What Really Matters in Weight Training: Intensity or Volume?
Updated: Mar 20, 2022
The short answer is that you need both. The long answer? We have to dig a bit deeper.
You see, adding too much intensity will leave your muscles too tired to continue training the next day and could actually hinder your results because of overtraining. Putting too much volume is also becomes a problem because you are going to get an injury.
Just like most “vs” issues in weight training, what you need is to find the right balance between both. And you should understand the fundamental of volume & intensity training to find the right balance.
What is volume training then?
Volume refers to the total amount of weight you lifted over a period of time. It can be measured in several ways but the most simple and well-known way is to multiply the weight used by the sets and reps performed on exercises. For example, if you lifted 5sets of 5 reps (5x5) of squat with 315 pounds, your total volume for the squat today is 7,875 pounds (5 x 5 x 315).
This is where volume training kicks in. Once you know how much volume you are doing in a particular workout, you can plan your workout accordingly so that you are working at optimal volumes for your goal. The biggest advantage of volume training is that it is extremely easy to monitor and set your progress. The only thing you need to do is increase the reps of the same weight. As you are able to complete more reps with a given weight, you know that you are progressing. There is nothing quite like the feeling of completing a set of 10 reps with a weight that you previously only got 6-8 reps with.
What is Intensity training?
Intensity refers to how hard you are training it can be measured in a number of ways.
The most common measurement of Intensity is based on percentages. It's the percentage of a one-repetition max (1RM) that you use for a particular exercise. For example, if your 1RM is 300 pounds and you choose to do eight repetitions at 80 percent of your 1RM, you're lifting 240 pounds in that set. The higher the percentage, the more intense the lift is and the closer to failure you come.
The biggest advantage of intensity training is that it allows you to work out with very heavy weights, which is the best way to promote strength gains. Intensity training can also help you overcome a plateau. When you've been lifting for a while, it's normal to find that your muscles have stopped responding to the same routines. Intensity training can change that by causing more muscle damage, which in turn leads to more muscle growth.
So why both training methods measured?
Because muscle hypertrophy occurs due to cumulative tension stimulus over time. Meaning you should either increase the amount of tension produced in each rep by lifting more heavyweight (intensity training), or extend the amount of time your muscles are exposed to tension by increase the time of your workout (volume training) to grow your muscle.
There are people who are putting more focus on one method on their workout which is called strength training(intensity) and BBB training (volume) but neither of them uses only one method. Imagine you are training like lift only 1rm of each exercise. It will help you gain strength, but also quickly makes you fatigued and can’t continue. How about lifting 10 pounds 1000 reps? you’ll get the idea.
I hope this short article will provide you with a good insight on the fundamental of volume & intensity training. In order to put a good weight training program for yourself, you should know about the pros and cons of both training approaches. Just know that it’s not always the case like either (intensity or volume) is better than another. You only need to find the right balance between the two. It’s up to you how can find your own “golden” combination between intensity and volume.
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