Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
If you've ever wondered how to maximize your gains and supercharge your muscle growth, you're in the right place.
In this article, we'll dive deep into the science behind muscle hypertrophy and explore how increasing resistance training volume can be the key to unlocking your body's full potential.
By understanding the mechanisms at play and applying the principles of progressive overload, you'll be able to take your workouts to new heights and achieve the muscle gains you've always dreamed of.
For optimal muscle growth, starting slowly and increasing gradually your training volume is the way forward. This could involve adding weights or changing contraction times or lengthening rest periods as well as adding sets.
This study (and others like it) demonstrate that increasing training volume allows for hypertrophy in an incremental dose-response fashion.
Volume is the amount of weight you use
The amount of weight used during training sessions is one of the key drivers behind muscle growth, as research shows.
There is an obvious dose-response relationship between training volume and muscle growth - however calculating it can take time and accuracy is sometimes hard to gauge.
An accurate method would be counting how many hard sets were completed during a given workout session.
Traditional methods for measuring training volume have involved using the formula Sets x Reps x Load (SxRxL).
While this is useful in tracking long term trends, daily tracking can be challenging.
A more practical solution would be counting hard sets per body part each week as this gives a better estimate of training volume and can help identify whether you are making progress or not.
Beginners should begin with a low-volume program and gradually increase the intensity over time to prevent overtraining and injuries.
An ideal starting point would be three to five sets with eight to 15 repetitions for each exercise, gradually increasing both sets and reps over time. After developing strength, gradually increase weights lifted.
A carefully designed resistance training program will maximize this process for maximum muscle development.
When selecting a resistance training program, it's essential that it targets all major muscle groups simultaneously - this will help build a more symmetrical physique while also helping prevent injury.
Furthermore, it should be adjusted every four to eight weeks in order to optimize results and stay safe.
Brigatto and colleagues conducted a study which demonstrated how high resistance training volume could increase muscle thickness among resistance-trained men.
Their research examined the effects of low, medium, and high volume programs on quadriceps, biceps, and triceps and found significantly more thickening within high volume group than low or moderate volume training groups.
Reps are the number of times you perform a set
Key to any effective workout is the number of reps in each set. When you curl a dumbbell 15 times without stopping, that counts as one complete repetition (or rep).
A trainer may ask you to perform 12 reps of one exercise before moving onto another - this constitutes one "set."
Reps in sets have an enormous effect on muscle growth. Resistance training strives to recruit and fatigue as many muscle fibers as possible so that they will strengthen.
Working multiple sets with high rep counts helps achieve this goal by recruiting more muscles fibers. However, when performing high-rep sets it's essential that an appropriate amount of weight be used when training these high rep sets.
As well as performing more reps than necessary in each set, total time spent per set also plays a vital role in stimulating muscle growth.
By increasing reps per set, more time will be spent under tension for longer, which in turn enhances muscles ability to generate force and thus leads to greater muscle growth.
Reps in Reserve (RIR), an indicator of resistance training intensity, is an excellent way to measure its intensity.
RIR measures how many reps could have been completed before reaching technical failure - the point at which your form begins to falter - thus providing a useful benchmark for newcomers as well as experienced lifters alike.
Higher rep ranges tend to be better for building muscle growth and strengthening, while lower rep ranges are best suited for endurance development.
To prevent your body adapting too easily to one training stimulus, be sure to vary both reps and sets often for maximum effect.
For optimal muscle growth, choose a weight that will challenge but not prevent you from performing desired reps with good form.
Take each set to technical failure to maximize fast-twitch muscle fiber recruitment which is essential in creating growth in muscles.
Rest is the amount of time you take between sets
Every aspect of a perfect resistance workout is crucial, including rest periods between sets.
Some prefer short rest periods to promote sweat and maximize pump, yet these short breaks could potentially decrease muscle growth and strength gains.
On the other hand, longer breaks have shown to promote greater growth and strength gains - so how much rest is enough?
Answering this question is more complex than you might realize.
Studies have revealed that short rest periods may be beneficial in certain workouts, while others suggest longer ones are more efficient at increasing muscle mass.
One reason may be that shorter breaks could reduce reps you complete per set and therefore lower volume load resulting in less effective training sessions.
Longer rest periods may present an obstacle as they prevent proper recovery between sets, potentially decreasing strength gains.
However, these findings should be treated as estimates since these studies only involved small sample groups.
As with anything, the key to finding out how much rest should be taken between sets is experimentation.
Shorter rest periods can be beneficial when performing higher-intensity exercises like squats and deadlifts while longer ones work well for isolation movements such as bicep curls and chest flys.
Another option for increasing exercise intensity quickly and efficiently is supersets, which allow you to do multiple exercises within a short period.
These are particularly helpful when targeting larger muscle groups with exercises like squats and dumbbell curls; however it should be remembered that supersets could backfire if your cardiovascular fitness is weak.
As a rule of thumb, it's wise to aim for an average between short and long rest periods.
This will provide your muscles with ample recovery time without overtraining them - essential if you want to build muscle as this requires exhausting your muscles so they can expand further.
Intensity is the amount of effort you put into a set
Resistance training can help build muscle strength and tone, reduce joint strain, protect joints from injury and manage weight.
Furthermore, it's an excellent form of weight management exercise, maintaining flexibility and balance as well as helping increase sense of well-being and sleep quality.
Before engaging in resistance training for yourself or with a trainer for the first time it's essential that you understand exactly what's involved.
Newcomers may benefit from getting some expert advice so they are exercising at an appropriate intensity level using proper technique.
There are two measures of workout intensity: how much load you lift and the level of effort put forth during each set.
Although load matters in terms of muscle growth, intensity of effort matters more for hypertrophic stimulation; closer you get to failure during sets the more hypertrophic stimulus will be produced - however the closer you go towards failure the greater fatigue is generated.
Increase training intensity by altering the duration and rest time between sets, or by decreasing rest periods between sets.
You can also tailor each workout session according to your specific goals.
For instance, if you want to build mass, use more weight but perform fewer reps per set; but if increasing muscular endurance is your aim instead, opt for smaller weight and perform more reps per set.
Studies have demonstrated that resistance training leads to significant gains in muscular strength and size, even after periods of plateauing.
This is due to neural adaptation - changes in nerve firing patterns. Beginners experience rapid increases in strength but eventually see their gains plateau off over time.
New research into resistance training volume and muscle growth has found that on average an individual can train up to 6-8 hard sets per session with short rest periods without experiencing a decrease in gains.
Individual performance will differ; therefore it is essential that you select a program which best matches your needs and fitness goals.
Resistance Training Volume Increases Muscle Hypertrophy Strength training entails lifting heavier weights with lower reps and full rest between sets. Muscle hypertrophy training seeks to build larger muscles by increasing the reps and volume in each workout using moderate to heavy loads.
Not to be underestimated, both approaches offer numerous benefits that should be included in a well-rounded resistance training regimen, however training for muscle mass tends to be seen as the more desirable approach by most individuals.
Researchers have long researched various loading strategies for muscular hypertrophy and strength gains. Most studies show a dose-response relationship between load levels and 1RM strength increases; however, optimal load levels within that spectrum should also be considered.
Recent studies have explored the effects of different rep ranges on muscle growth. Van Roie and Kraemer found that both low- and high-rep ranges produced similar increases in muscle size gains; any disparities were due to variations in total reps per set.
Movement tempo should also be kept in mind during resistance-training exercises. Studies have demonstrated that using slower eccentric movements coupled with faster concentric ones can extend time under tension and promote muscle hypertrophy without hindering strength gains.
Hypertrophy appears to be optimal with six to eight hard sets per session and long rest periods; however, results will depend on individual differences; so consult your trainer about finding out the optimal load and volume to achieve your goals.