Volume Guide: Structuring Your Sets and Reps to Meet Your Goals
As a Bodylogix® supplements consumer, your main goal is probably to get the most out of the work that you do in the gym. The amount of sets and reps that you perform in each workout is very important, since it can help deliver optimal muscle gains to fitness athletes and improve performance in sports athletes.
Working out regularly with too little volume will cause your gains to fall short as you won’t be using your body’s true potential for growth. On the other hand, working out with too-heavy volume can cause overtraining which will not only stop your gains, but can also lead to injury and fatigue.
As an athlete, time is very important if you’re competing in a fitness competition, or you have a big weightlifting meet or sports championship coming up. So, let’s take a look at how you can structure your training volume with scientifically supported information.
Sports Athlete Volume Protocol
Whether your sport is hockey, baseball, football, basketball, running or swimming – or whether you’re a competitive weightlifter required to perform explosive maximal lifting – you can tailor your sets and reps to help you meet your performance goals.
Muscle development is essential, but it may not be your primary goal. You’re more interested in slapping a puck as hard as possible or snatching a barbell overhead to the fullest extent of your abilities.
In order to meet your sports performance targets, you’ll need to train in a way that emphasizes maximal or sub-maximal output. The following protocols can help you develop your muscles for power and strength.
If you compete in powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting, it’s all about maximal output, since your results are a direct reflection of the weight you can lift for just one rep. Hockey players and football players rely heavily on explosive strength, while basketball players and baseball players require sub-maximal output but with a higher level of motor skill endurance. At the far end of the spectrum, endurance athletes such as long-distance runners or swimmers can indeed benefit from resistance training, but within the context of muscle endurance.
Sample Volume Protocol – Weightlifters and Powerlifters, 2-3 Times Weekly:
Competitive Lift* 5 sets 4, 3, 3, 2, 2 reps
Assistance Exercise 1 3 sets 7, 6, 5 reps
Assistance Exercise 2 3 sets 7, 6, 5 reps
Assistance Exercise 3 2 sets 8, 8 reps
*This is the actual lift in which you compete. If you’re training for a bench press competition, you would perform your bench press sets in this way. Always remember to warm up with one or two sets of a lighter weight at no more than double the reps of your most rep-heavy working set.
Sample Volume Protocol – Hockey and Football Players, Twice Weekly:
Squat 4 sets 6, 6, 5, 4 reps
Box Jump 3 sets 8, 6, 6 reps
Incline Bench Press 3 sets 8, 6, 6 reps
Lat Pulldown 3 sets 8, 6, 6 reps
Overhead Press 3 sets 8, 6, 6 reps
Upright Row 3 sets 8, 8, 8 reps
Triceps Pressdown 3 sets 10, 10, 8 reps
Sample Volume Protocol – Baseball and Basketball Players, Twice Weekly:
Deadlift 4 sets 8, 8, 7, 6 reps
Leg Press 4 sets 10, 10, 8, 8 reps
Incline Dumbbell Press 4 sets 10, 10, 8, 8 reps
T-Bar Row 3 sets 10, 10, 10 reps
Overhead Press 3 sets 10, 8, 8 reps
Upright Row 3 sets 10, 8, 8 reps
Triceps Pressdown 3 sets 12, 10, 8 reps
Sample Volume Protocol – Runners and Swimmers, Three Times Weekly:
Squat 4 sets 12, 12, 10, 10 reps
Lunge 3 sets 12, 12, 10 reps
Incline Bench Press 3 sets 12, 12, 12 reps
Lat Pulldown 3 sets 15, 12, 12 reps
Overhead Press 3 sets 15, 12, 12 reps
Lateral Raise 3 sets 15, 15, 12 reps
Standing Biceps Curl 3 sets 15, 15, 15 reps
For all the exercises listed above, choose a weight that allows you to complete the designated amount of sets and reps. It should be challenging, but doable. And your form should never be compromised.
Fitness Athlete Volume Protocol
For fitness athletes, the most important results from resistance training are to: (1) build muscle (hypertrophy); (2) shape/sculpt muscle; and (3) maintain aesthetic balance. Other types of results such as strength and power are typically not as important to fitness athletes because when you’re up on stage flexing and posing, you’re not actually required to demonstrate how strong you are through any form of weightlifting.
>> Building Muscle. The cornerstone of bodybuilding (and being a fitness athlete) is for you to develop muscle that possesses impressive size. Recent Research1 has made some key conclusions including that performing four to six sets of an exercise will induce 80-85% more muscle growth than performing a single set alone.
Sample Volume Protocol (Chest) – Intermediate Athletes, Twice Weekly:
Bench Press 4 sets 6-8 reps
Incline Dumbbell Flye 3 sets 8-10 reps
Cable Crossover 3 sets 10-12 reps
Pec Deck Flye 3 sets 10-12 reps
Sample Volume Protocol (Chest) – Advanced/Elite Athletes, 2-3 Times Weekly:
Bench Press 5 sets 6 reps
Incline Dumbbell Flye 3 sets 6-8 reps
Cable Crossover 3 sets 8-10 reps
Pec Deck Flye 3 sets 8-10 reps
>> Shaping / Sculpting Muscle. While muscle definition is heavily influenced by such training elements as your diet and cardio exercise, it can also be affected significantly by your volume protocol. When you’ve developed substantial muscle mass, but would also like more definition, you can adjust your volume to achieve this. Essentially, you’ll need to perform more sets or reps with lighter resistance.
However, there’s only so many reps you need to grind out per set; if you attempted to do one set of 50 reps, you’d be doing very little for your muscle shape, and simply developing endurance – something the judges do not pay any attention to when you’re up there on stage. The scientifically accepted threshold for training for definition is to perform about 12 to 15 reps per set.
Sample Volume Protocol (Quads) – Intermediate Athletes, Twice Weekly:
Squat 4 sets 10-12 reps
Leg Press 3 sets 12-15 reps
Leg Extension 3 sets 15 reps
Sample Volume Protocol (Quads) – Advanced/Elite Athletes, 2-3 Times Weekly:
Squat 5 sets 10 reps
Leg Press 3 sets 12-15 reps
Leg Extension 3 sets 15 reps + AMRAP*
* Perform 15 reps for the first two sets. Then, perform as many reps as possible (AMRAP) on your third and final set.
>> Maintaining Aesthetic Balance. If you train with strict form, you should be able to avoid any significant imbalances. However, these things do happen, even among competitive athletes. Correcting imbalances is very simple thanks to dumbbells.
Determine which of the above two categories of protocols you need to implement for muscle balance (either size or definition), then simply perform them on the one side of your muscles which is lagging. Remember that growth takes time, so if you have a significant imbalance, you may need to train the lagging side exclusively for up to four weeks with more emphasis than the stronger side.
One final consideration to keep in mind is that your body always adapts to whatever volume protocol you use. No matter what system of training you use, your body will eventually become accustomed to it and the progress you are making will slow.
To fitness athletes, this means constantly changing up your routine every six weeks or so to avoid stalling your gains. Even the protocols listed above will take you only so far, until it’s necessary for you to use a different system.
To sports athletes, there’s not as much flexibility in terms of volume, since you continually want to be able to perform your sports motor skills at a consistent optimal level. However, small changes in your sets and reps can keep those gains coming. Don’t forget that you can also vary elements like rest periods, the resistance used, the number of days per week you train, and the time of day in which you train.
You may have noticed that some of the most successful athletes in the world – regardless of whether they compete in fitness or in sports – often have a creative or imaginative side to them which lends itself to innovative and frequent short-term training adjustments that lead to long-term success in athletic performance.
“Single vs. Multiple Sets of Resistance Exercise for Muscle Hypertrophy” written by J. W. Krieger and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research