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Volume is Coming: lets get some insight

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Volume Part 1

When you are programming for yourself or anyone else one of the most common factors that is most commonly overlooked is a key qualitative value known as “Volume”.  Many of us understand what volume is in that it is the number of repetitions multiplied by the weight.  We hear the coach talk about this a lot when they want to you to add more training to the course of the week or a variety of places that it can be used in programming. Volume is key to set a base of strength in any movement or domain whether its weightlifting or gymnastics.


However, the problem that I have with peoples understanding of volume is that they never actually take into account of the full volume that they are using throughout the course of a week, month, or year.  They do not keep a detailed enough log to make this volume useful to the person that writes your programming, or yourself.  


If you look at a great deal of Olympic Level weightlifters (especially Russia’s and China’s) they track out the weekly volume and how it differs from week to week.  Ideally you want to gradually be increasing this volume over time though a variety of training measures.  However, this means that occasionally we need to perform testing measures in order to see if our maximum recoverable volume (MVR) has increased and if we can recover from it and not compromise performance in other lifts or areas of performance.  


After getting through the initial beginner stages of training (roughly two to four years depending on a variety of factors) you begin to plateau because you have adapted to the training stimulus.  However, one of the key factors we begin to lose track of is how much volume that an individual does over a period of time and if this value is in fact increasing.  I promise you that a great deal of advanced athletes not only don’t keep track of this value it’s just a “guess” or “by feel”.  However, if you start quantifying this data you have a much greater chance of improving (although not as dramatically as when you were a beginner) but more consistently then you were previously.  


Volume Part 2:  Should I keep Track of All of My Lifts?

The simple answer is yes.  As I train I keep track of all of my lifts including warmup sets, working sets, drop sets, and every accessory lift that I perform as well.  Why do you ask?  This if logged can greatly assist your coach in helping add to the programming on an individual level.  


One of the thing that I like to add to athletes programming is weekly challenges or 3 week waves of a different variation of a movement, usually increasing volume week to week and then backing down to allow adaptation.  We take a number that they can usually do some kind of REP MAX on most days and attempt to see how many of these athletes can do optimally and with technical proficiency.  We then do drop sets with weekly percentage changes to control volume and create yet another different stimulus.  One of my favorite things to do for strength movements such as squats, presses, pulls, and weightlifting are many variations we use to control volume such as pauses, tempo, blocks, belt or no belt, or even the type of squat, press of pull.  All centered around controlling volume and making sure athletes get 1% better every day and can still recover and train optimally not maximally.  We can do this by applying these principles to almost any kind of strength movement.


Base Strength Movements such as:

Back/Front/Overhead Squat

Press/Push Press/Jerks/Bench (yes BENCH)

Conventional Deadlift/Sumo/Clean and Snatch Deadlift/Pulls

Weightlifting such as:

Power/Hang/Squat Snatches

Power/Hang/Squat Cleans

Power/Split Jerks


We do this for all these lifts with all these variations, different rep maxes, percentages to make you better not mess with you.  We do this so you improve every time you walk in that door, because snatching to max or doing more and more pullups  every day will not make you better at both, maybe for a short time, but your body will adapt to these movement quickly.  We have to train and introduce new things to the body at all times in order to improve, doing the same things over and over just does not work. Period.  


Some of us do not enjoy this process, or want to go through the grind or work that it takes to get better.  We don’t get that PR one day or we are so sore or beat down we give up and move on to something easier or new because its easier.  Sorry but that is training, the grind is what its about.  In order for adaptation to happen you have to introduce the body to stimuli that forces change, change hurts, its uncomfortable, it just sucks.  I know I personally wake up sore, pissed off wondering why in the hell do I do this.  I have been doing this to my body since I was 12 years old. That’s 16 years of training and I have done it all at very high levels collegiate and pro. I know coaches who are well into their 40’s and still ripping it up, so age doesn’t mean shit. I am not saying train through pain, get injured or not make tweaks along the way so that you survive, like a I always say “Live to Train Tomorrow,” one must train OPTIMALLY not MAXIMALLY!!!.

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