Jan 9, 2011

Volume or Intensity? What to choose?

This has been a debate for years. Should you choose volume or intensity in your training? If you go to popular lifting websites like T-nation, articles about the benefits of high volume training is to be found right next to articles telling you its useless to train like this. But do you have to choose, or can you do both? I use both high volume and low volume workouts, and I do both high intensity and low intensity workouts. Here is an overview:

Low/Low - This is a workout with low intensity and low volume. In other words, lighter weights, no forced reps, and a low number of sets and exercises. I rarely have these workouts, except when I am trying to learn new difficult exercises. Some of my olympic lifting workouts might be low/low.

Low/High - Low intensity and high volume. Here you have the typical hobby bodybuilder workout. Actually, low intensity is kind off misleading. It's more like medium intensity. You push yourself to failure, but not beyond. And you include very little intensity enhancing methods like cheats, drop set, superset and forced. But you have a high number of reps, sets and exercises. This workouts puts on mass with little risk of injuries and overtraining.

High/Low - This is the typical strength training workouts where you focus on getting stronger and not building mass. You do increase your musclesize here as well, but to really grow you need more volume training.The intensity is hard, to failure and beyond, while the number of reps, sets and exercises are low. I use the high/low method for my max load workouts, my olympic lifting workouts my explosive leg workouts and sometimes for my more technical workouts.

High/High - This is the superheavy bodybuilder workouts where you mainly focus on putting on some size. You use heavy weights, intensity enhancing methods like cheats, drop set, superset and forced, and you have many exercises, many sets and lots of reps. Intensity is to failure and beyond for most exercises. The upside; you get bigger! The downside its hard, you need a buddy there to support you, and you do have the risk of overtraining and injuries.

I have a good mix of low/high, high/low and high/high workouts. Normally I don't choose in advance, I decide when I have started my workout and got a feeling on how strong I am today. This is basicly what we call autoregulation. And trust me. It works as long as you keep pushing yourself forward towards your goals, in the gym, on the treadmill, on the track and in the streets. Below is a short sample from a high intensity and high volume  delts workout.

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