest staying at higher rep ranges/lower sets until you’re SURE they aren’t returning good results for you. I’ve tried 10x3 and stuff and i don’t feel i’m developed enough to reap the rewards.

Tell me if you do work out a conscious formula for variation though.