How much volume should one undergo for maximal results in the gym?
I just posted on Facebook that I needed some subjects to write on. Ed Coan, multiple world record holder, multiple time world champion in powerlifting is actually the one who asked this question about volume.
The question can only be answered if you know what you want, and if you are in it for the long run.
From experience, and from many discussions I have had with elite coaches, here is what I know works in terms of volume:
If maximal strength is the goal, then you will be dopamine dominant.
- 12 to 18 workouts per month. Twenty being the maximum.
- I can already hear people say that is too little. Okay, how do you explain Rich Weil’s raw 306% bench press at one bench workout per week, and 3 total workouts per week. Or Ed Coan’s 72 World Records at 4 workouts per week?
- These dopamine dominant athletes go balls to the wall every workout, hence make deep inroads in their recovery ability. Therefore, varying the overload point in the strength curve is critical to both performance and longevity.
If your goal is hypertrophy training
- 24 to 48 workouts per month. I am assuming you want to be so big that people vomit when they see you. Can you gain significant muscles on far lower volumes.? Yes, for sure. You can make 80% of the maximal by training just 18 workouts a month. It is the remaining 20% in muscle growth that can only by achieved by those extreme volumes. However, the question asked if for MAXIMAL results. Of course, it takes years (minimum 5) to be able to tolerate this volume and grow. Simple math will confirm that two sessions per day will be on the cards at the upper end of volume for hypertrophy.
- The neural demands of hypertrophy are low compared to strength building. Muscles recover far faster than the nervous system.
- In hypertrophy training, you want to knock off as many motor units as possible.
- You are not interested in function, you are just interested in display.
More important than anything:
- Volume is a function of YOUR recovery ability, not your favorite Iron Game star.
- Train with as little volume to make gains.
- It is highly individual, if you grow more on 3 than 4, stick to 3.
- Volume is pointless if the overload principle is not applied.
If Richard Branson wakes up bored one day, and is willing to give me 30 strength athletes and pay me 1,000 dollars for every 5 kg increase in the total, I would train them 12 to 18 times a month. And if gave a $1,000 for every pound of lean tissue I can make a group of 30 men gain, I would train them 24 to 48 times a month.
Effective training is based on mastering the loading parameters. Volume being one of them.
Enjoy the progress,
Coach Charles R. Poliquin