Do This BEFORE You Increase Training Volume

One of the first things you’ll be recommended to do when you’re starting to transition from the beginner phase of lifting to the intermediate phase is to “increase your volume”.

This can come in multiple forms, more reps, more sets, more training days…bottom line being you end up doing more “work” over the course of the week. This is good advice. 

HOWEVER…I see too many athletes that are given this advice go on to endlessly increase their volume without thinking about any other training variables. This generally means they end up doing a whole lotta work…without a lot of results.

Here’s some factors to consider before jumping to the conclusion you need to add more volume to your training.

1. Training Intensity

First thing first…are you training hard enough?

One of the biggest things I’ve noticed training general population athletes is many individuals don’t know what a genuine RPE 8 effort feels like. Many times I’ll see individuals complete a set where they could have easily repped out 5 more reps, but they stop and label it an RPE 8. It can definitely take some time to getting used to what “difficult” training feels like.

This being said, if you’re training intensity isn’t quite up to par, it’ll be in your best interest to focus on that first.

3 sets of 10 reps at a proper RPE 8 are going to be worth your time compared to say 6 sets of 10 reps but they are barely RPE 5.

Make sure you are training hard enough first THEN consider if you need more volume. You may notice with the increased training intensity you’re too tired to increase your volume in the first place. This will save you a lot of time avoiding junk training volume.

2. Training Specificity

Another common programming issue I’ll see is a lifter wants to increase their bench press. They currently do 3 sets of 10 reps on bench and they plan to add tricep extensions, shoulder presses, and back work to help up their bench press.

This WILL help…however…what about simply adding in more bench training?

Athletes will often times begin adding in training volume in all the wrong places. There’s nothing wrong with some extra accessory work, but consider training specificity and what is going to get you to your goal the quickest.

In this case, simply adding in an extra bench press training session is going to do far more for the athlete than tricep extensions ever could.

3. Volume Per Training Session

Finally, consider how many sets you are currently completing in your day to day workout?

As an example, you could only be training 3 days a week, but on each of those days you are completing 20 working sets. Instead of trying to cram even more sets into those already loaded training days, you could consider keeping the same volume but adding an additional training day.

This would me training 4 days a week but instead hitting 15 total working sets per workout. You’re still going to be completing the same training volume per week, but now you’ll be able to focus more intently on each set of your workout.

It’s much easier to focus on completing 15 high quality sets for a given training day then trying to slog through 30 sets where you are inevitably going to be too tired near the end to get any quality work done.


Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.