Being slim has been my nightmare because people always have the stereotypes like I don’t have much strength. And I sometimes can’t find shirts that suit me very well because I look just wizened. So I started my work out plan at the beginning of this semester. I want to gain muscle and in the meantime gain weight. Then there won’t be people questioning if I am strong enough to do something. But after two months of training in the GYM, the result is way too little to be apparent. I know Rome was not built in a day. And this really takes time and effort to get to the goal. My roommate is strong, and he told me he has been working out for 3 years. He also gave me a negative answer when I asked him if he was muscular before he started working out. It still brings me relief though I already value effort and persistence. But I think it is always helpful to get on the right track. Then I began my research out of the desire to find the proper and effective way to gain muscle. After my I-Search essay, I have a new question that what is the excessive volume for a specific muscle group, in order to find an optimal amount of volume to maximize muscle hypertrophy. I only get to know that excessive volume has negative effects on muscle growth but the article which brings it up doesn’t give a specific demonstration of what really the amount is. This research is complex because it has to keep only one variable, which is training volume. The other complexity is that different muscle group has various reaction to training volume. Considering the natural difference of various individuals, it is hard to keep one variable. There has been debate going on about the exact training volume to maximize muscle hypertrophy but no certain answer. I want to help find the answer and it be beneficial to me and other body builders on our body-building path.
The first source I found is also an article from Medium. It aims to find the relationship between training volume and muscle growth. It is published online for Internet users who work out to better apply training volume. The author Chris Beardsley is an English former professional footballer who played as a striker and now is the fitness coach at Championship club Burton Albion. He first concludes the definition of training volume that volume is the number of stimulating reps that are performed for a muscle group in each set. Next, he explains the dose-response effect of workout volume on muscle hypertrophy. In the end, he gives the takeaway that moderate volume is more effective to muscle growth than low volume, excessive volume is less effective than moderate volume.
This article gives me an insight that high training volume can actually weaken the results due to muscle damage response, which means high volume leads to severe muscle damage, causing muscle fiber loss. I used to believe that the more I train, the better result I will have. It turned out to be wrong. So this article to some degree affect my shift from exploring the relationship between training volume to what is the excessive volume of a specific muscle group. Chris takes too much time talking about the definition of training volume that readers may wonder what the main point really is. And when he starts to talk about the studies, he uses many technical words that normal body builders can not understand. It will be more approachable if he considers more about his audience.
After hearing from a former athlete, I went on to see how scholars view the relationship between training volume and muscle hypertrophy. I found a journal on the web of science that written by Schoenfeld, BJ and Krieger, JW. They are respectively the Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences of City University of New York City — Lehman College and Clinical Professor in the department of health services of University of Washington. This journal is written in response to a question arisen by other scholars that “Is it possible to reach reliable conclusions doing eta-analyses with resistance training studies?” So the targeted audience are the scholars in sports science field. Unlike an article published for all online users, a journal requires formal and academic writing. The researchers tried to keep single variable when researching the dose-response relationship between resistance training volume and muscle hypertrophy. And 13 out of 15 studies show positive results with higher volume but there is one favoring low volume. They realize that they left out some variables like gender and age and that muscle groups are related, in other words, there won’t be only one muscle group working when training a specific muscle group. But given the practical limitations in carrying out the studies, this is the current best study to research the dose-response relationship between resistance training volume and muscle hypertrophy. It draws the conclusion that a muscle group should have at least 10 sets per week to achieve great muscle hypertrophy, but the upper limit of volume has not been found because of limited studies.
The authors are brave to put the words straight forward that the studies are not enough and the variables like gender and age are not considered. And this journal makes me fully aware of the importance of keeping one variable. It also teaches me that one muscle group can not function alone, thus bringing the problem of counting training volume. My goal is to find the upper limit of training volume to a specific muscle group, but it only states the lower limit. But in general it helps me more deeply understand my research question.
This is an online YouTube video talking about body builders nowadays focus too much on training volume that they ignore the importance of training intensity. They tend to blindly add on sets and it is a waste of time. High training volume can be achieved by simply adding sets while high intensity is achieved by effort. Many body builders have very low training intensity although they seem to spend a lot of time training because it is easier to adopt high training volume than high intensity and high training volume is achieved at the cost of intensity. This is the opinion from Jeff Cavaliere, he is a psychical therapist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). It’s made for the body builders who blindly use high volume but ignore intensity. And Jeff wants them to attach importance on intensity. This video almost kept me thinking if I am doing everything in vain because intensity seems more important than volume. But on second thought, it is not either training volume or intensity, they exist at the same time.
I learned from this video that the proper sets to stimulate muscle hypertrophy is 4–10 sets. And it somehow shows that the upper limit is 10 sets. But I am a little disappointed because it doesn’t apply to a specific muscle group. Based on my previous research, different muscle groups react differently to training volume. Jeff refer to the statistic by saying according to a recent research. It would be more credible if he gives credit to the researchers.
After watching Jeff’s video, I found a journal titled “Comparison of Training Intensity Versus Training Volume on Endocrine and Muscle Growth Changes in Trained Men” by authors Gerald Mangine, David Fukuda and est. They are respectively the professor in the Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management of Kennesaw State University and Associate Professor and Division Head in University of Central Florida. As the title vividly present, the purpose of this research is to see whether high volume or high intensity training have greater changes on endocrine and muscle growth. I found the journal under the category of physiology, so I think the intended audience are those physiologists. This study has 29 men as subjects and they were randomly assigned to either a high volume or high intensity resistance training program. Changes in lean body and leg mass were assessed by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Ultrasound images were used to assess muscle thickness and cross-sectional area in the Vastus Lateralis and Rectus Femoris. Researchers also took blood samples to test testosterone, growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor 1, cortisol, and insulin. As the authors state: Area under the curve analysis revealed a greater response in growth hormone and cortisol for volume than intensity at week 3; This analysis indicated greater cortisol again for volume than intensity again in week 10; Compared to week 3, week 10 shows a reduced response in growth hormone and cortisol for volume and insulin-like growth factor 1 for intensity; Intensity- trained men experienced increases in lean body, leg mass, muscle thickness and cross-sectional area in the Vastus Lateralis. As a result, high intensity appears to be significantly helpful for muscle growth and lean mass.
This research really proves Jeff’s opinion and is very detailed and precise. Our human body works internally to build muscles so it is a good perspective to look into what endocrine has to do with muscle growth. It helps me more comprehensively understand the inner relationship between training and muscle growth.
After talking so much about what is right and how to gain muscle efficiently, let’s see how exactly we should perform. I found a new updated article on verywellfit.com. This website has won many awards for its trustworthy information and good communication. So I decided to use the information even though the author is a nobody because I can’t find his information online. This article aims to provide useful information for online users who have a desire to have better results in their workouts, and probably helps to sell their workout products like workout plans or workout gears. It uses very approachable register and very easy to understand. Those journals are just too time-consuming because there are so many technical words and I have to open a new tab specially for translation. First the author gives the definition of volume and intensity by using deadlift as an example. He states that intensity can be increased by increasing volume also taking deadlift as an example. The author applies the maximum heart rate to describe intensity, in the meantime giving the appropriate numbers to guide the readers. The article does provide useful information for body builders, but the advertisements surrounding around won’t do any help except pushing readers to click on the close button.
It has been a long journey exploring sources and evaluating them. What kept me moving forward was my desire to find the answer. However, despite all searching and studying, I still could’t a certain conslusion because of limited data. For what we have, we know that most muscle group should at least endure 10 sets a week to achieve great muscle growth because it is true that there is very few of them actually favor low volume. Like Jeff said, so many body builders have very low training intensity, including me. Sometimes I would take a rest when a set starts to become diccicult and will do more sets as a compensation. As a matter of fact, this is why I don’t see results. So intensity is really the key, we can even do the job what most people do with adding volume in 1 hour with high intensity in 10 minutes. I feel so regretful that I did’t have access to intenisty earlier. My ultimate goal is to find the way to maximize muscle growth. The whole thing is not about volume any more, it’s intenisty. Don’t waste an hour in the gym any more, there is a much more efficient way!