Surely it is no secret that results are obtained through hard work and perseverance. In order to reap the rewards that we want, we have to be willing to pay the price. When it comes to people who are committed to making gains in the gym, there is no shortage of hard work. They are used to going the extra mile and putting in the requisite effort. It doesn’t matter how many reps and sets they need or how often they have to train, they’ll get the job done (and then some). However, there seems to be a collective thought process within the fitness community that more work means better results. Lift more weights and you will get bigger and stronger. Do more cardio and you will get leaner. But this “more is better” approach has to have some limitations. This is something we have come to realize with respect to our nutrition. More calories doesn’t always mean more muscle gain, just like a bigger caloric deficit isn’t always the best approach for fat loss. But how does this apply to the approach we take with training? You will find that more is not always better when it comes to the fundamentals of strength and muscle gain.

 

Training Volume

Science seems to have reached a pretty clear consensus that training volume represents the foundation of any training program [3][5]. In order to progress in strength or hypertrophy, you must meet a certain threshold of volume. This threshold is different for everyone and depends on several factors such as biological age, training age, and muscle fiber type. There also seems to be a trend that shows more volume to be superior to less volume for improving training adaptations. So, naturally this represents an example of how more is better, right?

Not so fast.

Just as there is a lower threshold that must be met for adaptations to occur, an upper limit also exists. Each increase in training volume is accompanied by a progressively smaller increase in results. We call this diminishing returns. What is important to understand is that those progressively smaller results can eventually cross over into negative results.

Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV) is a term popularized by Dr. Mike Israetel which describes the upper limit of training volume beyond which performance decrements will start to occur [4]. He gives some ranges in terms of number of sets that correspond to the MRV of each body part. While this is nice to use as a starting point, it is important to realize that the MRV for each person will be different and that MRV is not a static number. In order to figure out your upper limit of volume you need to take an objective look at how you feel and progress during a training block. Sometimes taking a step back and reducing volume is the answer to breaking through a training plateau.

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