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Volume vs Intensity for Hypertrophy Style Of Training 2023

Volume vs Intensity for Hypertrophy

Volume vs Intensity for Hypertrophy Style Of Training 2023

While training for hypertrophy has both an intensity (as % of 1 rep max) and volume component, it appears that volume is the more important variable. … In fact, assuming that an intensity threshold of >60% of 1 rep max is met, it appears that volume is the key determinant of success when it comes to gaining muscle mass.


Training volume is the most important variable in terms of muscle mass development. But… what exactly is training volume? How can we quantify it? And, above all, how do I know if I am making the volume I need? In today’s article, we are going to answer all your questions about this variable. To the mess!


Volume, by definition, refers to the amount of work done in a given period of time. In the case of hypertrophy, the amount of work performed per muscle group weekly is counted.

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In the scientific literature, volume is usually accounted for taking into account the series, repetitions, and weight used ( series x repetitions x kg ). The problem with this method is that several investigations have observed that being close to muscle failure, the number of total repetitions and the load are not so important when generating adaptations. This means that while you perform series close to muscle failure, the muscle mass gains will be similar as long as you move in a range of 6 – 25 repetitions (Baz-Valle, Fontes-Villalba, & Santos-Concejero, 2018).

Therefore, in principle, this way of accounting for volume would not be optimal. If not, realize that on days when we perform exercises such as pulley crossings for the pectoralis, we would get a much lower volume of training compared to the day we decide to bench press, both stimuli being equally optimal to produce hypertrophy.

For this reason, it is much more feasible to measure total work sets per muscle group to quantify volume, as long as they are close to muscle failure and in a range of 6 to 25 repetitions. If you are more advanced, and you want to spin finer, it may be interesting to do a division of these series according to the range of repetitions you are using.

Volume vs Intensity for Hypertrophy Style Of Training 2022

Remember that the repetition continuum for hypertrophy ranges from heavy loads that generate a lot of mechanical stress, to lighter loads that accentuate metabolic stress. And both loads are valid and important for the goal of muscle hypertrophy!


Muscle mass gains seem to follow the inverted “U” rule, according to which a certain number of weekly sets produces optimal adaptations, and higher or lower volumes are not equally valid for generating the desired adaptations.

According to this theory, and as many studies have shown, multi-set routines are superior to single-set routines in terms of muscle mass gains.

That said, there are studies in which there are no differences in muscle mass gains between single series versus multi-series protocols. This could be due to the short duration of these studies, which would lead to an improvement at the neural level in the first instance, and the condition of the subjects of the untrained population, so that they could obtain improvements with very low training volumes (Radaelli et al. ., 2013., 2014).

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In another study by the same author, but with recreationally trained subjects and a longer duration (6 months), better results were obtained in the group that carried out a protocol of 5 series compared to groups of 3 and 1 respectively, also observing a volume-dependent hypertrophic response, since the more series performed, the better results were obtained (Radaelli et al., 2015).

Volume vs Intensity for Hypertrophy Style Of Training 2022

Based on some results, we could conclude that at least initially and in novice subjects, there are no significant differences between single series versus multi-series protocols. However, this 2010 meta-analysis, in which the majority of the subjects that made up the studies were untrained population, concluded that multi-series protocols were associated with 40% more hypertrophy, in addition to also favoring the development of forehead strength. to single series protocols, as we can see in the graphs below (Krieger, 2010).

As in this meta-analysis and in the study by Radaelli in 2015, this dose-response relationship for volume was also observed by Schoenfeld et al in a review on the subject in 2017 (Schoenfeld, Ogborn, & Krieger, 2017).

Even so, and as we have already commented before, this limit is not infinite since the relationship between volume and hypertrophy seems to follow the shape of an inverted “U”, and not a straight line, so there is a ceiling in this volume. From which we will not generate major adaptations, but we will accumulate more fatigue, eventually falling into a state of overtraining.

The Benefit of Increasing Training Volume for Hypertrophy

We cannot define this “ceiling” exactly, since it also varies according to the subject and their physical condition, but we know that it exists, as we can see in the following study in which hypertrophic responses were analyzed with two different training volumes (modifying the called “German training). The study subjects were not sedentary and lasted for 6 weeks. Next, I leave you a summary table with the weekly volume they made.


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Following the training protocol, both groups obtained similar improvements in fat-free mass gains. Moreover, the increases in torso and arms were somewhat greater in group 5, which suggests this threshold in the volume from which performance begins to fall. Another conclusion that we can draw from this study is that the volume that different muscle groups can tolerate varies from one to another, since this response, which was observed in the upper body in group 5, did not have the same results for the lower body ( Amirthalingam et al., 2017).

Therefore, we can affirm that multi-series protocols favor the hypertrophic response to a greater extent, being this also depends on volume, to the point that more training volume translates into greater gains up to a certain limit or physiological threshold.

The key, therefore, is to find your maximum profit zone, that is, the training volume that produces the greatest adaptations.


After all the theoretical part, it is time to start putting into practice the conclusions that we have come to.

The optimal training volume is a factor that will vary between different people, but even in the same subject according to different conditions. Some of the factors that affect this optimal volume are genetics, training level, nutrition, rest, and even stress level.

These variables determine a person’s ability to recover and, therefore, the volume of training that they can tolerate. The more recovery capacity, the more training volume.

Although we cannot, therefore, give an exact figure in terms of training volume, a good reference to start with is to use the Volume Landmarks proposed by Dr.Mike Israetel, as a practical reference guide to establish your optimal training volume and be able to generate with this a progressive overload.

These figures refer to different weekly volumes per muscle group, from which you will get more or fewer adaptations.

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MV = Maintenance VolumeThe minimum volume you need to maintain your profits
MEV  = Minimum effective volumeMinimum volume from which adaptations are generated
MAV  = Adaptive Maximum VolumeThe volume where the best adaptations are generated
MRV  = Maximum recoverable volumeThe maximum volume you can recover from. Get over it

Table 1.  Training volumes and the degree of adaptations they generate were proposed by Mike Israetel as a reference guide (Israetel, M., 2017).

The range of repetitions is between 8 – 20 on average. These volumes are valid as long as the following premises are met:
The loads are between 60 – 80% of 1RM on average.

Near muscle failure (no more than 3-4 reps in the breech).

Therefore, once we meet these requirements, we must find our weekly MEV to start a training mesocycle and, from there, progress and add series, moving most of the time in our AVM, until we stay close (or punctually exceed) our MRV. The importance of always moving in your AVM is due to the principle of progressive overload. Training with sessions that produce an optimal stimulus, you are generating adaptations, so that after a while this same training will not suppose any stimulus to overload your body. That is, your MAVwill has varied. Hence the importance of increasing your training volume to generate adaptations.

Most studies speak of volumes of 10-20 sets per week to produce optimal stimuli for hypertrophy. Therefore, a good starting point to start your mesocycle might be to start around 10 sets per week per muscle group. From here, you can try to increase 2 weekly series until you approach, or exceed, the 20 series and evaluate the results to propose, or not, a download as we will see later. As we have already mentioned before, the fact of increasing the series week by week is because your AVM is modified with the progression in training. If you are starting, I would even recommend starting below the 10 series (Israetel, 2017).

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Volume vs. Intensity for Hypertrophy: Which Is More Important?

Even if your starting level is quite low, you may not need to be increasing the number of sets per week, at least for the first few months. Once you have located a volume with which you begin to generate adaptations, you can maintain it throughout the mesocycle and gradually increase the total training volume through repetitions or weight. For example, if the first week you performed 3 × 10 repetitions on the chest pull, you can try the second week to perform the same number of sets, but trying to reach 12 repetitions. If you do this with another exercise focusing on the same muscle group, at the end of the second week you will be getting 10-12 repetitions “extra” which would really mean one more series.

These recommendations are for beginners since, in the beginning, that overload per week will be enough to produce improvements, making the training easier and, with it, improving the initial adherence.

These training volumes are for muscle groups, and, just as the volume varies between subjects, it also varies according to which muscle group. A large muscle like the latissimus dorsi will not tolerate the same volume of training as a smaller muscle like the biceps brachii. In addition, you also have to take into account that when you work the latissimus dorsi, for example, on many occasions you are also working the biceps in a secondary way.

The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements

Although we cannot give exact figures here either, Mike Israetel proposes a guide with training volumes according to muscle groups. In the following table, you can see the summary made by reviving stronger.

These figures are indicative and, of course, will vary from one person to another. In addition, in the table, you can observe other variables such as frequency and intensity (RIR).

At this point, we should be clear about a series of concepts regarding the volume that we are going to review so that they are clear.

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  • As long as we comply with the premises of intensity and repetition range, the volume in hypertrophy is better counted by weekly series .
  • Multiseries protocols favor a higher degree of hypertrophy than single series protocols .
  • As a general rule, the number of weekly series to produce adaptations is between 10 and 20 series .
  • We must locate which is our MEV to be able to progress from this figure.
  • We must not constantly exceed the MRV so as not to overload the system.

With all this clear, it would only be left to resolve a question, how do I know if I am in my AVM or if, on the contrary, I am constantly training in my MRV?

Volume Vs Intensity – Which Is Best For Bodybuilding?

The answer is as easy as it is time-consuming. Keeping a weekly record of both your workouts and your physical condition. If, as the mesocycle progresses, you notice that each week you improve yourself by training compared to the previous week (either by weight mobilized, by performing more repetitions or series), and you are tolerating it well, your fatigue in and out of training remains at bay and you also sleep well, so you are surely on your AVM and you can continue to progress.

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If this is your case, and you are able to keep a good weekly record, it is not necessary that you regularly plan pre-established download weeks since this could make you not squeeze your potential to the fullest at that time. If you are training well, you overcome week by week and you have been invisible training for ten (nutrition, rest, stress), the body may ask you to do a shock every 6-7 weeks, and you are presetting them every 4- beforehand. 5 weeks. In the end, you are taking weeks of performance away.

Volume vs Intensity for Hypertrophy Style Of Training 2022

If, on the other hand, you are very fatigued, you get stuck in the exercises, your stiffness is deadly and you are hardly sleeping, surely you are doing more volume than you can tolerate and touch to rectify the training. Be careful, you have to take into account detail in all this. It may be that a specific day because you have slept badly, you are more tired than usual or for any reason, this happens to you and does not mean that you are training in your MRV. Hence the importance of keeping a record on a regular basis.

As you can see, this part has a lot of interpretation, and the more variables we register, the better we can assess. In summary, these are the 3 aspects that I personally usually assess to know if I have to rectify, or not, the training volume.

Volume Vs. High Intensity: Which Style Of Training Is Best For …

  • Weekly tonnage by muscle group . If you are tolerating the training well, the weekly tonnage will always tend to increase a little, or at least it will not decrease, either because you get one more repetition, raise the weight a little, or increase a series.
  • Weekly fatigue by survey . Here I carry out a small survey where, generally, I ask that they rate me from 1 to 10 aspects such as intra-workout fatigue, sleep quality, stress level, degree of stiffness and duration… etc. In the end I get a numerical value with the mean of all the answers.
  • Assessment of each training session . Here they simply have to rate me from 1 to 10 how tiring they found the training on that particular day.

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With all these data, I end up taking an average between the weekly survey and the evaluation of the training sessions, and, added to the evolution in tonnages by muscle groups, I compare, evaluate and decide.

As you can see, there is no magic formula. Train with intensity, increase the weekly volume little by little, keep a record of your workouts, and assess what decision to make according to the data obtained.


Training volume is currently the most important variable for muscle hypertrophy. This fact means that other variables, such as the weekly frequency, are conditioned to the volume.

That is, when we decide to start training the first question we must ask ourselves is not how many days will I go to the gym, if not, what is my optimal training volume, and what is the best way to distribute it according to my conditions and my style of training. actual life.

When we understand this, we realize that the famous “workout routines” do not exist as such. There is no better training routine than another, if not a better distribution of the weekly training volume at a certain frequency according to the conditions of each person.

For this reason, don’t waste time looking for other people’s “routines”, if not finding your optimal training volume and finding out what is the best way to distribute it according to your state and level. Routines are parents 😉

If you have any questions or want us to delve into a specific topic, leave it reflected in the comments. Until next time!

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Volume vs Intensity for Hypertrophy
Volume vs Intensity for Hypertrophy

Is volume or intensity better for building muscle?

Although your muscle fibers don’t contract quite as hard on any individual rep, they do so for twice as long, producing about the same amount of total tension. Thus, technically, volume is the primary driver of muscle growth, because it’s the volume of tension over time that makes your muscles bigger.

Does volume or intensity drive hypertrophy?

Now that we have a working definition of hypertrophy, let’s look at 3 key variables to induce hypertrophic response: volume, intensity, and exercise selection. Volume has been called the #1 driving force behind muscular hypertrophy, according to muscle building expert, Dr. Brad Schoenfeld

How much volume is needed for hypertrophy?

When taking long rests (2+ minutes), per-session volumes of around 6-8 sets per muscle group will likely produce the best hypertrophy on average in trained subjects, although individual results and needs may vary dramatically from that average.

Does intensity matter for hypertrophy?

The fact is that the key to increased muscular hypertrophy is increased intensity—though genetics can play a role in just how big your muscles can become. Sure, lifting heavier and heavier weights over time is itself one way to increase intensity.

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Volume vs Intensity for Hypertrophy