mercoledì 23 novembre 2011

Volume vs. Strength Gains For Hypertrophy

Volume vs. Strength Gains For Hypertrophy Jason FerruggiaHomeStart HereAboutInner CircleStoreContact September 15, 2011Volume vs. Strength Gains For Hypertrophy19Welcome newcomers! If you want to build muscle, lose fat, boost your performance and improve your health you're in the right place. To make sure you don't miss out on any new updates you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed and sign up for my newsletter list. Thanks for visiting!

arnold schwarzenegger Volume vs. Strength Gains For HypertrophyThings 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.

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Related posts:Functional Hypertrophy- Fact vs. FictionBeginner Gains- Consistency is Key666 Strength & Mass Phase 1 is HereAssuaging Your Low Volume FearsStretching, Volume or Intensity Exercises, & Chocolate Milk

Facebook Comments:

Pings on Volume vs. Strength Gains For HypertrophySeptember 19, 2011FitMarker Comments on Volume vs. Strength Gains For Hypertrophy Leave a CommentSeptember 15, 2011ReplyRoss @ 8:11 am#

Good stuff as always Jay.

ReplyDale @ 8:19 am#

Jason -

Other than barbell deadlift, my routine consists of bodyweight exercises. I’ll do, say, one hard set of one-armed pushups, both sides, then follow with a fairly arduous set of standard pushups. Is that sort of what you’re pointing to here ?

ReplyRyan Holmes @ 8:26 am#

Hey Mr. Ferruggia. My name is Ryan Holmes and I am 125lb 17 year old who has been lifting weights since I was 14, but not consistent! I have managed to reach a max bench of 185 and squat of 225. I think I could deadlift 245. I wanted to know what weight lifting protocol I should I personally take to gain both strength and size. Very nice article, and thanks in advance!

ReplyEric Martin @ 8:28 am#

Excellent post. Mix and matching sets/reps and overall volume is great for the mind too, keeps the training from getting to stale.

ReplyAlex @ 8:42 am#


Which of your programs incorporates this sort of thinking? I’m just on the cusp of becoming an intermediate lifter and I want to get my strength levels up.

ReplyJesus @ 9:13 am#

Definitely something I’ve been thinking about recently. With two younger brothers both being not just bigger cause of swollen inflamed muscles, but also stronger as well it’s definitely been bugging me on whether or not I’m doing enough work in the gym. Time-under-tension is something I’ve been interested at looking into as well.

ReplyCraig L. @ 11:41 am#

I like what you have said here, but know that there are many “experts” out there who would disagree. I have been lifting seriously for about 5 years now. I am currently using a relatively high volume of sets as I perform 5 sets to failure of each lift during a training session.

My first set (after my warmup sets) are done with the most intensity possible and I always make sure that I am consistently adding weight every so often so that I continue to overload my muscles and get stronger. So, maybe there is a good compromise between high volume for for constant muscle pumps and strength gains. This has been my experience anyway…

Hopefully you find more time to dedicate to your blog – I always love reading what you have to say, man.

ReplySam @ 11:45 am#

Thanks for the great article Jason. More people need to understand this!

One thing I would like to know more about however would be more advanced best practices of how to %110 MAXIMIZE that one main set for experienced trainers??

For example: I have had success applying this training priciple but find it hard not to want to train to failure for that 1 single MAIN set. What are some ways I can add to the set and get a little more out of it (for general a general goal of adding stregnth and size and imprioving overall fitness/performance)?

One thing I am currently trying is ramping up to a 6 rep heavy set (explosive reps, best form I can do, stopping 1-2 reps before complete failure) THEN doing a drop set immediately later of the same excercise lower weight for an explosive six reps.. again.. stopping 1 rep before failure.

Is this a beneficial way to get the benefits of heavy lifting and some higher rep hypertrophy in that 8-12 rep range? Is it worth it drop setting to an alternate excercise? Or am I simply making this unnecessarily complicated? :D

Thanks in advance… I have downloaded several things from you and always felt they were worth their value. Also – of the several fitness newsletters similar to this one I subscribe too.. I am always impressed with the content you include. Always seems uncannily timely for what I am working on.

ReplyChristian Finn @ 12:01 pm#

I switched over from straight sets to ramping up to a top end set a few years ago and never looked back. Definitely a better way to train for the genetically average drug-free guy.

ReplyEric @ 12:31 pm#

Hi Jason,

As usual this is crystal clear by simplicity. You belong to the few who see performance and well being in the long term. This is quality over the quick results so much people want nowadays.
Thanks a lot.

ReplyRaymond- ZenMyFitness @ 12:55 pm#

Could be my old age (48) but I found low volume, top end setting works best for me.
I tried bodybuilding style higher volumes 8-12 and it doesn’t do that much for size but seems create definition for me.
I totally agree with waving the volume of the year as I love the ‘resting’ in the higher volume stuff.
The lady doing 1 leg pistols I didn’t think she was ever going to stop, amazingly good. I’m off now to go and try a few 1 leg pistols, I’d be happy with one.
Weakling and maggot? Sounds like certifiable competency levels used in your gym!

ReplyRoy @ 2:44 pm#

“You could also work up to a heavy set on one main exercise and then pump on assistance work for 2-5 sets.”

5-3-1 by Jim Wendler is a great program for this style.

September 16, 2011ReplyMb @ 5:38 pm#

Yep. Pay attention to what Jason Ferruggia and Jim Wendler have to say. Two of my favorites in the business. I’m genetically fucked and Jasons programs have taken me to levels that go beyond 99% of guys in my gym.

September 18, 2011ReplyJay @ 12:13 pm#

This is easily one of the worst articles I’ve read in a long time. Illogical and not helpful from every angle. Surprising. Usually the things written here are decent but this just made my head spin and I now feel dumber for having read it.

September 19, 2011ReplyThomas @ 12:38 pm#

I am just wonderig, if there are some guidelines about the strenght threshold? X times BW on this and that exercise or something like that?
BTW your posts are like diamonds in the dirt… It keeps me on the track to be bigger and stronger.

ReplyIain @ 2:26 pm#

@Ross: I agree, always good info from a logical perspective.

September 21, 2011ReplyChristian Finn @ 6:20 am#

@Thomas: If you want something simple to aim for, a 200-pound overhead press, 300-pound bench press, 400-pound squat and 500-pound deadlift for a single lift (using correct technique) represent impressive numbers for a drug-free, genetically “average” male weighing around 190 pounds. Relative to bodyweight, these 200, 300, 400 and 500 numbers are roughly the equivalent to 1 for the overhead press, 1.5 for the bench press, 2 for the squat and 2.5 for the deadlift.

ReplyThomas @ 2:43 pm#

@Christian: Thanks for reply. I’ve heard about these number before but I thought they represent 1-3RM, not weights for high rep top end set.

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