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Volume VS Intensity for Muscle Gain

Posted on 6th April 2018

Written by Siobhan Bellamy

The great debate between those trying to build good quality lean muscle mass will inevitably always lead back to Volume VS Intensity when it comes to how you train. In order to understand the mechanics of this argument we must first understand the terminology. Exactly what is being referred to when we say volume and intensity?



This is referring to the weight lifted in proportion to your one rep max. The higher the intensity of the workout, the higher the weight being shifted and generally this will equate to a lower number of repetitions.



Volume is a made up of three elements. Sets x Reps x Weight. For example, if the workout was made up of a squat session of 2 x 4 x 330lbs and 4 x 8 x 220lbs then the total volume for this session would be worked out as follows (2x4x330) + (4x8x220) = 9,680lbs.

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So now that we understand the terminology, what training system is optimal for muscle hypertrophy?


The main elements of hypertrophy include tension and metabolic stress. These two components are essential when trying to put on any kind of size. Tension is referring to the load, and to achieve this you must add more weight to your lifts. This will invariably cause a reduction in volume as you cannot lift the same amount of reps as the weight goes up. This will subsequently cause a drop in metabolic stress.  When you drop the load lifted you will be able to dramatically increase the reps performed. This causes a direct increase in metabolic stress but will drop the overall muscle tension during the workout.


It is clear that both volume and power are intrinsically linked and that both have their own benefits when it comes to stimulating muscle growth. If we look at some of the more successful bodybuilders we can see that both training systems have a big effect on building size. Lee Priest and Markus Ruhl have been known to adopt a higher volume methodology to their training, sometimes doing as many as 20 sets alone for one muscle group. Whilst other bodybuilders such as Dorian Yates opts for the less is more approach.


Some other factors to take into account, is the possibility for over training when working with a high volume training system. Pushing through so many sets and reps can cause serious metabolic fatigue and hit you hard, reducing your performance when you come to train again the following day. However high intensity heavy lifting increases your risk of injury. As the load goes up you are placing greater strain on the muscles, joints and tendons which can exacerbate existing injuries or cause new ones even if your form is spot on.

volme vs intensity gym workout tips


With all of information on hand regarding the two different training disciplines it is easy to see that both have huge benefits whilst they both also come with their associated disadvantages. Because of this some of the most successful training programs will subsequently use a combination of the two systems. If we put this into practice, we can see that a combination approach gives us a chance to both increase muscle tension and metabolic stress whilst helping to avoid the risks associated with prolonged heavy weight training and manage fatigue that can be brought about by high volume sessions.


Alternating between the two will also help to build your muscular endurance which will in turn begin to generate a greater degree of strength and power. Possibly the greatest benefit of adopting a combined approach is to keep your workouts fresh and engaging! There’s nothing more dull than repetitive training. So, switching it up either weekly or bi monthly will help to keep you focused and more importantly consistent with your workouts.

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