Low Volume Training

Low Volume Training or High intensity training is a method of training adopted by many top bodybuilders over the years including Dorian Yates and Mike Mentzer. It basically is a system of training that relies on quality rather than quantity and will yield the same results as a 30 set workout whilst only completing 10 sets.


The basic principles of the system are that you will do 1 set per exercise of all out effort with 1-3 lighter warm up sets beforehand. You will do only 2-3 exercises per body part and have short rest periods in between sets. This high intensity and all out balls to the wall set has been very effective for the likes of Dorian Yates and has been adopted recently by many new athletes and bodybuilders looking to shake up their routines. So let’s take a look at some of the outlining factors of this style of training so that you can plan a routine of your own.


Rule number 1. There is just 1 set to failure per exercise. You will perform maybe 2 warm up sets of 8-12 reps where the last couple of reps will be difficult but not failure. Then on your final set you will go beyond failure and use training methods that will allow that. A spotter is required so only do this with a training partner. You will use a weight where you can get 3-5 reps, you will complete these reps and with the help of your spotter you can get another 2 or 3 forced reps. then you put the weight back, wait a few seconds then go again. Aim to get another 2-3 reps with the help of your spotter. Put the weight back then go again for another rep or 2. After this you can do negatives, static holds or even drop the weight. This all out mega set is the one that counts and makes the difference. It is extremely taxing on your body and central nervous system so you can see how you can grow from just 6 – 10 sets per body part.


Rule number 2. Pre-exhaust the muscle with isolations. When doing a routine like this the target muscle needs to be warmed up well so starting off with an isolation exercise done in this manner will help to fill the target muscle with blood and pre-exhaust it. Doing this means that the fatigues muscle will definitely be failing on the compound lifts rather than secondary muscles. To put it another way. If you are doing bench press and you have weak triceps you may fail on a lift because of your triceps rather than your chest reaching failure. This means you will never be able to train to failure on compound lifts where the target muscle is concerned. If the muscle is already pre-exhausted you know that the target muscle is reaching the important point of failure before your triceps for example on bench press. This is a common sense approach and is very logical.


Rule number 3. Don’t over train. It is said that the average individual can increase strength through training by up to 400% but recovery ability can only increase as much as 50%. Therefore the stronger you get, counter intuitively, the less often you should train. This again depends on the person but due to the taxing nature of this training method you shouldn’t train each body part more than once per week.


Rule number 4. Don’t try to do too much. 2-3 exercises per large body part are more than sufficient with this training method. 1-2 exercises for smaller body parts like biceps is also plenty. Don’t try and do too much even if you feel you can do more. You can be in and out of the gym in 30-40 minutes with a routine like this so don’t feel that you have to train for 90 to see results.


An example of a workout would be this for chest:


Pec deck / machine flyes:

2 sets x 8-12 reps

1 set x 3-5 reps, rest 5 seconds, another 2-3 reps, rest 5 seconds, another 1-2 reps, negatives x 3 reps


Incline bench press:

2 sets x 8-12 reps

1 set x 3-5 reps, rest 5 seconds, another 2-3 reps, rest 5 seconds, another 1-2 reps, negatives x 3 reps


Machine chest press:

1 set x 8-12 reps

1 set x 3-5 reps, rest 5 seconds, another 2-3 reps, rest 5 seconds, another 1-2 reps, negatives x 3 reps


You don’t have to do your major sets in the same way each time. You can do drop sets, slow reps, half reps, static holds, anything you want as long as it is past the point of failure. This chest workout only contains 8 sets but will illicit far more hormonal response and muscle building adaptations than a lower intensity 20 set workout which will just leave you in a catabolic state for far longer with less benefit.

So if your training has gone stale and you are looking for a way to spice things up give this method a try and see if you like it.


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