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Volume vs Intensity for Strength

What is the difference in training effect between doing one top end set of squats (1x6) and then four sub-max back off sets (4x6) versus doing a top end set of 6 and one all-out back off set?

I find a high number of sets to be mentally draining.

Have any of you had success with low volume/high intensity approaches for training the big lifts?

Just depends what you are training for/working towards. Each way has pros and cons.

I’ve done both. Both work differently.

If you are the type of person that doesn’t like a lot of sets then the top set + 1 AMRAP set might be the route you can for for a few weeks, months and see how it translates for you.

Sub max work is good for improving your technique, AMRAP sets are not but they are better for hypertrophy. You have to push close to failure (at least 3-4 reps short) to stimulate hypertrophy, but if you do sub max work in a cluster set format with short breaks then it can be useful for hypertrophy as well. You will have to do more volume for the same hypertrophy, but you have the added bonus of technique improvements/neural efficiency.

Most people will do better with some volume, there are some lifters out there who only do one work set (Lilliebridge, Oak, Karwoski) but their technique is already solid and most of them do some bodybuilding-type work. More drugs = less need for volume to build muscle, but either way technique is a major factor.


Most people I know, including myself, get better with more volume at a lower intensity.

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I have personally always preferred the one all out type set. Especially for squats. My bench responds better to volume unfortunately


A lot of it too is going to come down to how you personally like to train. Some people respond better to AMRAPs, some to back-offs, and some people do something to the extent of a certain weight for a 3x4 or something followed by an AMRAP at the same weight. All of it works, it just comes down to what you enjoy the most and what you feel helps your technique and strength growth he most.

There has to be a balance. Much of this depends on your training years.

Once you have your first injury, you’ll realize you should have done more moderate weight using variations of the lifts the majority of the time and saved the competition lifts and heavy weight more for your pre-contest training.

Spend more time building and less time testing.

For example: Instead of doing the competition bench press, focus on building muscle doing variations like the overhead press, incline press, decline press in the 5-10 rep range. Change it up every week. Then once every 6 weeks or so do the competition set up for a heavy 5 or 3.

Weeks 1-5 Variations 5-10 rep range
Week 6 Heavy 5
Weeks 7-11 Variations 5-10 rep range
Week 12 Heavy 3
Weeks 13-17 Variations 5-10 rep range
Week 18 Heavy single (not max attempt but PR is fine if its there)

What I’m saying is, training this way will prolong your competitive lifting.

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