Things have been nuts the last few weeks and I’ve been crazy busy at Renegade which is why I haven’t posted in a while. Today I’m gonna share with you guys a discussion from the Renegade Inner Circle on volume vs. strength and what is most important for hypertrophy.
First of all let me state that weaklings get nothing out of bodybuilding style or traditional hypertrophy work.
So first and foremost you need to get strong for a couple of years.
Then at that point you will need to incorporate more traditional rep ranges for size.
Volume kinda waves as you go. When you start training you’re going from zero sets as your base. So one set should and would be enough. But not if you want to learn the mor complex lifts. At first volume should be low because you will be too sore. Then after a few weeks you can increase it.
As a weak maggot you will actually be able to tolerate a lot of volume. But it won’t do much other than help you get better at certain lifts. Better off with moderate to low volume and high frequency. That will lead to more rapid technique improvements.
The more you train and stronger you get the better your recovery ability will get for your first few years.
Then once you reach a certain strength threshold both will start to decrease. So you will need to reduce volume and frequency at that time. This is different for everyone and there is no telling when, if or when that will happen.
When you can do a one arm row with 250-300 plus pounds like Matt Kroc you don’t need nor could you do 3-5 sets like a beginner would. Most advanced guys work up to a single top end set on big exercises. Even if they list it as four sets of inclines, four sets of flat bench, four sets of crossovers it usually ends up being just one top end set. So what a lot of people don’t realize is that Ronnie Coleman’s workout and Dorian Yates’ workout isn’t that incredibly different. People think it’s opposite end of the spectrum but it’s closer than they think.
Yates just writes it as one set, Coleman writes it as four. But Yates does the work up sets just like Coleman. I used those two guys because most people will recognize their names. While some may want to argue the finer points in the end the majority of smart bodybuilders will train in a similar style. Sure there are some guys who do ultra high volume and others who do ultra low. But total volume is very close at the end of the day for most guys and just about all big strong mofo’s ramp up to one top end set of each exercise they do. It’s very unusual to see advanced strength athletes or bodybuilders do multiple sets with the same weight over and over. That’s usually reserved for beginners and intermediates or done on bodyweight exercises like ring dips (seen below) and some smaller assistance movements like curls.
Gaining strength is the main goal. Keep getting stronger with reps in the range of five or above and you will get bigger. If two twins each did one set of squats per week for six months and one guy did 5′s and the other did 10′s the second guy would be bigger after six months.
Now let’s suppose twin A works up to one top end set of 10 on squats, once per week. Twin B does the same but also adds in 3-4 more sets each or leg presses, leg extensions and leg curls.
At then end of a year they both somehow put 100lbs on their squat (just play along with me here). Who has bigger legs? Does all the extra volume from the other exercises add that much more mass?
Yes, in some cases it may if you have good work capacity and good genetics, but probably not as much as you’d expect for all that work . What it does is increase fluid/substrate storage, etc and gives the muscle more of a full time swollen/pumped look. But this is usually accomplished within the first few weeks of doing high volume.
Volume has to be limited somewhere because you can’t do 1,000 sets per workout. So the main goal is to get that 10 rep set of squats up to 315 and then 405 and so on. There is no one who can squat 405 for 10 that has small legs. Doing all the extra sets will make it harder to make strength gains so theoretically it could limit your hypertrophy gains. Just something to think about.
But if you can recover from it and still get stronger then a few extra sets (could be 2, could be 6-10) will definitely help boost hypertrophy over the short term and should be included from time to time, if not all year round. Squats are probably enough for most people to build leg size with but single leg exercises do give you some added benefits of loading stretching, balance, etc. so it’s worthwhile including them… just know that they won’t give you the size increases that squats will.
The problem with low volume training is that you get so damn strong you could end up getting injured or tweaking things here and there.
So throwing in some volume phases where you decrease loading and intensity for a few weeks or months is a good idea.
At the end of the day the most important thing to remember is that you get stronger and do just enough volume to stimulate size gains. One set of 3 won’t do it. But depending on the exercise or bodypart, one set of 10 might be enough.
I like to keep it simple and say work up to a heavy set or two and do a higher rep set or two or three and you have all your bases covered. You could also work up to a heavy set on one main exercise and then pump on assistance work for 2-5 sets. If you have been training a long time or are beat up then you might be best served to just get stronger in the 8-12 range on big exercises and forget low reps all together.