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Low vs. High Volume Training


Your training volume is determined by the number of sets and reps and, as you expect, it will influence your gains.

How many should you be performing and how long should your workout last? The opinions are divided. There are two ways – you either go for a high training volume or you opt to keep it low.

High Volume Training

The idea behind it is that muscle mass is created with long training. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself is going for an extremely high volume. Doesn’t seem a bit extreme though for an average weightlifter? For high volume, you should choose 4-6 exercises for each body part you want to train and perform 3-5 sets for each of these. If you are too tired towards the end, you can decrease the count. Since you won’t be pushing yourself too hard, you won’t be experiencing the same exhaustion as you would with low volume/high intensity. The secret is using light weight. Thus, you can perform for much longer.

If this becomes your training style, then increase your carbohydrate intake and opt for some good recovery supplements.

Low Volume Training

The method is supported by legends Dorian Yates and Lee Haney, multiple winners of the Mr. Olympia title. Such champions couldn’t be wrong in their choice, which implied short and intense workouts. The style allows for you to use a maximum of intensity and push your body hard. You won’t be exhausted as long as you keep the reps short. Choose 3-4 exercises for each body part, no more. For each exercise, perform 1-2 sets at maximum. You should train this way until you feel that failure is imminent.

Most fans of this method say that one shouldn’t spend too much time at the gym. They rather believe in the raw, extreme power that pushes your muscles over the edge instead of believing in long duration training. It’s not the time, but the intensity that matters. This is actually a great way to get ripped, because you won’t be spending much time at the gym. Everything ends quickly and you’re feeling more eager to go back the next day. You must be cautious though: you will need to ensure proper recovery. Good nutrition is essential to this, as are quality supplements.

Should you alternate these methods?

Naturally, you might wonder if alternating the two would be the best approach, since both are proven as valid and great for muscle building. Yes, you can opt for alternative training. In fact, it’s a recommended tactic. Changing it every three weeks is a good plan. Change is good for the muscles, it’s a strong signal that doesn’t allow your body to get accustomed to training and be ‘desensitized’. You may keep doing the same exercises as you switch from low to high and back.


Whenever you find yourself agonizing over a training aspect, just remember that the rules are never that strict in bodybuilding. You are still free to find what works for you. After all, genetics play a certain role and determine how your muscles respond to training.

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