The volume bible for hypertrophy

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The volume bible for hypertrophy

Post by Against Gravity » Sat Jun 20, 2020 3:55 pm

Here's a summary of a very interesting resource about all what can be said regarding the optimal amount of volume for hypertrophy. It's constantly updated using the latest scientific studies as the main source of information. Check out the full article for all the details:
https://weightology.net/the-members-are ... sed-bible/
TL;DR Version
- On average, muscle growth tends to be best around 6-8 hard sets per muscle group per training session when taking long rests. That can be 12 - 24 weekly sets for a frequency of 2-3 days per week. Volume needs may be double this when taking short rests, but the max muscle growth is still around the same so there's no advantage to doing short rests.
- Individual results may vary substantially from these averages, with some individuals having volume ceilings much higher than 8 sets per session or 20 weekly sets.
- Volume increases are best done in small (20%) increments.


Key Takeaways
- Updated meta-analytic data shows a logarithmic relationship between training volume and hypertrophy in a single session. Gains increase rapidly at small volumes and there is diminishing returns as you get to higher session volumes.
- On average, hypertrophy appears to increase with increasing volumes of up to 6-8 hard sets in a single training session when taking long rests between sets, with a plateau at higher volumes. This is approximately 12 - 24 weekly sets when training each muscle 2-3 days per week.
Individual results may vary substantially from these averages, with some individuals having volume ceilings much higher than 8 sets per session or 20 weekly sets.
- There's an interaction between set volume and rest intervals. Since short rest intervals may impair hypertrophy for a given set volume, you have to do more hard sets to make up for it. Thus, volume requirements may be approximately twice that of long rest intervals.
- There is a volume/frequency interaction. There is some evidence of a maximum effective dose per training session, although it will vary from one individual to the next. To increase weekly volume, rather than continuing to increase volume above this ceiling per session, it's better to split weekly volume up into higher frequency.
- Some evidence indicates that there are less non-responders with higher volumes, and that people tend to be more responsive when increasing their volume relative to what they were doing before.
- When increasing set volume, it is best to do it in small increments (20%).
- Given that people tend to be more responsive when increasing volume relative to what they were doing before, there is a theoretical case for cycling set volume. This would involve slowly increasing volume over time to the highest effective per-session volume until a performance plateau is reached. Volume would then be decreased to a maintenance level for a period of time to re-sensitize the muscle to a volume stimulus. Volume would eventually be increased again, and this pattern would be repeated over time.
- Regardless of training volume, genetics play a strong role in hypertrophy. People who respond well to low volume will also tend to respond well to high volume, and people who don't respond well to low volume will likely still be a low responder to high volume (although the response will likely be improved).

Practical application
- Hardgainers may benefit from increasing their volume, compared to the popular strategy of reducing volume and frequency.
When taking long rests (2+ minutes), per-session volumes of around 6-8 sets per muscle group will likely produce the best hypertrophy on average in trained subjects, although individual results and needs may vary dramatically from that average. Set volume may need to be double that when taking short rests (<=90 seconds).
- The classic "bro-split" of blasting a muscle group for very high volumes (like 20 sets) once per week is likely an inferior way to train, and it is better to split the volume up into frequencies of 2-3 days per week.
- If you're training a muscle group twice per week with long rests, 12-16 weekly sets is likely a good range to give you the best "bang for your buck" when considering results versus time investment, although individual needs will vary. Some individuals may need volumes substantially higher than this.
- YOU MUST CONSIDER THE NEEDS OF THE INDIVIDUAL WHEN PROGRAMMING VOLUME, including schedule, volume tolerance, recovery ability, available time to train, importance of achieving maximal hypertrophy, injury history, etc.
- The maximum number of effective sets may be impacted by rest intervals, types of exercise used (compound versus isolation), and previous training volumes. Shorter rest intervals (90 seconds or less) with compound movements may require more sets to get the same response (and thus not necessarily save any time).
- People who have plateaued on low-to-moderate training volumes may benefit from an increase in training volume.
Increases in set volume should be small (around 20%).
- This data doesn't suggest you train with high volumes all the time. Periods of low volume training may be necessary to help with recovery.
- A volume cycling approach may be beneficial. In this approach, set volume is slowly increased over a period of time, until a maximum effective amount is achieved. This could be where successive 20% increases in set volume fails to stimulate further gains. Once this plateau is reached at this high volume, volume is reduced to a maintenance level (2-4 sets per muscle per session, 2-3 times per week) for a period of time to re-sensitize the muscle to a volume stimulus. Set volume is then ramped back up to the maximum effective dose, and the volume cycle is repeated.

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Re: The volume bible for hypertrophy

Post by Vagabond » Tue Sep 29, 2020 8:52 pm

A really important thing I'm glad they mention is rest time. Yeah, their suggested rest times are still fairly short. But they emphasize hard sets (so, high intensity in terms of set difficulty), and good rest. Resting enough between sets really is crucial in order to be able to do sets at the highest intensity possible for a high enough volume. I take it to fairly extreme lengths for myself, as for my main lifts I'll often take 20-30 minutes between very intense sets, and do them five times, and then do 2-3 hard sets of an assistance exercise with slightly shorter rests. But it's all in the dosage, isn't it. Past a certain point, longer and longer rests are required in order to keep up the performance level. If I am able to do 10 reps on my first set, there is no good reason why I would do less than 9 reps on my last set. Performance during each set is key. To me, if my performance is subpar in a set, I wasted a set. I didn't work well, and I probably won't gain as much from it.

Every single set we do costs us. So we need to spend ourselves well.

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Re: The volume bible for hypertrophy

Post by Against Gravity » Sat Oct 03, 2020 6:31 pm

Vagabond wrote: Tue Sep 29, 2020 8:52 pm A really important thing I'm glad they mention is rest time. Yeah, their suggested rest times are still fairly short. But they emphasize hard sets (so, high intensity in terms of set difficulty), and good rest. Resting enough between sets really is crucial in order to be able to do sets at the highest intensity possible for a high enough volume. I take it to fairly extreme lengths for myself, as for my main lifts I'll often take 20-30 minutes between very intense sets, and do them five times, and then do 2-3 hard sets of an assistance exercise with slightly shorter rests.
I'd completely agree with that. I've found longer rest times far better to keep intensity high. I'm not that extreme as you though, I prefer to take 12 minutes of rest between same exercises, usually paired with another exercise that pairs the opposite muscle group.

For example, I always pair OHP & weighted pull-ups, and rest 6 minutes between sets:

Weighted pull-ups - rest 6 min - OHP - rest 6 min - weighted pull-ups - rest 6 min - ...

Same for dips & BOR (bent over rows)

Dips - rest 6 mn - BOR - rest 6 min - dips - ...

I've found this rest time ideal for me through sheer personal experience. Any less than that, and the average load per set I can handle is far inferior. Any more than that, and there's diminishing returns (6-10 mins rest makes no difference) and makes sessions far longer and thus reduce consistency (unable to train frequently with so long sessions)

Still, I'd like to experiment with density training, as a way to cycle intensity & volume in a sort of accumulation & intensification cycle without having to change a session duration

I mean, in a 60 minutes workout, I could do;

A- 3 sets (20 mins/set),
B- 4 sets (15 mins/set),
C- 5 sets (12 mins/set). This is my current standard approach
D. 6 sets (10 mins/set)
E. 7 sets (8 mins 30 secs/set)
F. 8 sets (7 mins 30 secs/set)
G. 9 sets (6 mins 40 secs/set)
H. 10 sets (6 mins/set)

The idea is to use this as a macrocycle where I systematically go from A to H (every week or once I plateau), and aim to make PRs by increasing the average load with a fixed RM (or average reps with a fixed load) every time I repeat the cycle.
It's a pending experiment I'll surely do over time.

Of course, the average load of A is far superior than H, but the volume of H is also far superior than A. I think both volume and intensity disrupt homeostasis in an unique way, so cycling the emphasis between volume & intensity could be useful for long-term progress. I guess doing 10 sets in A (20 mins/set) would be even better to maintain both intensity & volume high, but it's impractical for me since it'd require 200 minutes, or 400 minutes if I decided to work 2 pairs of exercises (as I usually do with pull&ohp, then bor&dips). Add a hour of rest between the first and second pair to avoid cumulative fatigue influence, and that's 460 minutes a day (7-8 hours), which repeated 4-5 times a week is completely unsustainable for me.

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Re: The volume bible for hypertrophy

Post by Vagabond » Mon Oct 05, 2020 2:56 am

What I used to do was to add one set per training on a certain exercise, until I've done 10 sets of it, then increase the intensity and reduce the number of sets. It worked well for a while, but in the end, "just pushing hard" (and making small changes every couple of weeks) has kept me going, so I'm not complaining for now!

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Re: The volume bible for hypertrophy

Post by Against Gravity » Sat Oct 10, 2020 12:51 pm

Vagabond wrote: Mon Oct 05, 2020 2:56 am What I used to do was to add one set per training on a certain exercise, until I've done 10 sets of it, then increase the intensity and reduce the number of sets.
That's very similar to my current strategy as well, both for OHP and weighted pull-ups. Rather than doing a fixed amount of sets all the time (say, 5), I like to periodize volume. This gives me the benefits of deloading (dissipate accummulated muscle fatigue, heal any possible joints overuse injuries, and especially recover the mind/motivation ) plus the benefits of very hard training (which isn't sustainable forever). More info in my training log.

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Re: The volume bible for hypertrophy

Post by Vagabond » Sat Oct 10, 2020 6:38 pm

Yes, exactly! I basically just used this: https://wandererstraining.com/en/?p=172 for a really long time, lol. Eventually, I'll probably use it again.

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Re: The volume bible for hypertrophy

Post by Against Gravity » Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:27 pm

Vagabond wrote: Sat Oct 10, 2020 6:38 pm Yes, exactly! I basically just used this: https://wandererstraining.com/en/?p=172 for a really long time, lol.
I remember reading that article some years ago. I still wanna give it a try because I'm sure it will work, especially with HSPU - but it'd be too much overhead pressing work if I don't stop OHP. But when I can't do OHP for whatever reason, this will be the very first thing I'll do
Eventually, I'll probably use it again.
Do you think it'd work equally well for partial ROM OA HSPU, when using ROM as a substitute of extra load?

I mean:
1) progressively increase sets until 10 keeping reps fixed
2) increase +1 rep, and repeat until hitting double progression standard
3) and finally, increase ROM a tiny bit & repeat process

Theoretically, it should work. In practice, some experiments are needed!

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Re: The volume bible for hypertrophy

Post by Vagabond » Fri Oct 16, 2020 4:09 pm

Yes, I think it would work. If it doesn't, you can always play with numbers. Now, is it necessary? Probably not. In most cases, it would probably be faster to blast the exercise for enough sets, call it a day, and do it again once you recover.