Are you doing too much volume?

Borge 01 Nov , 2017 95 Comments Training

I posted this on my facebook page originally, and as expected it did cause a lot of controversy and engagement…which is good. Controversy means that it made people think, and what could be better than that?

I have edited a couple of points for clarity.

I know this is going to cause some controversy, but as the years go by and I work with more and more people, I am becoming more and more convinced that you don’t need as much volume as you think.

Most lifters do way too much, something I call “junk volume”.

It only takes 1-2 hard sets to get 80-85% of the training effect, and doubling-tripling that only provides marginal benefits with a large increase in potential negatives. Even Schoenfeld’s meta-analysis (there are some obvious confounders with reviews, but I’m not going into that here) showed that less than 5 weekly sets provided 5.4% gains, 5-9 weekly sets, 6.6% gains, whereas 10+ sets provided 9.8%. When stratified into less than 9 and more than 9 weekly sets, the difference was 5.8% and 8.2%, respectively.

This makes it sound like you get twice the gains by doubling the volume, but in practice, it doesn’t play out quite like this.

The rate of gains might be higher in the short term, but a very common outcome is that fast gains lead to faster stagnation and in many cases, various connective tissue problems or other overreaching symptoms.

Those who tolerate, thrive or benefit from the higher volumes usually have one or more of the following traits:

– submaximal training (keeping more reps in reserve, either by intent or because they’re not used to going to failure). This type of high-volume training works great for strength (via skill/practice) and the Norwegian Powerlifters who dominate on world rankings are reknowned for this type of training.
– great genetics, with a frame built for strength and muscle
– young guys and girls with optimal hormone levels and great recovery
– specialists who have worked up to tolerating that volume over years within their respective sport. At this level, the 1-2% advantages win trophies so the investment is worth living on the brink of overreaching. They also have their recovery needs taken care of, and some are often full-time athletes or competitors who live, breathe and die by their respective sports.
– drug use. This includes some coaches who are obvious or self-admitted drug users. It is hard for a coach to avoid confirmation bias – I know I have suffered from it many times during my career – so my best advice for mitigating this is to always question if what you believe is really true. A lot of the time, a belief can be true but only in specific contexts – which is what inspired me to write this post in the first place.

Dmitrij Klokov, a world champion weightlifter who also got several top placings in bodybuilding competitions. A genetic freak built for lifting has trained his whole life and is doing amazingly well with high-volume training. What works for him may not work for you.

Everyone else – we might THINK or WANT we belong to one of these demographics, but I think it is wiser to take an objective look at what hand nature has dealt us, and do a more intelligent investment strategy with your training efforts.

I know you probably don’t like to hear this, but when we get to a certain point it will be hard to gain even 1-2lbs/0.5-1kg of muscle mass per YEAR. How much effort and time are you really willing to put in to gain that 500g of muscle?

Answer that before reading on.

I have lowered volume consistently with most of my clients and it has only provided better results. I have also had several previous high volume clients on “rehab”, with the same story. Their gains were awesome in the beginning, they were constantly sore and tired but had some great gains…then they eventually experienced various aches and pains, and some of them ended up completely demolished.

When all motivation to train is gone, and when joints and tendons are starting to hurt – but you still keep going because this study or that expert says that it is “optimal”, I think we are – again – stuck in the mindset of general vs. individual.

I could pull all sorts of more relevant studies and show you how the outliers skew the averages in various studies on volume. There are high-responders, average-responders, and non-responders in various studies – yet the average gains in one volume tier vs. the other may favor the higher volume.

In my humble experience, from the clients I work with long-term – there are very few non-responders with more sane workout approaches. To give you an idea: Most muscle groups or exercises get 1-2 maybe 3 sets per workout and 2-4 workouts per muscle group per week.

The gains may not be as impressive in the first 6-8 weeks, but when I work with someone for 12-16 weeks (3-4 months) or longer, the gains just keep coming at a steady rate. An added, but important bonus is that they stay motivated, fresh and pain-free during that whole time.

I have clients returning after 3-6 months on their own, and they are still gaining (as long as they didn’t get tempted to chase excessive volume/frequency, or contract a difficult case of the well-known disease “fuckaround-itis”).

Chasing volume is fine if you fit into the categories I mentioned above, and you are willing to stay on the brink of overreaching for the sake of squeezing out a few extra % gains. Or if you just like to spend time in the gym, and compensate for the volume by working submax and taking longer breaks between sets.

For the rest of you, I would take some time for honest introspection. Are your gains in the gym the last few months or years, in line with the time and effort spent there?

I would try the following if you are getting nowhere on your current program, and suffering from various aches, pains or general lack of motivation:

– Take 9-14 days completely off and do something completely different. Walking/hiking, biking, swimming, play with your balls (I’m obviously talking about soccer, basketball, tennis etc), some easy mobility work (e.g. tai chi and yoga), just do something completely different to reset your mind and body.

– Go back in the gym, start with 1 set only and lighter loads for the first week or two. 2-3 workouts/week is fine.

– Go harder for the next week or two, then add in 1-2 sets of a few exercises (not all of them) per workout where you need to.

– Watch your strength increase quickly at first, and then settle at a reasonable but consistent rate over time.

– Don’t push it, and learn to appreciate how it feels to leave the gym without being completely drained or with various aches, pains or soreness constantly bothering you.

– Enjoy training, but not just in the gym lifting weights. I believe it is important to have fun, and your body is capable of a lot more if you just experiment!

Written By Borge

95 Comments on “Are you doing too much volume?

  1. Steve Reply

    November 2, 2017 at 8:56

    Great article Borge! I think it was definitely needed. Your like the Yoda of strength training these days =) I’m doing a high frequency program right now for strength (your sub-max category) with DUP, and I experimented the other week (after reading this on your FB) with only using 1-2 good sets (as opposed to around 3-4 sets) per movement, and I left the gym feeling fresh and without “various aches, pains or soreness”. The following week I noticed that I was able to push my big lifts harder with only needing to put my attention to 1-2 sets due to my normal aches and pains being gone. So I’ve now lowered my working sets to 1-2 and have kept my high frequency approach. I think getting rid of the “junk volume” and putting my efforts into only 1-2 solid sets will have me progress comfortably and with lesser pains over the long term like you said.

    Appreciate your wisdom Borge!

    • Borge Reply

      November 3, 2017 at 10:01

      Do. Or do not. There is no try. 🙂

      That is awesome feedback, Steve – I’m happy to hear it works for you!

  2. Joseca Reply

    November 3, 2017 at 4:17

    Great content as always Borge,
    I’m really gratefull as you opened my eyes with your high frequency training approach a couple of years ago, after a really long time of non-existent progress.
    I have experimented with higher volume approaches, but after 3 or 4 weeks i start asking myself why i’m doing this. I think that we always link fatigue to the efectiveness of a workout, instead of seeing it as a byproduct we should manage.
    Anyways, everytime i lower the volume i feel much better, and the progression i experimented with higher volumes is still the same, even better. But, as a human, i make the same mistake again, and i gradually start to add sets more volume… and the cycle starts again.

    BTW, At the moment i’m doing the Bayesian Bodybuilding PT course and i really like the content. I know that you and Menno share a lot of ideas 🙂

    Appreciate your work Borge!

    • Borge Reply

      November 3, 2017 at 10:04

      Great to hear, Joseca – and I think you should just start to trust your instincts 🙂

  3. Eric Ramos Reply

    November 4, 2017 at 1:52

    “Watch your strength increase quickly at first, and then settle at a reasonable but consistent rate over time.”

    This is the part that gets me, I usually do 2 sets (failure) and hit a BP two times a week and I’m not sure what counts as consistent rate but most of my pushing exercises just tend to stagnate. I tend to go with a more minimalistic routine.

    I’ll have to give a shot with maybe 3-4x a week to see if the added frequency helps. But at that point I know I may need to stay away from failure.

    Love the article. Hopefully I finally find a way to make this work.

    • Borge Reply

      November 5, 2017 at 10:46

      For strength gains, you would get more out of 1-2 reps from failure and doing 2-4 sets of low reps (even singles) at a higher frequency.

      • Eric Ramos Reply

        November 5, 2017 at 1:54

        Thanks, I went back to your FB page and did a search. I found lots of info that you wrote on stalls. I also saw how you recommended doing sets closer to failure if you wanted size.

        I’ve always bought into the HIT idea that training to failure will get you as strong as possible and size would follow those strength gains. But I’ve got a 2.5 squat, 3*BW for 5 reps on my dead and no size. I’m at least 20 lbs away from my potential, according to the height-100 formula.

        But I’ll have to mess around with frequency like you mention here as I followed the frequency that most in HIT would recommend, 1 or 2* a week.

        • Borge Reply

          November 7, 2017 at 12:45

          If you’re that strong, you should probably gradually and slowly increase your volume – but I would also use training such as Myo-reps extensively, to maximize the related adaptations (satellite cell activation, capillarization, glycogen storage etc).

          • Eric Ramos

            November 7, 2017 at 3:57

            Thanks, I think I’d die with MyoDeads lol, but I’ll try on the others. You aren’t the first to tell me I should increase volume. But too much volume never did anything for me. I like brevity in my workouts so MYo reps will definitely help and the tips here I think will help.

            Pressing and benching I’m exceedingly weak though I’m small boned, 6.25 wrist, 6ft wingspan and I’m 5’7.

          • Borge

            November 7, 2017 at 4:54

            Hence: “gradually and slowly increase your volume”.

            It doesn’t even have to be on all muscle groups, so i.e. add a Myo-rep set on 1-2 isolation exercises for 1-2 muscle groups for a period of 4-6 weeks, then change focus (or add in 1-2 isolation exercises for another 1-2 muscle groups).

    • Bunny Reply

      September 6, 2019 at 4:54

      Look at you recommending people SD and do 1-2 sets with high frequency after, slowly ramping it up 😉

      I still remember your posts over at the hst forums, blade. I remember maxstim and the birth of myoreps from you dragging out the heavy work and implementing cluster sets

      • Borge Reply

        September 6, 2019 at 9:10

        Yup, imagine that after years of research and experience, I have come around to pretty much the same principles 🙂 The only difference is that I also place more importance in what rep ranges is more productive for a given lifter and subsequent cycles will spend more time in that rep range.

  4. DJ Reply

    November 4, 2017 at 10:08

    More is less, eh? Sounds a bit like Heavy Duty a-la Mentzer/Yates. Seriously though, I’ve gone to a higher frequency upper/lower split 2 on, 1 off hitting body parts once every 72 hours (basically 3x in a 7 day period) and I’ve noticed some decent gains with less fatigue. Being 50, it’s been a nice change from chasing high volume and I save time in the gym. I do, however, get in more sets than you may be advising. Only on back and legs though. Normally I’ll end up with up to 25 – 28 sets per week of each. Smaller muscle groups get maybe around 10 – 12 per week. Doesn’t seem too much does it? Been going like this for over 5 months. Maybe I’ll scale back a bit.

    • Borge Reply

      November 5, 2017 at 10:45

      I have some of my elite bodybuilders and fitness competitors doing 20-24 sets per week, if that tells you anything.

      • DJ Reply

        November 5, 2017 at 9:59

        It does. I am definitely not elite, genetically gifted or enhanced. Not going to make me sad to drop it back. With maturity I’ve discovered that the perceived loss in “gainz” because I’m not killing myself in the gym is misguided at best and detrimental at worst. But then again, I’m not a 23 y/o male wanting to be Arnold either! Love your stuff and I practice the principles your biorhythm way of eating (I hate the term “diet”). It’s made a difference in my overall body composition.

  5. Boz Reply

    November 7, 2017 at 9:07

    Borge, awesome article as always! I wish you should post more regularly :).

    Let me ask you couple of questions. Currently, I train each muscle group 3 days on, one day off and then repeat the cycle…. something similar to your chest workout (light, heavy, medium, off strategy). Weekly volume is ¬ 12 sets/ muscle group.

    What I’ve noticed is that some of the muscle groups respond quite well and I’m progressing quite well (at least in terms of strength) but other stagnate and I remember in one of your comments you say that the optimal program does not follow strict frequency and the real art is to find out what frequency and volume are most appropriate for each muscle group.

    Could you share some tips what kind of experimentation could we use to get to know our optimal frequency/volume per muscle group?

    I will keep the routine as it is now for muscle groups that do well but wondering what to change when it comes to non-responders. I increased my chest weekly volume with +2 sets (14) and after couple of wks I got a nasty pain in the shoulder joint without any strength progress. This could be a result of pushing almost all sets to failure and here is my last question…. I know you recommend going near failure when we aim for size but what RIR would you recommend for best results and could those sets to failure be the cause of my pain? I did the mistake to change volume and proximity to failure at the same time and now I can’t understand what is the cause of the issue.

    I look forward for your 0-carb book.

    • Borge Reply

      November 12, 2017 at 8:49

      Well, if the current frequency and volume isn’t working, you need to change something. It could be that the muscle group/lift in question is at a less advanced level than the others (eventually, it will be as the others progress) – and that you should treat it like a “beginner”. So less frequency (2-3x/week) and less volume (1-2 sets per workout). You should also experiment with a phase of Myo-reps, I have seen that reignite muscle growth in many clients.

      I generally recommend 1 RIR, and sometimes 2-3 for some lifters. At heavier loads you can work submaximally (i.e. 2-3 RIR) and still get maximum benefits as muscle activation is close to maximum from the very first rep.

      • Boz Reply

        November 12, 2017 at 9:26

        Thanks my friend!!!! I owe you a big one.

  6. Paul Reply

    November 13, 2017 at 3:40

    Borge what are your thought about deload week and functional overreaching during the month (increase volume every week)?

    • Borge Reply

      November 13, 2017 at 6:14

      I will write more about this in the Myo-reps e-book, soon to be released – but it’s completely illogical in a physiological system. Applying a sufficient stressor will allow the organism to adapt. Applying an excessive stressor will cause maladaptation. E.g. getting a suntan – would you rather gradually expose yourself to the sun over several days and weeks, or do you think intentionally getting a sunburn and then spending a week indoors is a better strategy?

  7. Paul Reply

    November 13, 2017 at 11:18

    Yes, sounds legit.
    But we can’t increase volume without limits in our training

  8. Zäck Reply

    November 16, 2017 at 4:53

    Hello Borge,

    even if you count the warm ups as regular hard sets, Dorian Yates did only 12 weekly chest sets on his ?1993? Mr. Olympia prep for example, yet most average joes train with 20+ sets per week and still look like crap. As you recommend working with an intesity 1 rep away from failure, even less than 10 sets/week should be sufficient for us average people then, when working every set close enough to failure. For me, Yates alone prooves your points against staying too far away from failure and junk volume.

    Cheers

    • Borge Reply

      November 16, 2017 at 6:49

      I wouldn’t necessarily use a professional bodybuilder as an example of what to do or not to do training-wise, but I obviously agree that it makes no sense to do super-high volume programs if you’re not making any progress anyway. The return on investment is not only zero, but negative.

  9. Peter Reply

    November 17, 2017 at 10:57

    Great article! I’ve been trying to rush slowly, having the mindset that it’s fine to spend years to slowly progress.

    What do you define as a muscle group? The numbers are easy to understand, but I’m unsure how to categorize my exercises to better use these ideas.

    Let’s take the upper body push stuff. In my program I got some compound with weighted push ups, dips, overhead press, shoulder press, and some isolation with flyes and lying overhead triceps extension. Which of these fall into the same muscle group? The compounds are usually heavier (5-10 reps) and isolation 8-20 reps, changing up the reps on a weekly basis or on each workout. 3-4 workouts a week.

    Does push ups, dips, flyes and tricep fall in the same group, or just push ups and dips?

    • Borge Reply

      November 19, 2017 at 10:52

      Chest is a muscle group, shoulders are a muscle group (but can also be divided up into front, side and back), triceps are a muscle group. Compound exercises would involve more muscle groups, isolation less. You wouldn’t necessarily count all muscle groups equally, so, for instance, a weighted pushup might count 1 set for chest and front delts, but you might count it as 1/2 set for triceps unless you were doing them with a narrow grip.

  10. Mark Lander Reply

    November 25, 2017 at 2:05

    Borge, do you programm delod after 4-5 weeks of high volume training?
    Or you mantain the same volume during all the year?

    Which are your opinions about periodization (volume and intensity for produce better body response)?

    • Borge Reply

      November 28, 2017 at 8:14

      I have discussed this in my recent e-book on Myo-reps (see my Zero Carb blog post to learn how you can get it), here’s a quote:
      “I don’t prescribe to the periodization model where you are supposed to intentionally overreach or overtrain, and then take a week or two of reduced training or rest (deloading) to improve performance or muscle growth.

      It just doesn’t make biological sense to do something now to achieve a positive adaptation in several weeks. The body adapts over hours and days from a given stressor.

      What you are seeing is the effects of fatigue masking your true performance, but accumulating fatigue doesn’t necessarily lead to a better adaptation. I have heard many claims of this, but still seen no real evidence of it.

      It makes more sense to impose a sufficient stimulus and follow that with sufficient recovery, and if you balance this correctly you should be seeing gains the very next workout. Increases in muscle mass are hard to measure on a short-term basis, so you would look at performance markers (load, or reps at the same load) going up consistently as a sign that you are programming the stress:rest ratio correctly. “

  11. Frank Reply

    November 28, 2017 at 4:52

    Great post Borge, thought-provoking as usual.

    For submaximal training, generally for your average intermediate lifter, how many sets per lift (or muscle group) per session and how many times per week do you recommend as a baseline?

    Do you like cluster sets in this regards? And (in case of positive answer) how do you set up them?

    Thank you very much!

    • Borge Reply

      November 28, 2017 at 8:16

      The range would be 8-18 hard sets per week, 2-6 sets per workout, 2-4x/week. With submaximal training, you can often double the volume per week/workout, depending on the lifter.

      Cluster training is a viable submaximal training method, and I tend to just auto-regulate rest periods in order to ensure it is true submaximal work.

      • Frank Reply

        November 29, 2017 at 4:43

        Wonderful, thank you Borge.

        Regarding clusters set up, generally which parameters do you use, in terms of rep range, volume and intensity for the mini sets?

        Do you like to auto-regulate them also?

        Example of one cluster: mini sets of 2 with 4RM (numbers are completely made up of course) until speed start to decrease and/or you reach a target RPE. That’s how I like to do them, but I don’t know how much effective this approach could be.

        • Borge Reply

          November 29, 2017 at 4:47

          There are many cluster set variations, obviously – the one I often gravitate towards is e.g. 4-6 sets of 1-3 reps with 30-60secs of rest (note, these are all ranges, since it will depend on the overall program structure and the individual client), only increasing the load when you can complete all sets without speed dropping off significantly on any rep or set.

          This is for strength and power focus.

          For more hypertrophy focus, I would go closer to failure, but only a certain neurological type can thrive on low rep, higher volume hypertrophy work IMO.

          • Frank

            November 29, 2017 at 8:01

            Got it.

            With this set up, I suppose we’re talking about just one (or maybe very few more) cluster per lift per workout, right?

          • Borge

            November 30, 2017 at 9:46

            With the volume I recommended, it is indeed just “one” cluster, depending on how you define a cluster set. Many would consider a 3-6 sets of 1-3 reps as just that—3-6 sets…not a single cluster set.

            This is also why many are having pointless arguments about volume, and throwing around e.g. Dorian Yates or the Norwegian Powerlifters at the opposite ends of the volume spectrum and bodybuilding vs. powerlifting spectrum.

            Dorian would do several warm-up sets that were sufficiently heavy that others call them working sets.
            The Norwegian Powerlifters do several working sets that are so light and submax that others would call them warm-up sets.

            Example Dorian workout for delts:
            Smith Machine Press – 120lbs x 15, 240 x 12, 340 x 8-10
            Seated Laterals – 50lbs x 12, 70 x 8-10
            Cable Laterals – 35lbs x 20, 70 x 8-10

            Now, even though some of these are lighter sets, the reps are also higher, and if you tried to do the same workout with adjusted loads to your strength levels, you would find the “warm-up sets” to be quite fatiguing and heavy.

            So is this really just a 3 set per muscle group workout, or is it 7 sets?

            Then a look at a common Norwegian Powerlifting workout, taking the bench press as an example, and using % of 1RM as the loading parameters:

            50% x 5, 57.5% x 5, 67.5% x 5, 72.5% x 4, 72.5% x 4, 77.5% x 3, 77.5% x 3, 77.5% x 3, 77.5% x 3, 77.5% x 3

            Now, this is tallied as 9 sets in their workout logs, but looking at the numbers, all of these sets are submaximal. Most people could do 10 reps at 75% of 1RM, so doing 4-6 sets at 3-4 reps is a perfect example what we just discussed:

            You and I may define this as a single cluster set, the powerlifters define it as 4-6 sets—since the rest periods are usually 2+ minutes between sets.

            Hope that was an enlightening brain dump 😀

          • Frank

            November 30, 2017 at 3:51

            Actually I hope you will take as many as these brain dumps as possible!

            Also, I’ve always wanted to know how the Norwegian PL Team trained exactly, so it was a nice bonus. If you have more informations about their high frequency routine, please share!

            Back on topic. Just to be perfectly clear, for “clusters” I was referring to the typical approach to them, i.e. multiple mini-sets of low reps with short rest in-between. With this set up generally you would have more than one cluster per session (example: https://www.t-nation.com/training/magic-of-cluster-sets); hence my question.

            But of course there are many more variants. I particularly like this one, because it’s sort of autoregulated and I’m sucker for autoregulation: as many singles as possible with 4RM with 45 seconds in-between, https://www.naseinc.com/blog/traditional-versus-cluster-set-training-for-strength-and-power/

          • Borge

            November 30, 2017 at 4:19

            I’m obviously also a fan of auto-regulation, but the problem I can see with doing that on clusters if you have no idea what your volume tolerance is, is that it’s easy to overdo it. So I would instead figure out the volume target you are aiming for, and then translate that into a cluster setup – like I did earlier – then apply some auto-regulation on top of that.

            So for instance, using a 4RM, let’s say you would normally get 8-12 total reps with a volume of 3-5 hard sets.

            When using singles every 45secs (which, on its own is kinda arbitrary—why 45, why not 30 or 60 seconds?), some might be able to keep going 30 minutes if they are neurologically wired for it, have a good work capacity and so on…then this might lead to excessive DOMS and muscle breakdown and take several days to recover form. So I would probably suggest picking a range of 6-18 reps, giving some leeway since working submaximally would allow more total reps, which is kind of the point with clusters.

          • Frank

            November 30, 2017 at 4:31

            That’s EXACTLY what happened to me (even though I used a lighter weight), the completion of the set took forever, and I’m not even remotely neurologically gifted.

            Thank you so much Borge, your inputs are always invaluable.

  12. Charles Reply

    November 30, 2017 at 4:06

    Just bought your ebook bundle and your myoreps for busy people, and really enjoyed all of them. Thanks, Borge!

    I have a few questions if you don’t mind:

    1) When you count “hard sets” towards total volume, what is highest RIR that would count as hard? For example, would leaving 3 RIR still count as hard set? If so, how about 4?

    2) Is it common for some lifters to find the myoreps days more difficult to recover from the heavier, lower rep days? I would normally think this might apply to those with lower work capacity, but I feel like I have good work capacity and am more on the slow-twitch dominant end.

    3) Lastly, is it okay to run the upper/lower or the push/pull template under the intermediate tab for 6-7x/week? I don’t think I am ready for the session volume in the advanced program, but enjoy training frequently.

    Thanks!

    • Borge Reply

      November 30, 2017 at 9:55

      My pleasure, Charles—glad you enjoyed them!

      1) It kinda depends on what rep ranges we are talking about, and this is where RPE can be more useful than RIR. So for instance, 1 reps at a 2RM is 1RIR but a 9RPE. 29 reps at a 30RM would be very close to a 10RPE, and in fact rep 25 would most likely be rated a 9RPE for most people and a “hard” set subjectively, even though it’s 5RIR.

      Then you have the grinders who may think they have only 1RIR, but when pushed they can grind out 4 more reps.

      So I would say that anything above an 8-8.5RPE qualifies as a hard set. YMMV

      2) Yes, higher reps can indeed be more demanding on some lifters, especially if you are able to push yourself harder. Some people can grind out rep after rep and really go hard on the Myo-rep sets, but are cautious when lifting heavy loads, so 3 sets of 3 reps can be recovered from quickly. Others, like myself, are the opposite—and 3 sets of heavy loads will wipe me out for days but I can do daily Myo-rep training on a given muscle group and feel fine.

      3) Yes.

  13. Germano Reply

    December 3, 2017 at 6:43

    Borge what do you think about intuitive training?
    Do you have any advices for try it and implement with “no track” diet?
    Thanks

    • Borge Reply

      December 8, 2017 at 6:41

      If you mean intuitive as in “just go in and do whatever you want”, it takes a lot of experience to get this to work. If you have a selection of exercises and rep ranges, and auto-regulate it according to how you feel that day, I’m all for it.

  14. Emmanuel Reply

    December 10, 2017 at 11:56

    Borge, do you think eating carbs pre workout like sweet potatoes or fruits (1-2h pre training) is better for bodybuilding performance than eating all carbs only post workout (dinner)?

    • Borge Reply

      December 12, 2017 at 10:10

      Carbs are not necessary pre-workout to perform well, no. This is highly individual, though – and for someone on a carb-based diet who responds well to it, I usually have them do 20-30g of carbs from fruit immediately pre-workout.

  15. Jona Reply

    December 13, 2017 at 2:16

    Have you ever tried to train with the minimum effective volume (1 set x bodypart) but with highest frequency (every day).. ?
    This is like Phil Hernon fullbody routine.
    As seen in latest Brad study, we need very little amount of set every week (10), so i think to give it a try..
    Good evening borge!

    • Borge Reply

      December 13, 2017 at 3:35

      Yes, I see no reason why that couldn’t work, if you ensure that you go failure or as close to it as possible. I would also consider Myo-reps for this purpose.

      • Dave Reply

        December 21, 2018 at 2:51

        I know this is a year old, but I just recently came across some information on Phil Hernon. If you have a minute Borge, could you shed some light on this topic for me? I’ve been lifting for about 10 years with various lay offs here and there due to life and I’m looking for a change of pace from the usual full body or upper/lower split. The information on Hernon is minimal regarding his program recommendations but I’m very intrigued by his full body every day approach as I love putting all my focus into one hard set or 2 then moving on to a new movement and I prefer working the body as a unit.

        If I recall correctly it was something along the lines of 1×8-10 on day one, and 1×15-20 on day, so on and so forth and you take a rest day when you feel you need it. Basically DUP but utilizing 1 set per movement. Now, if one were to do this in a full body format, would it be acceptable when cutting slowly? I would assume if you push the sets hard but avoid absolute failure and keep a rep in the tank, the lower volume would allow you to get away with this. Possibly a 2 on 1 on rotation where you hit 1×8, followed by 1×15 the next day, rest a day, then repeat and add weight and repeat? With the overlap on compounds I’d suspect you’d be seeing more than just one set for your major muscles groups at the end of the day with the exception being quads and hamstrings, unless you throw in a dead-lift variation of some sort, or perhaps weighted step ups or lunges which shouldn’t be problematic or time consuming considering the low set count.

        I would venture to guess this would work for not only cutting but for a mass gaining phase as well as long as you tailor your diet accordingly. The recent volume research basically stating 10+ is “superior” for hypertrophy is intriguing, but the way I see it, if you did the format I’m presenting, and gave it your all, there’s no way you shouldn’t see size and strength gains if you hit it hard and fast. I doubt it will be as fast as doing 12 plus sets, but I don’t think you’d see twice the gains by doing that much more volume either, as you stated when it comes to real world examples. The short term gains might come quick with high volume, but the long term sides usually offset that. I’m 30 by the way and this sort of routine seems like it would jive quite well with me. Thoughts?

        • Borge Reply

          January 22, 2019 at 1:48

          Hernon uses two main approaches:

          1. A chest+back/legs/shoulders+arms split, 1st set 6-9 reps, 2nd set take 10% weight off, 3rd set take another 10% weight off – so basically an RPT model.

          2. Daily full-body workouts until you feel like you need a rest day, rep range 10-20 reps depending on the exercise (he emphasises going by instinct and feel).

          He claims 2. was the superior one. I think it largely depends on the lifter (training history, injuries etc).

          I’m certainly a fan of higher frequency training, but it’s not for everyone – I got great results on the 1st program, and I’m doing something similar these days just with slightly higher volume to increase my work capacity – 5-8 sets per muscle group per workout, but never going to failure, which is probably the only way to make higher volume work unless you have everything in your life managed optimally (sleep due to a 16 month old son, stress due to high workloads these days).

        • Robert Reply

          June 4, 2019 at 6:12

          Hi Dave, I have experimented with Phils full body 6 days a week program, but burned out because I have a really hard time holding back and am 58 with not perfect sleeping habits. I am going to give it another shot. Have you worked the full body 6 days a week program? What were your experiences? Thoughts?

  16. Zäck Reply

    December 13, 2017 at 2:36

    Hi Borge,

    could people with great genetics, who would benefit from a high volume program, reach their muscular potential also with a low volume approach (e.g. 8-10 sets) if they just train long enough?

    • Borge Reply

      December 13, 2017 at 3:34

      Yes, I don’t see why they couldn’t. It would be like saying that you could not get a tan unless you spent half the day instead of all day in the sun.

      • Zäck Reply

        December 13, 2017 at 8:18

        Awesome, so if you dont have to be as muscular as possible in a given timeframe, you basically just increase your risk of overtraining and injuries.

  17. Nik Reply

    December 17, 2017 at 8:22

    Very good article!
    I’ve bought your ebook about ZC borge.
    But i’ve a question..

    When you speak about myoreps, you consider that every myoreps set is like 3ish straight sets.

    So if I want to stay in the low volume treshold area, maybe is better do less ‘myo sets’ ?
    Or you consider myo reps low volume training?

    • Borge Reply

      December 17, 2017 at 10:21

      Yes, if you look at the program examples that goes with the e-book, you will see that it is usually enough to do 1-2 Myo-rep sets.

  18. Nik Reply

    December 17, 2017 at 11:51

    One moment..
    For low volume you intend a complete myo rep set (activation + 3/5 set x 3/5 reps) or less “myo set” (activation + 1/2 set x 3/5 reps) ?

    Thanks Boss 🙂

    • Borge Reply

      December 19, 2017 at 10:07

      I consider a normal Myo-rep set low volume regardless of total reps as per the auto-regulation principles laid out. Those are simply a function of your strength-endurance and work tolerance.

  19. […] good read on the subject is an article written by Borge Fagerli where he recommends more moderate volumes for several […]

  20. Pablo Reply

    December 19, 2017 at 7:19

    Sir, do you think if i reduce my training volume, is a better idea reduce caloric intake to avoid fat accumulation?

    • Borge Reply

      December 19, 2017 at 7:36

      A normal workout typically burns maybe 200-300kcals/hr, maybe more if you are a bigger guy…but the few calories difference (100kcals or so) won’t make or break your progress if you don’t account for it. It is way easier to over- or underestimate daily caloric burn from regular activities, where most people can be off by 500kcals or more.

  21. Alan Reply

    December 24, 2017 at 2:20

    Thanks borge for your christmas’s newsletter!

    One question…
    If training to failure with 20RM is efficient as failure with 6RM, and I try to training daily with less volume (10 set x week), maybe on the day I use light weight, is good to do a single set to failure (20RM) instead a myo rep set 20-25+ (you mentioned that is like 3 classic set) ?

    • Borge Reply

      January 17, 2018 at 2:58

      If you are training daily, you would most likely not be able to do Myo-reps every day unless you are very advanced and have everything in your life sorted (sleep, nutrition, circadian rhythm).

      • Green Reply

        January 19, 2018 at 6:50

        Curious thought:
        Do you believe (or have any of your clients) doing ONLY myo – reps all the time? Would it be possible to gain/grow with myo – reps in the same rate as with heavier weights?

        • Borge Reply

          January 20, 2018 at 11:31

          I don’t have any of my clients on Myo-reps alone, all the time. That would be kinda lazy of me as a coach. I walk a client through the setup and evolution of a training program over time, to teach them how to train themselves after the coaching is over. Myo-reps is one of the methods used.

          I wouldn’t have a problem with someone using Myo-reps as a stand-alone method to build muscle, however. It is time-efficient and more effective than the same volume of straight sets. There is no reason to believe that heavier weights are needed when hypertrophy is the only goal.

  22. Erik Reply

    January 3, 2018 at 9:25

    Borge, what’s your thoughts about two a day training? With a lower volume approach, the sessions would be really small I guess.

    • Borge Reply

      January 17, 2018 at 2:57

      I would only use it for highly advanced lifters, unless we are talking separate exercises and muscle groups in each session. The data even on elite-level weightlifters on two-a-day training isn’t very impressive, so I would not expect intermediate level lifters to benefit.

      • Erik Reply

        January 19, 2018 at 6:48

        Thanks for taking time to answer.

        Benefits would mostly be to higher intensity per session?

        • Borge Reply

          January 20, 2018 at 11:32

          Normally, you generate fatigue as you get deeper into a workout, so the exercises done at the end get lower quality work than exercises done at the beginning. Thus, spreading the volume out over two sessions would allow a higher quality of the exercises you would normally be doing in a fatigued state – provided that you manage your recovery well, of course.

          • Erik

            January 20, 2018 at 2:12

            GREAT response. Thanks Borge.

  23. Charles Reply

    January 21, 2018 at 3:25

    Have you ever read Scott Abel’s Hardgainer Solution? He also prescribes training very frequently (you can do the workouts daily and they are full body), but uses quite high volumes all many reps short of failure. He does specify that it is for a specific demographic – what he terms a hardgainer. Just curious if you like his approach if you have read the book?

    Thanks!

    • Borge Reply

      January 22, 2018 at 11:56

      I have read it, and I don’t like Abel’s approach to be honest. A “hardgainer” isn’t necessarily someone who is undertraining, it could be quite the opposite – or it could be their nutrition or sleep that is off (very often it is). I am thinking of developing some more material on how to individualize training and nutrition, as I have quite a few methods that – even though there isn’t any randomized controlled studies on them – have proved to be very effective throughout the years…

      • Charles Reply

        January 23, 2018 at 3:37

        I will definitely be on the lookout if you do create more material! Thanks!

        His book doesn’t make it sound like they are undertraining though. He makes it sound like they benefit from more frequency, but with more higher rep ranges several reps shy of failure. He argues that most “hardgainers” do not do well with a lot heavy, low rep movements.

        I have been trying some of the workouts and do enjoy them only because I find I force myself to progress each time I lift even if I am not feeling it for that day. So, if I follow a 3 or 4 split, I always try to add load and often burn out too soon. The change in exercise selection throughout helps with this. However, I know progressive overload is ultimately the goal over time.

        Sorry for the ramble:) Thanks!

  24. Charles Reply

    January 29, 2018 at 1:18

    Really nice article.

    I see you prescribe volume in terms of heavy sets/week for a movement/muscle group. For example for intermediates you said they should do 9-18 sets per week. Now, I doubt you ever make your lifters do 15 hard sets, or even close to that, of deadlifts per week since it’s generally more taxing. So I’m sure you’ll agree when you talk about movements, there should be a bit more context involved.

    I wonder how do you determine what exercises one should do if they want to increase their squat, deadlift and bench weights? Do you consider what muscles are limiting factors in certain movements?

    • Borge Reply

      January 29, 2018 at 3:01

      If one were to do 18 sets for deadlifts per week it would not be hard sets, no – but I honestly think most people can infer that from just using some common sense, hence “movement/muscle group”. So you would use the deadlift but also hip hinge movements such as glute-ham raises and RDLs to get up into that kind of volume. And also, 18 sets would be the upper end of the range and only for someone with everything in order, recovery-wise.

      To answer your question, I generally look at what parts of the movement seem to be limiting. So pause work if weak off the chest in the bench press, floor press for bottom to middle-range, bands or boards for middle- to top end of the range. Then, you just have to apply it and see if it works, because in theory it may seem that this is the most logical way to do things, but in practice you can have someone getting no added bottom end strength from pause work, but getting tremendous gains using bands. Only experience and testing can tell you this.

      • Charles Reply

        January 29, 2018 at 7:02

        Makes sense, thank you!

  25. Lawrence Neal Reply

    March 22, 2018 at 1:46

    Interesting article Borge! It seems like there are a lot of concepts we agree and some areas we differ. Can’t wait to have you on the Corporate Warrior podcast to learn more about your perspective. I had no idea how prolific you are!

    • Borge Reply

      March 22, 2018 at 2:13

      Thanks, Lawrence! Looking forward to discussing it further 🙂

  26. Dave Reply

    May 1, 2018 at 5:51

    Hello Borge,

    I have just bought your Myo-Reps book and then came across this article. I’m 49, have never really had a good response to training in terms of size and often felt thrashed. Recently due to fatigue and work/family commitments I have had to cut back to a full body routine with DUP consisting of TBDL (2 sets DUP H/M/L i.e. on Day 1 I do 2 heavy sets, Day 2 I do two medium sets and Day 3 I do two light sets all after warmups), DB RDL (2 * 12), Leg Extension (2 *12), Pull Up (2 sets DUP H/M/L), Machine Row (2 sets DUP H/M/L), DB Incline Bench (2 sets DUP H/M/L), DB O/H Press (2 sets DUP H/M/L), Lateral Raise (1 set), DB Inverted Curl (1 set), Pushdown (1 set), Hammer Curl (1 set) – on the exercise with one set, I stop just short of failure. With my schedule I can get to do this twice a week but three times is very challenging – so on the DUP exercise I would rarely get the entire Heavy , Medium and Light cycle done in one week. Do you think it’s too low volume to gain muscle size? Thanks

    • Borge Reply

      May 2, 2018 at 5:59

      4 sets per week is borderline low, yes – but if you have a high stress environment it could very well be the best way to set up a program for you. Are you gaining strength? That is the most important thing. If you generally feel well recovered after workouts, you could try adding 1 set to the main movements. I would also prefer that you added a knee-dominant lower body movement. If squats are difficult, add a split squat or leg press.

      • Dave Reply

        May 3, 2018 at 1:20

        Thanks very much for the advice, I will try to act on it.

  27. Mario Diniz Reply

    June 10, 2018 at 11:39

    Hello Mr. Borge, amazing article.

    Could you please explain where did you get this “It only takes 1-2 hard sets to get 80-85% of the training effect” from? I’m very curious about this, because if this is true I will switch to a full body workout plan.

    Thanks!

    • Borge Reply

      June 11, 2018 at 8:31

      Thank you 🙂

      It is based on the aggregate of the research on the dose-response on training volume for hypertrophy – when you ignore some of the meta-reviews that tend to be slightly biased.

      • Mario Diniz Reply

        June 11, 2018 at 10:19

        Thanks for replying!

        So in your opinion 3 hard sets per muscle group, per session, would be sufficient to stimulate 85% of maximum hypertrophy/strenght in the muscle, even in a intermediate with 9 years of lifting?

        When you got to a 180KG bench-press you used this principle of training aswell?

        If so, I will try a full body routine 3 times per week, ~3 hard sets per muscle group per session.

        Thanks once again 🙂

  28. Dekadinious Reply

    June 28, 2018 at 9:30

    Hello Børge!

    I am currently doing a variation of Lyle’s Generic Bulking Routine with about 14 total weekly sets per muscle group. I only have the opportunity to do four days in a row (upper/lower), with three days rest.

    In your experience and with your current knowledge, would it be more prudent to do it like this, or to change to a three sets per muscle group type program four days in a row (full body)?

    The volume would go down slightly, but frequency would increase. The problem is, should you push hard on all days, or not on such a full body program? If not, would this limit gains? Muscle size is the current goal.

    • Borge Reply

      July 2, 2018 at 1:13

      Yes, full body 4 days in a row I would do for a higher rep phase only, then an upper-lower split for lower reps. I think 12 sets is the maximum for most people with ordinary lives – and many find that they have better long-term results with more moderate volumes of 6-9 weekly sets.

      • Dekadinious Reply

        July 7, 2018 at 8:02

        Thanks!

        I think I will keep the program as is with upper/lower training four days in a row, but the next cycle I will try to go for the lower ranges of sets per exercise.

        This will give me about 10 sets per week per muscle group on Lyle’s Generic Bulking Routine. I’m not training too close to failure most days and I am progressing in weight only when I hit all reps on all sets.

        This way I have some periods of lower intensity as a normal progression on the program, and only one or two weeks pushing close to max per 6-week cycle.

        Will four days in a row still be able to give good muscle building results with such a plan, even though upper, lower, rest, upper, lower, rest, rest probably is “more optimal”?

        • Borge Reply

          September 15, 2018 at 11:38

          Yes, there was in fact just a study published that showed equal outcome with 3 days in a row vs spread out, so I think 4 days should be fine as well.

  29. Charles Reply

    September 10, 2018 at 7:16

    Found you after hearing you speak on SSD podcast. From there I’ve been reading and listening to all your content. I believe you mentioned you are in your 40’s from one of the podcast. With that being said, I am 41. I have spent the last three years trying the high volume (15-20 sets per body part) approach with no luck and feeling like I have been spinning my wheels along with my shoulders getting destroyed. Your insights on volume were a breath of fresh air. At the same time I’ve recently heard some podcast indicating the ability to gain any muscle (besides initial newbie gains) in your 40’s is not going too happen. That makes me think I should just dial my training back for maintenance and not push myself to hard to avoid any other injuries.

    What are your thoughts on trying to gain muscle in your 40’s? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again

    • Borge Reply

      September 15, 2018 at 11:39

      My thoughts about what, specifically? Whether it is possible? Of course it is.

      • Charles Reply

        September 17, 2018 at 4:29

        Thank you for responding. Yes, I was questioning whether or not it was even possible to gain muscle in your 40’s after the initial newbie gains. My initial attempts to gain some lean mass by increasing my calories by 350 – 500 calories per day over 8 weeks while following a high volume approach seemed to only increase my waist size. My bodyweight was only increasing by 1 pound a week and taking various measurements from chest, arms, back, thighs and calves seemed to remain static with no increase. These measurements maybe could have been so minuscule that they went undetected or with the high volume approach I kept my muscles in a state of always trying to recover to baseline instead of increasing in size. I have done this 2-3 times with what seems like no improvement over the past three years.

        With that said, how would you recommend an individual in their 40’s go through phases where they are trying to add mass?

        1. Do you recommend a different type of training to individuals in their 40’s or should it be very similar to the current SSD program? I feel as though the current SSD program is directed towards younger individuals.

        2. What caloric surplus do you recommend or percentage of bodyweight increases per week would you recommend. I apologize if you have already stated this in one of your podcast. Just trying to come up with a game plan to improve my lean mass at my current age.

        Thanks again for all the information you provide via your website, podcast and social media.

        • Borge Reply

          September 18, 2018 at 2:57

          1. The SSD program is perfect for older individuals, so not sure where you got that idea – remember that I’m 44 myself. The SSD System involves phases of training with an underlying structure that enhances the results of the one prior to it. As I will also cover once you are getting to the end of the first training cycle (there will be a module on a drip schedule to be released only after 10 weeks since you purchased it), is how you can optimize the program further based on various metrics that will be apparent once you have gone through a full cycle.

          2. Also covered in the SSD system, and this will depend on your training status, but gaining more than 0.2-0.5% of bodyweight per week is usually going to lead to more fat than muscle gain.

  30. Ryan Connor Reply

    October 13, 2018 at 9:03

    Hello Coach Borge – huge fan of yours.

    So I want to swing this idea by you. I’m a pretty advanced lifter (placed in a NPC mens physique, lifetime natural).

    I’ve done every split and routine the sun. And what I’ve gravitated towards, as a nice “base training” style, and especially when life/recovery is off is…FULL BODY TRAINING.

    Someetimes every other day, or perhaps daily full body. The latter is where the nuance is. And what you have recommended here (light/heavy/myorep) on all muscle groups daily…this is some next level stuff!!!

    I want to structure something right here though and not blow my recover off the wall.

    What do you think of this..conceptually…and of course would appreciate any suggestions you have.

    Full body (every other day).
    3-5 main compound movements, done in a strength circuit fashion (antagostic pairing). Brisk pace, resting only long enough to maximize performance.

    Rep scheme alternate amongst 8/6/4/2 (wave ramping) or 3×5 or 5×5 or just ramping sets of 3 (to a training max).

    Then back off and basically do one myo rep set with a 15-20RM, possbily only for one or two compound lifts (body part ofcus) or maybe ALL of them.

    Done. Off day next day. THen come back again next day and maybe alternate rep scheme/lifts (barbells, dumbells, weighted calisthenics, machines etc.) to keep things very novel and fun.

    Now…the nuance is can I do this EVERY DAY? Rather than every other day. Would that honestly be too much. Something like Day 1 (the above heavy compound split) and Day 2 (15-20 rep machine pump circuit??).

    Can this work?? Throw a myorep day in there as well.

    Full body everyday (or eveyr other day), rotating heavy/myorep/light days.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this and any advice for practical implementation!

    Best,
    R

    • Borge Reply

      October 13, 2018 at 9:42

      Hi Ryan, thank you for the feedback and congrats on your achievements 🙂

      I think full-body workouts 5-6x/week can work if you are young, healthy, have optimal sleep, stress management, hormones and in general have excellent recovery. I would divide whatever weekly volume you have found to be your sweet spot over the number of workouts per week and go from there. Keep in mind that 1 Myo-rep set is 2-4 standard sets, volume-wise (depending on your strength-endurance profile). I would not mix different types of stimuli and loading on the same day, keep them separate.

      A recent Swedish study showed some of the most impressive growth rates ever in a research setting with a weekly undulating periodization model where weeks 4 and 8 were dedicated to occlusion training (which Myo-reps emulates) and the other weeks were rotated around different rep ranges. That should also be able to work on a daily rotation, but there might be advantages to focusing on a given type of stimulus for a period of time to allow adaptation and avoid redundancy/overlap or interference effects.
      https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319142595_Optimizing_strength_training_for_hypertrophy-A_periodization_of_classic_resistance_training_and_blood-flow_restriction_training

      Which is why I have reasons to believe that a linear load progression and a gradual transition from higher rep, Myo-rep training to lower rep, mechanical loading – as outlined in my new training system found at http://www.sustainableselfdevelopment.com

  31. Jake Furze Reply

    February 14, 2019 at 5:17

    Hi Borge

    Really enjoyed this article. I do full body 3 times a week, my routine is:

    Bench Press
    Chin Ups
    Dips
    Barbell Row
    OHP
    Squats
    Deadlifts

    I do one set for each exercise until I can’t do another good rep with clean form (no drop sets or pause sets) and when I can get to 8 good reps or more I increase the weight on the next workout

    Would this workout mean I’m hitting the muscle groups for around 6-9 sets per week (eg chest shoulders and triceps on bench, dips and ohp for 9 sets a week) and therefore fit your recommendation for the right amount of weekly volume or should I be doing each exercise for 3 sets per workout three times a week?

    Also feel free to critique my routine 😉 look forward to hearing back from you

    Jake

    • Borge Reply

      February 16, 2019 at 12:02

      I don’t do program consults in the comments section of an article, that requires a more thorough evaluation of someone.

      1 working set, unless the warm-ups are in the vicinity of 3-5RIR, counts as 1 set. You do have some overlap, depending on how you perform each exercise – so I would say you are in the range of 3-6 sets per muscle group per week with this program.

  32. Perry Rose Reply

    April 29, 2019 at 1:24

    Hello Borg.

    Excuse me if I have missed your answer to this question already asked — but do you know what hits the central nervous system more, high or low reps?

    At 55 years old, and lifting for about three years now, I am still trying to find a good workout.

    Thank you in advance.

    • Borge Reply

      April 29, 2019 at 8:56

      Higher reps will hit the central nervous system more, recovery-wise, but going to failure and muscle damage also does – so heavy, low rep training to failure and eccentrics will also require more recovery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *