Weight Training: Volume or Time instead of Reps!

Arnold 2We all would love a torso like Arnolds right? If you are into weight training then you’d have to be crazy not to think Mr Schwarzenegger looked incredible in his prime. However, genetics, an unbelievable amount of hard work and probably some illicit substances all went towards making him the icon he is.

If you are like me, a fairly ordinary guy, you’d be pretty happy looking even half as good as he did. However, even to achieve that, especially as you get a bit older, still takes a lot of hard work, clean eating and heavy lifting. You CAN achieve great things if you put your mind to it but even the most dedicated weight trainers will become a bit jaded from time to time. One of the reasons for this is repetition. You can mix up your exercises as much as possible but 90% of people will still end up doing a fixed number of reps and sets. Depending on if you are training for size and muscular growth, or just for strength, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll end up doing something like 4 or 5 sets of 6-12 reps on most exercises. Over a period of time, when you have been doing that for month after month it can become hard to stay motivated. So what do you do about it? Well below I’ve detailed two different methods which you may not have tried before but which can bring some variety and even new gains and improvement to your time worn routines.

Volume Training:

Initially this can be a slightly difficult concept to get your head around and the first thing you’ll need to take to the Gym with you is a small pen and pad. This is the way it works. Lets say you are training your Chest, you will need to count the total volume of weight that you lift across all your reps and sets for all your chest exercises. You can do it in pounds or kilograms, whatever floats your boat. So let me illustrate this for you with a full example and breakdown of a typical workout. I’ll use nice round figures on the weights to keep it simple.

Barbell Bench Press: 5 sets of 10 reps @ 80kg . So 10 reps would be 10 x 80kg = 800kg. 5 sets of that is 5 x 800 = 4000kg Lifted.

Barbell Incline Press: 5 sets of 10 @ 50kg. 10 reps would be 500kg. 5 sets of that is 2500kg.

Dumbbell Decline Press: 4 sets of 10 @ 60kg (30kg each hand). 10 x 60kg = 600kg. 4 sets of that 2400kg.

Dumbbell Flys: 4 sets of 10 @ 30kg (15kg each hand). 10 x 30kg = 300kg. 4 sets = 1200kg.

So in total for your chest you have lifted 10,100 kg for your chest. Keep a record of that and the next time you train your chest make sure you lift more total volume than that figure. You can do that by using exactly the same exercises but increasing the weight, doing more over all reps or simply by doing some extra sets or exercises. You can use this technique for all body parts. Keep your records to hand, make sure you document them and train this way for a couple of months. You will be amazed at the amount of extra volume you can add in a couple of months and if you work hard will be equally amazed at the gains in size and strength that you make using this method.

Stopwatch weights

Time:

By time i DO NOT mean the length of time you actually spend in the Gym and train for. I’m a big advocate of getting in and out of the Gym quickly, 60/70 minutes absolute max…..you do have a life after all. What i mean by time is “time under tension” for the muscle. The way you do this is to do an exercise for a fixed period of time such as 40 seconds. You need to use a weight that you can lift smoothly and continuously as the trick is to have the muscle constantly under tension for the entire 40 seconds. Don’t pause at the top or bottom of a rep, try to keep the weight moving the whole time. However do not rush, you need to maintain strict and correct form throughout the exercise. This is surprisingly hard and you may well need to lower the weight compared to what you would normally use when just doing a set number of reps. By the 3rd or 4th set you will be struggling by the time you get to 30 seconds but its important to keep pushing through to the end even if you end up doing half reps for the last few seconds.

The key here is the continuous time under tension for the muscle. By giving it no time to rest and being constantly under strain it forces the muscles into something called Hypertrophy which is the state that makes your muscles grow. You can use this technique for every exercise you do and it makes for a seriously intense workout when done properly. It will initially take some experimentation with the weights but once you get it right you will love the pump and growth you get from using this method. Again, try it for a couple of months and see what happens.

So if you use the standard Reps method, Volume method and Time under tension method you now have three different ways of training. By changing things up your body never knows what to expect and this in turn helps you to keep growing and improving. For any of these methods to really work you need to give them some time. It’s no good doing it once and then going back to reps. Trust me, pick one of the methods and do it for 4 times a week for all your body parts and see where you are after a month, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Take care,

John

4 thoughts on “Weight Training: Volume or Time instead of Reps!

    • It’s good to lift heavy as you need to challenge your muscles as they will stop growing but going slow, keeping strict form and constantly keeping the muscle under tension is a fantastic way of stimulating growth. It’s also surprisingly hard. Next time you do something like an incline Dumbbell press try lowering the weight to a count of 4, not pausing at the bottom, pushing it straight back up, not pausing at the top, lowering it straight back down for 4 again. You either won’t be able to do as many reps or you’ll have to lower the weight compared to what you previously did. Do 4 or 5 sets like that and you’ll notice the soreness next day as well.

    • It’s pretty common knowledge, most of the top guys were on some form of steroid. Probably not anywhere in the same league or amount as the top guys now but yes he was using.

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