What do you think about when I say “hypertophy”? I guess the image similar to the one on our cover is appearing in your minds. In the collective imagination, body builders are the most hypertrophic subjects thanks to the popularity that body building reached in the past. If I ask my mother how a power lifter or a cross fitter looks like, she wouldn’t know at all. But of course she knows who Arnold Schwarzenegger is and she knows that he was a body builder before being an actor and a politician. In the collective imagination, body builders and big muscles are synonyms. I am pretty sure that the Beast Blog audience is more informed about sports scenarios than my mother, so you know that power lifters and cross fitters can also be defined as hypertrophic.
This means that, although their performances are completely different, they have something in common that makes them so big: TRAINING VOLUME.
In strength and conditoning language, the word “volume” refers to the total amount of work that a subject accomplishes in a given time frame: a single workout, a training day, microcycles or mesocycle
Hypertrophy is the primary effect of big amount of work. It has been shown in several researches that heavy-resistance training causes a rapid increase in myofibrillar protein synthesis in the exercised muscles, which results in increasing the number of the muscle fibers and their cross-sectional as well.1) Encyclopaedia of Sport Medicine – Edited by Paavo V. Komi
Volume has a huge influence on the training outcome together with other subjective features, like conditioning level and recovery ability, because they are the parameters that allow the Supercompensation phenomenon. A wrong or superficial management of one of them could compromise the entire training cycle.
There are many ways to organize the volume of work an athlete has to achieve. Volume can be prescribed in advance, by fixing a given amount of load as the target.
Think about an endurance athlete. If you want to cover a certain distance, by running, swimming or cycling, for instance, you need to cumulate a sufficient amount of kilometers, to prepare all the structures of your body to that event (muscles, tendons, cardio-vascular system…), and then be able to cross the finish line as fast as possible.
In this sense, Volume is for lifters what kilometers are for long distance runners and it is the result of a simple equation:
SETS X REPS X WEIGHT = VOLUME (KG)
Different combinations of the parameters in this equation can give the same amount of volume but different training outcome under training profile:
|SETS||REPS||WEIGHT (KG)||VOLUME (KG)|
So if you are wondering how much is the right volume, the answer is: it depends on your training goal. Let’s assume that your training goal is Hypertrophy.
Classic recommendations prescribe high number of reps, with medium-high percentage of load, with little rest time between sets, to enhance muscles size. Several studies have been done about that topic, but a recent meta-analysis about different rep ranges on strength and hypertrophy shows how high loads (> 65%) have greater effects than low loads (<60%) on muscles size and strength levels. 2)Schoenfeld BJ, Wilson JM, Lowery RP, Krieger JW. Muscolar adaptations in low-versus high-load resistance training: A meta-analysis. Eur J Sport Ssci. 2014
However, different rep ranges have different effects on muscle growth. One of the most diffused methods is to perform every set to failure: that means don’t stop the set until you can’t do anymore reps. It has been shown that this scheme has the largest effect on hypertrophy, because the basic concept on which it is founded is that it permits recruiting, and fatiguing of the most muscle fibers. Lifting a random weight to failure isn’t enough to be sure to start the mass gain process though, in fact a given magnitude of the effort (training intensity) is required too. It seems that different subjects performing different rep ranges to failure with the same level of effort (at least 70% 1RM) both obtain muscle growth. ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) suggests that the optimal number of sets per muscle group is 8, but this number has been arbitrarily fixed. 3)J Steele, S.B. Low, D. Smith Evidence-Based resistance training recommendations. Southhampton Solent University UK, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.
But there is a negative aspect of adopting rep-to-failure method: it is very stressful on your muscles and for your nervous system. This means that you could have some difficulties to train every day and the risk to incur an overtraining state is high.
Resistance type is also a key factor. Multiarticular exercises, contrary to analitics exercises, permit to mobilize big mass of muscles. The larger involvement of mass unleashes a series of physiological events, like the stimulation of the Growth Hormone and Testosterone, which are the basis of strength and mass gain. This is a reason why nobody should stop doing main exercise like Squat, Bench Press and so on, even if you are a convinced and experienced body builder. More strength means more weight lifted and that means bigger muscle size! As known, strength training needs heavy loads and heavy loads cannot be lifted more than 12-15 times per workout. The way to create Volume out of this configuration is to perform just 3 reps for 6-8 sets.
As said, there are many ways on the road to get bigger, but I want to give you some workout examples:
|TYPE OF WORKOUT||VELOCITY m/s||NUMBER OF REPS||NUMBER OF SETS||TIME OF REST (seconds)
(BODY BUILDING STYLE i.e. Biceps Curl)
|From 0,4 to 0,8||Min 8 Max 12||Min 4-5||Uncomplete (90")|
(POWER LIFTING STYLE i.e. Back Squat)
|From 0,1 to 0,5||Max 6||At least 4-5||Uncomplete (max 90" - 120")|
(CROSS FIT STYLE - Same or Different muscles groups)
|From 0,4 to 0,8||Min 6 reps per exercise||Every exercise is perfomed in sequence without rest. Number of exercise (station) can vary||Between each round (Max 120")|
As you can see below, the final widget of Beast App is dedicated to Tonnage, showing the following metrics about your work volume:
- Total amount of Tons lifted during your last workout;
- Workout time;
- Energy output (kJ);
- Overall trend of all your training sessions.
All these metrics should be a considered part of the total training volume, together with the amount of tons. Some athletes’ performances, for instance, could be affected by the duration of a workout. In some case, knowing the energy output could be useful to set the correct caloric introit and nutritional facts. Furthermor, tracking this data will give you the chance to compare separated training sessions and observe the response of your body to them and to the entire training cycle, allowing you to design a much more accurate periodization.
So, whatever is your aim, don’t forget these
- Keep the effort high. Give your best in every training session, results will come;
- Numerical data, as velocity and tonnage, are more reliable than ego and opinions, use them!;
- Huge muscles require huge work: keep number of sets high;
- Recovery is part of the training. The balance between load (Volume) and recovery is the key to obtain the best adaptations.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Encyclopaedia of Sport Medicine – Edited by Paavo V. Komi|
|2.||↑||Schoenfeld BJ, Wilson JM, Lowery RP, Krieger JW. Muscolar adaptations in low-versus high-load resistance training: A meta-analysis. Eur J Sport Ssci. 2014|
|3.||↑||J Steele, S.B. Low, D. Smith Evidence-Based resistance training recommendations. Southhampton Solent University UK, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.|