Resistance Training 7 Step Approach - Step 6: Volume
Volume - Total amount of weight lifted in a workout.
Set - Group of repetitions sequentially performed before a rest.
Repetition-Volume - Total number of repetitions completed in a workout session.
Load-Volume - Total number of sets multiplied by the weight lifted per repetition. For example, 2 sets of 30 pound bicep curls (10 reps each set) would be 600 pounds ( 2 x 30 x 10 ).
Multiple Versus Single Sets
Some studies have shown that a single set of a specific exercise (8-12 reps) is enough to increase muscle strength and hypertrophy (growth). What is generally accepted and understood however, is that single sets are fine and will increase strength and hypertrophy for those individuals that are new to resistance training, but in order to continue to progress, an individual must use multiple sets in order to properly work and fatigue a muscle.
If we think back to our definitions from above, most specifically the "Load-Volume", it is easy to understand why multiple sets are more effective than a single set, even if the single set is done until failure. For example, if an individual did 100 pound back squats to failure (10 reps), in 1 set, that "Load-Volume" is 1000 pounds. However, if the same individual did 3 sets of 10 reps of 80 pound back squats, then the "Load-Volume" would be 2400 pounds lifted.
Primary Resistance Training Goal
In a previous blog (Step 5: Training Load and Repetitions), I discussed the goal repetition ranges for various training goals, but now we need to also relate this to Volume.
For strength and power gains, we know that an individual should try and stick to a weight that will keep them in a 6 or lower rep range. Studies have also been completed that have shown that 2-6 total sets per muscle group also yielded the best results.
Muscular hypertrophy or growth has been shown to be most effective when choosing a weight or load that keeps you in a 6-12 repetition range, in 3-6 total sets.
Muscular endurance is when you aim to stay above the 12 rep range, but slightly different than the power/strength or the hypertrophy goals, endurance recommendations are to simply do 2-3 sets.