For many of the Fall sports teams, offseason training will be kicking off after the Christmas holiday when classes for the spring semester kick-off. Increasing muscle size and strength is typically an objective of this phase of training for a variety of sports. The evidence is pretty clear at this stage that higher volume training protocols are superior to lower volume protocols for stimulating improvements in strength and size. However, the upper limits of this have not been established. How much volume is too much where the law of diminishing returns sets-in? It would be useful for coaches to know how much is not quite enough as well as how much might be too much. Time spent with the athletes is limited and therefore our programs need to be as efficient as possible.
A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the effects of two training protocols that differed by overall volume on increasing muscle size and strength. Nineteen resistance-trained males (~22 years old with ~3.5 years of training experience) were evenly split into a 10 sets of 10 group or a 5 sets of 10 group. These protocols were modeled off of the German Volume Training routine popularized by Charles Poliquin. Both groups trained three times per week with a split routine. Day 1 emphasized chest and back, Day 2 emphasized the legs and Day 3 emphasized shoulders and arms. The training program lasted for 6 weeks. Before and after the training intervention, lean body bass, muscle thickness and muscle strength were measured for comparison.
The results showed that both training protocols significantly improved lean body mass but that trunk and arm lean mass increases were greater in the 5 sets of 10 group (Effect Sizes = 0.21 and 0.25, respectively). There were small increases in muscle thickness at various sites for both groups, but these changes were not statistically significant and the effect sizes ranged from trivial to small. Muscular strength significantly improved for bother groups following the training program. However, the increase in strength for the bench press and lat-pull down was significantly greater for the 5 sets of 10 group (Effect Size = 0.43 and 0.54). The authors conclude that 4-6 sets of 10 appear to maximize increases in strength and hypertrophy and that performing 10 sets of 10 did not offer any advantages.
Amirthalingam, Theban, et al. (2016) Effects of a Modified German Volume Training Program on Muscular Hypertrophy and Strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In press.