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- 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.
- 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).
- 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.