Managing Your Variables – Part 1

18 Apr

Recently we talked about the importance of “program management”. The concept is somewhat broad, but the first step is to understand the different variables that affect a training program. My plan is to start with the more well known concepts (i.e. volume and intensity), but also branch out into some of the lesser considered variables as well.

I think the most important variable to consider in a training program is volume.

Volume can be equated to the total work done in a given amount of time. Therefore, each session has a given amount of volume, but so does each week, and training block.

Many people assume that the heavier the weight they’re lifting, the more they must be doing. This isn’t necessarily true. It’s easiest to view volume in “total tonnage.” While you may have set a PR on a given day, it doesn’t mean that overall you did more work.

For example:

Squat Session 1: 135 x 5, 185 x 3, 225 x 1, 275 x 1, 315 x 1 = 2,045lbs

Squat Session 2: 135 x 5, 135 x 5, 135 x 5, 135 x 5, 135 x 5 = 3,375lbs

Both sessions included 5 sets. Session one included 4 sets over 135lbs, but only 6 total reps at those weights. While session 2 included no weight over 135lbs, 25 total repetitions were completed, and over 1,300 more lbs were moved.

That is an imperfect definition of volume, but I think it gives you a solid idea of what variable we are managing.

So how do we manage volume? Here are a few important bullets:

  • It can be managed many different ways, but it must vary. You cannot do a ton of volume all the time, just as you cannot set a PR every single week (forever). Make sure you include periods of Very high, high, medium, low and, very low volume. Depending on how you organize your training, these amounts of volume will come and go at different times. For the general person I have found the most success when volume is varied each week. For athletes, with well defined off seasons, a more block style can be beneficial.
  • We will talk about intensity in the next installment, but volume and intensity should share an inverse relationship. The acuteness of this relationship may depend upon a person’s preparedness or goals, but it will be present in some capacity. If the intensity is very high, the volume must be low.

How will high or low volume affect a person?

High volume will largely produce a muscle fatigue effect. The outputs being given aren’t necessarily that high, but the total amount of work will leave the muscles tired. The results of this are often increased soreness, and increased hypertrophy. The residual effect of high volume training can lead to significant strength gains when volume is managed correctly over the course of the training cycle.

Lower volumes are important to work in as well. First off, transitioning from higher volumes to lower volumes will give the body a chance to recover and regenerate. Therefore, it makes sense that these periods be included in any program. Furthermore,  they can be used wisely to peak for competition. Low volume, should be used in the context of weekly volume when a person has multiple training sessions during the week involving near maximal attempts.

Hope this gives you more insight on managing volume in your program. Stay tuned for part 2!



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