Turn Up The Volume: 4 Ways To Increase Training Volume For Size & Strength Gains
As summer comes to an end – and with the Olympia on the horizon – most lifters will be dreaming about making some serious gains over the next few months.
Whether it’s packing on some size, increasing strength, or a mixture of the two, manipulating your training volume is a great way to grab a few extra kilos, whether it’s weight on the bar or weight on the scale.
What is training volume?
Training volume is not, unfortunately for some, how loud you slam down your weight at the end of each set or how many can hear what number rep you’re on from the other side of the gym (no-one cares).
It’s all about how many total sets or total reps you do per muscle/movement pattern.
Although reps can be used to measure volume, using sets is far easier and more reliable.
So say, for example, when you train your legs you do 4 exercises of 3 sets each, your total volume would be 12 sets.
It’s good to keep track of your training volume all year round so you know when you are slacking off or maybe pushing a bit too hard.
In the spirit of Spinal Tap, turning the volume up to 11 for anywhere up to 6 weeks can be a really good way to bust through plateaus, spark new growth, or prime yourself for a solid 12-16 week training block.
So let GymTalk take you through some brutal ways to fire up the system ready for bulking season!
German Volume Training
When you think volume training, the word German automatically springs to mind.
Originating from Germany in the mid 70s, this routine was originally used by Olympic weightlifters.
Jacque Demers for instance (see below) claimed that GVT was responsible for his massive thighs.
The shock to the body is the secret of this system, and gains of 4kg have been shown in 6 weeks, even in experienced athletes.
GVT is as simple as it is effective – 10 sets of 10 reps are performed on any given movement.
Start off with a weight you could crank out 15-20 reps to failure and aim to add weight to the bar when you can do 10 sets of 10 with constant rest and no missed reps with the weight.
The kicker here is rest is kept to a minimum – 60 seconds to be exact.
No more, no less.
It will be tempting to take a little longer towards the tail end of this workout but don’t give in.
Exercise selection should be strictly big, compound movements – think squat, bench press, rows and chin ups.
After the 10 sets of 10 on, for example, bench press, you can do some extra flys or incline press with the regular 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps to top up the volume even more.
Expect to be as sore as a penguin’s ballbag the next day – especially in the first couple of weeks!
Run a GVT programme for a maximum of 6 weeks, or throw a 1 or 2 week cycle in between other programmes to give your body a bit of a change of pace.
Gironda 8 x 8
This routine was used by Vince Gironda (below), one of the original bodybuilding coaches from back in the day, to add 20kg onto the frame of Larry Scott before winning the Mr Olympia.
This system is not for the faint hearted.
Not one to sugar coat anything, when Gironda first met Arnold he famously said, “Well, you sure look like a fat f*ck to me!”
As for the system though, it is similar to German Volume Training but instead of a 10×10 routine it calls for 8 sets of 8.
Where GVT prescribes just one exercise per body part, Gironda had some of his trainees doing 4-5 exercises.
5 times 8 sets will have you pumping out a massive 40 sets per muscle group!
If you’re coming from your usual 12-16 sets you might have a prolapse, so for even intermediate lifters I’d start off with one or two exercises with 8×8 and, if you still feel the need, add some assistance work with a regular sets/reps scheme.
As with GVT, rest period is kept to a minimum.
Gironda had his clients taking as little as 15 seconds rest between sets – but as usual start off with a standard minute.
If your conditioning is fairly good you can try doing 8×8 with 30-45 seconds rest.
But, I warn you now, you will be alll kiiiiiiiinds of sore the next day!
If you complete all 8 sets of 8 reps with relative ease, as usual, add weight to the bar and carry on.
You can be fairly liberal with exercise selection here – compound or single joint, you’re going to get a pretty crazy pump either way.
The only exercises to avoid are moves like the deadlift, bent over rows and good mornings, where the lower back is going to get really fatigued really fast, and if you’re not careful that could lead to an injury that might put you out of action for a few weeks.
No-one wants to lose their hard earned gains lying in bed now do they?
This one could be considered a little bit ‘bro’ as the science behind this technique is fairly wishy-washy.
But as far as getting an awesome pump goes, Fascia Stretch Training is as good as it gets.
Developed by Hany Rambod (below centre), this method is all about hypertrophy and getting a serious pump, strength is not the focus here.
The theory is that by performing lots of sets, 7 to be exact, with minimal rest, you force so much fluid into the muscle bellies that you stretch the fascia surrounding the muscle, allowing for new growth.
To do this, pick an exercise and perform 7 sets of 8-12 reps.
The weight should be heavy enough for you to be able to complete 12-15 reps in 1 set.
The difference between FTS-7 and GVT or Gironda’s 8×8 is that you can reduce the weight as the sets go on so you can complete the minimum 8 reps required per set.
A recurring theme with volume training, the prescribed rest period is between 30-45 seconds per set.
This really keeps the muscles full of blood and you’ll have barely enough time to recover before the next set is ready for you.
The best exercises to pick for this are going to be single joint isolation exercises.
Rambod himself recommends the use of machines for many of the body parts but cables will do the job nicely as well.
Think pec dec, lateral raises and leg extensions to name a few.
To make the most of FST-7 training, stick it at the end of your usual workout.
For example, complete the usual 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps on squats, lunges and leg press before finishing off with 7 x 8-12 on the leg extension machine for a brutal quad session.
Expect 3-4 days of recovery for certain muscle groups if it’s your first time training with this method.
If it’s good enough for Heath, it’s good enough for you!
Developed by iconic strength and conditioning coach Charles Staley (below), Stack-10 is a great volumiser for those looking to increase their strength without too much thought about gains in size, although expect some decent growth as well.
The idea with Stack-10 training is to pick a lift or muscle group that is lagging behind slightly.
As far as movements go, think big compound lifts such as squats, bench press and overhead press.
Begin with an empty bar and hit 10 reps.
Then add 10% of your current one rep max to the bar and hit another set of 10.
So if your current one rep max for bench press is 100kg, add 10kg for each consecutive set.
Thus the progression in this example would look something like:
20kg, 30kg, 40kg, 50kg, 60kg, 70kg.
Stop the exercise when you cannot complete the set of of 10 with the weight.
Then next week use the same progression and try to complete more reps on the 70kg set until you can hit 10 reps.
If in this example the trainee completes 10 reps at 70kg they would add another 10kg and move onto a set with 80kg.
Rest intervals are less aggressive and can be anywhere from 1 minute for the first few easy sets to 2-3 minutes for the latter sets with more weight.
Stack-10 is as effective as it is simple really.
No fancy tricks, just hard work.
The added bonus here is that doing the lighter sets will give you a good warm up and help program the movement patterns into your brain for the main lift, something often needed to improve a weaker lift.
So there you have it, four programmes varying from complete muscle building focus to a mostly strength training focus.
Like most good programmes though, improvement in both areas will probably be seen.
Run any of these programmes for a maximum of 6 weeks, and after that I recommend changing your focus to training intensity, which I’ll cover in a later article.
Plus, all four of these schemes are brutal and will crush you after about 6 weeks anyway!
Have you tried any of these before?
Want to know more about them specifically or have any other questions?
Leave a comment below – and, as always, go pick up some weight and put it back down again!
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