What Is Exercise Volume and Why It Matters
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I wake up and hit the gym with a plan, but getting to the gym and doing my best work are sometimes two vastly different things. The important thing to understand is that even during times when I am not able to hit new PRs or push my body to the max, I can still make progress. How? By focusing on exercise volume. The key to building muscle is increasing exercise volume, and this simply means more sets, more sets, more sets…Up until, of course, you hit the point of diminishing returns.
For most muscle groups, you want to do about 10-15 hard sets per-week every week. This is an ideal range for sustained exercise volume and is guaranteed to increase your gains. The question of how many reps per set and how much weight to use is a different question, but the rule of thumb is: Do what is hard. If you are going to use lighter weights, go for twenty reps instead of ten, or go heavier. The key is to push yourself past your perceived limits.
I realize a lot of people don’t understand the importance of working all muscle groups in a single workout or in intervals, but not me. Every muscle group in your body has its own role, and I have a realistic goal I would like to meet when I go to the gym to ensure I am able to give all of the attention.
Why is a Workout Plan Necessary?
When planning to get fit, the goal is always to come up with a challenging workout. My body won’t move to the next level unless I am willing to push it to new and higher levels. While I realize a workout plan should not be so extreme that I injure myself and cause muscle fatigue, what is important is that I plan a workout that is fundamentally contrived to work each muscle group that will lead me to become bigger, stronger, and faster. This is why making a workout plan is the most fundamental step of bodybuilding. An ideal workout plan will highlight rigorous exercises that are results-driven (after all, why else need I go to the gym if results are not what I am looking for).
Working Out on a Single Day vs. The Entire Week
As I contrive the perfect workout plan, I have found it better to divide exercises throughout the whole week. Instead of doing vigorous exercise on a single day, I find it beneficial to have fixed days for specific exercises.
Scattering your workout throughout the week will help you increase exercise volume, which will result in the following benefits:
- It will take less time every day
- It will not disturb your day to day activities
- It will help ease soreness
- It will be better to handle, as you will be focusing on particular exercises
- It will help perform cleaner repetitions
- It will maintain your energy level
- It will keep your muscles from getting lazy
Keeping my body busy with interval workouts throughout the entire week has positive impacts on my workout routine and helps achieve my goals faster and with more efficiency.
Number of Exercises Per Muscle Group
Each exercise requires its own focus and variation. This is why I often write a plan that specifies exercises for each muscle group that can maximize both times and results in a single gym session. Remember, exercise volume is key.
These variations in muscles will help you achieve your goal more quickly and efficiently.
If you want to build up each muscle group, then you should:
- Try out 3 or 4 different exercises for each muscle group
- Converge 80% of your focus on compound exercises
- Converge 20% of your focus on isolated exercises
- Avoid increasing the number of sets too much
- Keep a note on the frequency of your workouts
- Keep variety in your workouts
- Perform a total of 20 sets per muscle group in the entire week
- Instead of assigning a single day to a specific muscle group, divide it into two days. That way, all of the muscle groups will have two separate days in the week.
So, the answer to how many exercises I should do per muscle group is not easily put together as I would like. What I do know is instead of sticking to a single exercise, I can divide exercises into quick sets of 3-4 variations that fit an exact muscle group.
This way, I am able to focus on maximum growth and muscle gain. Even after performing multiple exercises, I shouldn’t feel fatigued because I’ve kept the number of sets to a quick minimum and then slowly increase throughout the week. I am also able to concentrate on each muscle group separately.
Count Sets Instead of Exercises
The total number of sets done, whether it is in a full-body workout or for a specific muscle, has a great impact on the growth of your muscles. With too low sets, I’ll be unable to signal the muscles that it’s time to grow. Similarly, if I top the sets too much, it will result in fatigue, and the muscle will go into recovery. That is why it is important to keep a fair balance of sets when working out.
As I have discussed, counting exercises is not the way to succeed and become bigger, stronger, and faster. A far better and scientifically proven method includes lowering set volumes and increasing the set variations. The same number of exercises can lead to a different number of sets per muscle group. That is why it is important to know where you’re going wrong.
Why Does it Matter?
As unbelievable it may sound, but our body has a certain percentage that it allows us. A certain exercise may help grow your muscles 20% in the first five reps. But for the next five reps, this percentage may decrease to 10%, which may further decrease to 3% in the next five reps. This means that the amount of growth the body allows, the muscles decreases constantly. To counter this, do multiple sets with designated breaks in between, and it will effectively increase muscle mass.
Hypertrophy vs. Strength
Size and strength are two different things that are often intermixed. What may seem heavy may not always be that powerful. The thing is not to judge a muscle by its appearance. I have always seen people with an intermediate body come out to be stronger than heavy weightlifters.
Hypertrophy and strength are two very different things:
- Hypertrophy relates to an increase in the size of a specific muscle
- Strength relates to an increase in muscular power
If you’re looking for hypertrophy, then I would recommend that you stick to lower weights and higher reps.
Hypertrophy strongly depends on the amount of attention you put into a muscle group. So, for building all the muscles adequately, you will have to pay attention to them one-by-one. For a beginner, I would recommend doing one exercise for one muscle group every week. And as you start getting comfortable with it, you can take it to two or three reps per major muscle group.
If you’re looking for strength, then I would recommend that you stick to heavyweights and lower reps.
Building strength is just the opposite of hypertrophy; you need to focus on multi-joint and heavy weightlifting exercises. These exercises tend to keep all the muscles in shape. That is why you won’t need many varieties of it. You can just stick to one or two per day. Prioritizing deadlifts can help you get effectively stronger without wasting time on multiple reps.
How to Choose Your Workout Split?
Up to now, I have only discussed the number of sets and exercises I recommend for getting bigger, stronger, and faster. But what is the complete guide to this routine? How can you plan a perfect workout routine for your muscle group? While there
To understand these concepts, you will have to know the two different workout routines and their effects:
- Full Body Training
Full body training refers to complete exercises that target all the main muscles in a body. This means that it contains all three necessary components:
- An upper body push lift
- An upper body pull lift
- A lower body compound lift
Exercises that involve almost all the muscle groups in your body and create a combined effect in a single set. This is a multi-joint exercise that you can easily do with heavy weightlifting equipment at the gym.
Full-body training is a time-efficient technique. You don’t have to train each muscle group separately. This saves time and allows a person to train muscle groups two to three times a week.
Beginners: Start with lighter weights and a 1 exercise per muscle group routine. Going to the gym 2-3 times a week will be sufficient.
Bodybuilders: Move on to the heavier weights and a 2 exercise per muscle group routine. Go to the gym every day.
- Split Body Training
Split body training focuses more on the quantity of the reps. It generally includes lighter weights and takes more time as compared to full-body training. In split body training, you have to train each muscle group separately. This means that you will have to devise plans for each type of exercise.
Most of the people executing this are advanced bodybuilders that need to pay proper attention to their muscular growth. This is preferred when your muscles have gained most of their genetic growth capability. Split body training is further divided into types:
- Upper-Lower Splits
- Push-Pull Splits
The upper-lower splits allow for more isolation and single-joint exercises. Whereas, the push-pull splits cover the chest, shoulders, and arms. They have more volume per workout and are generally multi-joint exercises.
Beginners: Should stick to full body training.
Bodybuilders: Should devise a plan for different muscle groups on different days of the week. Keep 2-3 exercises per muscle group routine and repeat it on alternate days with some other muscle.
Sometimes it’s important to bring a specific body part into the attention. Whatever the case, what is necessary is to get in shape by focussing on specific sets for the part of the body being worked.
Including lesser exercises into the workout routine will also result in greater strength. On the other hand, picking a large number of exercises for each of your muscle group routines will help stimulate greater muscular growth.
The number of weekly reps, the frequency of your workout, and the split exercise chosen also cast a great difference to a workout routine. So, when I look to get bigger, stronger, and faster, I have to adjust my plans to perfect them.