What is Volume-Centric?
If you want to add size quickly and efficiently, this program (or one similar) is what I recommend for most people that are able bodied and capable of weight training safely. First off, I regret to inform you that quickly does not exist in the world of building muscle, but this program aims to maximize our efforts. The whole point of this program is teaching you to train with an emphasis on size. This program will also develop strength and endurance, but muscle size is the primary benefit of this program. There are no secret tricks or get-huge-quick schemes, just proven methods.
What is Hypertrophy?
In order to define hypertrophy, an explanation of the Principles of Specificity, Overload, Adaptation, and Reversibility should come first. The Principle of Specificity states that adaptations are specific to the stimuli provided. The Principle of Overload is that in order for a tissue (bone, tendon, ligament, etc.) to adapt to a demand, it must be progressively overloaded. The Principle of Adaptation is that the human body will adapt physiologically to the demands we place on it. And the Principle of Reversibility is that any gains are progressively lost when training is stopped (1)
Building muscle is a scientific process in which muscle tissue is broken down and, upon repair, increases in size through a process called hypertrophy(hi-purr-truh-fee). Maximizing hypertrophy means maximizing muscle growth. There are certain variables that must be present in a program that is designed to maximize hypertrophy. These are the components that form my ideology.
- Progressive Overload
- Hypertrophy Specific Training (HST) (Rep Ranges 6-12 and Appropriate Tempos)
- Adequate Volume in relation to Frequency
- Volume as the Main Overload Variable
- Exercise Variation
- Rep Variation
- Proper Training Timing(Recovery)
- Finishing Moves(Pump Inducing)
Outside of training
- Caloric Surplus
- Positive Nitrogen Balance(getting optimal protein)
- Supplementation(creatine and gluatamine)
Some of the above are common knowledge, and some require further explanation. There is 1 point in particular that I want to stress which will define success in this programming.
Volume as the Main Overload Variable
In hypertrophy training, volume is your main tool for measuring your progress and ensuring that you have placed an adequate load on you muscles. You will also throw in exercise variation, rep variation and things like finishing moves, but progressive volume is what ensures hypertrophy training will work for you long term.
Why is volume so important? Well, training volume and load are the only ways to accurately measure muscle breakdown with regards to hypertrophy. You can't measure muscle breakdown by exerted effort or feel alone because those variables are not measurable. I want you to think of it like this; how do you get better at running for distance? Well, what I would recommend is to practice keeping pace and to keep increasing your running distance until you reach your goal. Breaking down muscle is the same way. You develop a program, you keep pace throughout the workout, and you increase the volume until you reach your goal.
In theory, you cannot keep this model of increasing volume forever because eventually your workouts would be 8 hours long and you would hit over-training. Instead, what we do is change the main exercises in our program and/or the order we do our exercises during a workout which gives our body a new challenge, allowing us to keep volume in a healthy range. This is how we enact the Principle of Specificity that we spoke about earlier.
The typical model of my programming is to...
- Create a base program(weekly split,pick exercises, volume, loads, tempos)
- Do the same exact workouts for 1 month
- Increase the volume for the second month
- Change the exercises/order of exercises for month 3
- Increase the volume for the fourth month
- Redesign split and repeat
This style of programming typically delivers these expected results...
Gaining size is something that takes time; it will not happen over night. Be patient and consistent. Expected results show initial strength gain due to a neuromuscular adaptation to the movements, followed by gains in muscle mass being noticeable in as early as a few weeks.
In conclusion, muscular hypertrophy(growth) is a physiological adaptation to a physical and metabolic demand created through training. This program holds information that is centered around maximizing hypertrophy. You need to do your part in the gym(training strategy) and outside of the gym(nitrogen balance, caloric surplus) in order to get optimal results.
I hope you all take from this and use it to your advantage. If you are going to be following my programming and want to send me feedback, before and after pictures are always welcome to my email in the about section.
This is where I am going to put a sample for you to use directly or to modify as you wish. My exercise recommendations may not be the ones that stimulate you the most and I do not know your level of fitness, so these recommendations are purely an example. There is no cookie cutter program that works the best for everyone.
The sample program will be designed for someone who is male, free from physical injury, between the ages of 18 - 35, is willing to train 5 days a week, and wishes to add upper-body muscle mass as a primary goal.
I want to clarify that this program is not for beginners. The main reason being that tolerable levels of volume and frequency are highly dependent on your individual fitness level. Everyone has different appropriate levels of volume and frequency; yours will change as you progress. What I want for you to focus on here is the program structure and the principles that drive it's design.
*Click on the day to see the sample workouts*
*Legend - Red = Compound Movements Black = Isolations Blue = Finishing Moves*
- Sunday - Chest and Triceps
- Monday - Back and Biceps
- Tuesday - Legs
- Wednesday - Active stretching
- Thursday - Chest and Back
- Friday - Shoulders and Arms
- Saturday - Rest
Workout splits like the one above can vary. There are many combinations and sequences that are effective. A proper split needs to take a few things into account...
- How many days are you willing to train a week... 3? 5?
- Recovery periods before training same muscle group again (typically 48 hours)
- Complimentary muscle groups (Chest/tris, back/bis)
- Training Frequency (Low volume=high frequency)(High volume(bodybuilding)=low frequency)
- Personal preference(If you have weak points that you want to bring up, emphasize those in your split)
I prescribe to the belief that training each body part twice a week is the most effective for building muscle; any less and you are not maximizing your workload potential, any more and you are going to be burning yourself out. In this program we hit every bodypart twice per week except for legs, per our client's request.
Weight and Load Requirements
How much weight should you be lifting? A quote straight from the NASM text says, "Hypertrophy adaptations are best stimulated by 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 12 reps at 75% to 85% of 1 rep max intensity."
Meaning that if your 1 rep max on bench press is 315lbs, then you should be slapping 235lbs on the bar on day 1 of this program. That may be too much, and it is perfectly acceptable to lower the weight if you aren't able to reach volume.
On "finishing moves" pick a weight closer to 50% of 1 rep max. The point of these movements is to induce a blood pump and to help you make a neuromuscular connection.
Training to failure
Failure training is something that I believe has an appropriate place and time. Training to failure too early in a workout exhausts your glycogen stores and robs your workout of intensity reserved for later sets. This is not good when we are trying to specifically track volume. My advice is to stop short of failure on all movements that are not labeled a AMRAP or colored in blue font to signify that it is a finishing move. If you have trouble getting the recommended reps that I recommend, lower the weight.
What about Abs?
Abs were left out because I don't believe in training abs on a hypertrophy program. Here's why...
Clark, Micheal, Brian G. Sutton, and Scott Lucett. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2014. Print.
(1)Schoenfeld B, Sutton BG. NASM’s Guide to Bodybuilding, 1st ed. Assessment Technologies Institute, LLC; 2013
Let me know how it works for you...
This is the first program that I have designed that I am putting online for free. Send me an email or comment and let me know what you think.