Volume Is The Key Driver For Muscle Hypertrophy

Discussion in 'Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST)' started by IgnaGB26, Jan 15, 2022.

  1. IgnaGB26

    IgnaGB26 New Member

    Hello everyone, my name is Ignacio and this is my first post on the forum. Glad to meet you all.

    In the last few years there has been a number researchers arguing for the dose-response relationship between training volume and muscle hypertrophy, even a published paper calls Volume The Most Effective Variable in Resistance Training.

    I personally thought all these researchers must be right, they are of course the experts on the topic, but nonetheless I decided to do some research myself.

    One point I got from a podcast interview with Bryan Haycock was that any reasonable resistance training program will get you to your genetic potential eventually, but better programs will get you there faster. So, why not investigate if higher volume of training has an effect on the rate of muscle hypertrophy?

    This is what I came up with:
    I took 24 studies and divided the final muscle gain by the numbers of weeks. (Those far up right are from the Schoenfeld volume study and are 3 SD away from the mean, which would gives us an indication that the measurements were probably confounded by something, like edema for example). EDIT = I made a mistake when doing the calculations of Schoenfeld's study, the results are within a SD.

    As you can probably tell, there is no apparent dose-response relationship between training volume and rate of muscle hypertrophy.

    IMHO, those arguing for a dose-response relationship make some unsubstantiated assumptions with their research:

    • You need higher volume to reach your genetic potential. NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS.
    • Trained trainees require more training volume to keep on gaining muscle. NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS.
    • It is possible for a trained athlete to keep gaining muscle at the same rate that a beginner. NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS.
    • You can keep on gaining muscle even when you are very advanced. NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS.
    I believe those assumptions are confounding those investigating training volume., disregarding the fact that most research looking at training volume is poorly controlled (poor control of intensity of effort, very seldom they control for genetic variability, no control for body buidl, etc.)

    Enough of my rambling, I would like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

    I leave with a quote from a Ralph Carpinelli article:

    "What do the advocates of the more-is-better philosophy mean by a greater number of sets-greater than what? Berger (1962) reported a 3% difference in strength after performing 300% more exercise using three sets compared with one set. Will six sets (600% more exercise) elicit a 6% greater increase in strength? Will ten sets (1000% more exercise) produce a 10% greater increase? Will 100 sets (10,000% more exercise) produce twice as much strength as one set? Is there a volume limit? What do the authors mean by a greater number of repetitions-20 reps, 100 reps, 1000 reps? What are the physiological mechanisms involved with a greater volume of exercise that would stimulate greater muscular size or strength? These are questions that are never addressed by those with the more-is-better mentality."

    Best Regards

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 17, 2022
    Old and Grey likes this.
  2. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    Welcome to the forum Ignacio. I would say that you are spot on with your conclusion about volume. The key is to know how much volume is enough and to learn that anything above that is junk volume and can even be detrimental. A related field of study that I also find interesting is concerning "effective reps". There is a group on FaceBook called "Abbreviated Training" that it may be worthwhile taking a look at. There is a wealth of information in the group's stored files that may interest you. If I have learned one thing from almost 65 years of weight training is that you must be open to change as you age. Always keep your training in line with your recoverability. Good luck Ignacio!
    _Simon_ likes this.
  3. IgnaGB26

    IgnaGB26 New Member

    Hello @Old and Grey and thank you for welcoming me.
    You are spot on, enough is enough and more volume would just delay recovery.
    From my point of view, Recovery is what determines training frequency and once you have your frequency set you have some wiggle room to find the number sets that would do the trick.
    (Assuming we base our recovery on our ability to add reps to our sets).
    Now that I realize, this goes against one of the HST principles, that you can train a muscle even if it's not recovered. Maybe rep strength is not that important for hypertrophy? :confused:

    I'm a member of the "Abbreviated Training" group, but I thought this would be a better place to discuss the science of training since here we are all about hypertrophy.

    Best Regards
  4. mickc1965

    mickc1965 Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the group Ignacio
  5. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    I think this gets all misconstrued with some of this research. Volume is really 'time with tension', and of course, more time increases the 'stimulus', it doesn't guarantee the response is proportional though. We know doing a 1RM for 1 rep is almost zero stimulus for hypertrophy, even if your effort is at 100% but less effort with less load for more time/volume, will induce hypertrophy, so time/volume is probably the most critical variable that is somewhat proportional for hypertrophic stimulation, but the 'leap' to the idea that more and more volume, beyond the threshold for a response that is semi-proportional to the volume/time, is just not correct either IMO.
    _Simon_ likes this.
  6. IgnaGB26

    IgnaGB26 New Member

    Thanks @mickc1965 !
  7. IgnaGB26

    IgnaGB26 New Member

    I made an edit to the original post because I made a mistake while doing the calculations for Schoenfeld's study.
  8. IgnaGB26

    IgnaGB26 New Member

    Hello @NWlifter ,
    I think we all agree that volume is important up to a point. Thing is:

    • What is that point? Most studies are showing that the more you the better your results (except for Aube 2020 study) with no apparent limit.
    • What I wanted to show with my analysis was that the rate of gains achieved with high volumes (30-45 sets per week) is achievable with lower training volumes (9-12 sets per week) so the pleiad of coaches making the case for maximum volume is unjustified.
    • What we need is studies with better control of genetic variability, body build (which is rarely controlled), and past training volume.
    Of course those studies using an unilateral model control for genetic factors and body build, but there are only a few of them.
  9. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    Yeah and it's individual too and based on effort and frequency too.
    I know with me, I have had a gain increase going from 5 up to 20 sets a week, but only for one or two muscles, and only for a little while . I'd assume it's mostly sarcoplasmic increases. Now a days, I'd rather just go slow and steady over trying to get 'fast gains', as IMO, that's all extra volume does anyway, just some quick sarco gains for a short time.
  10. IgnaGB26

    IgnaGB26 New Member

    Hi guys,
    Just wanted to share with you some things I've been thinking about lately regarding the issue of volume.

    • "The effectiveness of any load-stress depends on the condition of the tissue at the time the load-stress is applied."
      I think we all agree on this principle but the thing is that it is no possible for us to provide a increasing mechanical tension stimulus other than by increasing our intensity of effort. This is so because muscle fibers generate the mechanical tension that they respond to, and if the velocity is minimal the force is maximal regardless of the Intensity of Load (assuming that we use between 30-90% RM) so linear increases in load doesn't make much sense from that perspective.
    Volume, as in number of hard sets, can be increased. So, we do have a way, other than decreasing RIR, to increase the load-stress we expose our muscle fibers to.
    Quoting Bryan:
    "For HST we use a different approach. We intentionally expose the muscle to ever increasing loads irregardless of the rate of strength increases. In this way we are able to maintain the level of stress at a given ration to the level of adaptation. Yes, we are trying to stay ahead of the rate of adaptation. If you do not, your growth rate will slow. There is an interesting paper you might like to read, Taber LA. Biomechanical growth laws for muscle tissue. J Theor Biol. 1998 Jul 27;193(2):201-13. In it the author shows,

    “The total growth, therefore, depends on how fast the active modulus (effective stress) decreases relative to the growth rate (rate of adaptation). The slower the decrease in [effective stimulus relative to the rate of adaptation] the greater is the final muscle thickness, and vice versa. This example shows that neglecting changes in material properties sometimes can lead to erroneous conclusions.”

    I had to make a couple edits here because he’s actually using mathematical symbols which I can’t type correctly here. So yes, I am actively increasing the severity of load-stress at a rate that matches the rate of adaptation so that growth can continue more quickly than it otherwise would."

    So with this in mind, constant volume ramping approaches like the one Dr. Israetel proposes, irrespective of strength recovery or rep strength gain, theoretically can be more beneficial for the rate of hypertrophy.

    BUT, 2 caveats:
    1. Is a volume ramping approach hypertrophy specific, or is it more strength endurance/fatigue resistance specific?
    2. Is this backed up by resistance training studies?
    When looking at the resistance training studies comparing different volumes there appears to be a trend for 6 sets per session, 12 sets per week to be a point of diminishing returns when it comes to training Volume.

    From James Krieger's Volume Bible

    From Menno Henselmans Volume Meta-Analysis

    A point I want to brought up. There are some studies (Schoenfeld 2019, Radaelli 2015, and Brigatto 2019) that investigated higher training volume (30-45 sets per week) and found beginner like rates of adaptation in advanced trainees and a clear dose-response relationship between number of sets and muscle thickness. I find it very curious that those studies looking for a dose-response relationship actually found one and with no apparent limit. Seems to good to be true. What I was thinking lately was that maybe Ultrasound measurements are more susceptible to confounding factos, like edema, non-uniform hypertrophy, or technician criteria when taking measurements.
    I think studies comparing different training volume but measuring Appendicular Lean Mass would be nice to have, that will paint a clearer picture for us.
    That being said, I do not think US measurements are very accurate for reporting increases in muscle hypertrophy so I don´t think that much weight should be given to those studies. Mostly because there are discrepancies with other measurement methods, and because they go against the rest of the literature. That's just my humble opinion.

    Anyway, just a few thoughts that I wanted to share.

    Would love to discuss them with you ;)

    Happy Weekend All!
    NWlifter likes this.

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