Sep 092011

Now, where were we…?

Last time I spoke about finding time for exercise and the concept of Overload I left you hanging (no doubt on the edge of your proverbial seat) with information about Intensity, but not much about Volume and Density. So naturally, here we are with Part Deux.

2. Volume

Volume would appear to be the simplest of the components of overload to deal with. I think that this is probably true, but perhaps subject for a little more examination than you might think.

Volume = just do more.  More (non-harmful) work is likely to assist you with fat loss, muscle gaining, strength gaining and any other physical attribute you desire.

Yeah, it’s that simple, but I am going to add a couple of notes regarding this.

If you pressed a 16kg Kettlebell overhead 20 times in your last workout, then that means that you moved a total of 320kgs, right?
Next workout, you decide to press a 12kg kettlebell (maybe because it tests better or any other reason). You could whip out the calculator and notice that 12kg multiplied by 27 would equal 324kgs total and aim for that in the knowledge that total weight moved is 4kgs more. Would that be a volume PR (Personal Record)? Would that be volume progress?
Sure, it’s measurable as such. 324kg > 320kgs. So that’s one way, but not (in my opinion) the only relevant way.

Say for instance you pressed that 12kg 40 times for a total of  480kgs of work. Great, that’s an even nicer increase in raw volume. The next time you train however, you want to hit the 16kg KB again. To achieve 480kg of work with the 16, you’ll need to press it 30 times (up from 20). A 150% increase in total reps is far from impossible, but not always probable; especially if it is near the upper end of your current work capacities.

Volume (and all other calculations) need to be context dependant. Remember, the goal of overload is to give your body something that it hasn’t experienced (and thus adapted to) before.

So you press the 16kg 25 times for a total of 400kgs of work. As raw figures go, you are 80kgs behind the max volume you’ve moved previously, but at the SAME INTENSITY, you have never moved that much before. Your max reps at 16kg was 20 total; it is now 25 total. Pat yourself on the back, that’s a PR for sure.

PRs are not a competition with anyone other than yourself. PR measuring metrics are a tool for moving yourself forward; for defeating the you that you were in the past. People can bitch and moan about what constitutes a “True Personal Best” or a “REAL PR”, but ask yourself this:
“If I have not ever accomplished a certain level of perfomance before, how could it NOT be considered a record? If I have only accomplished a lower measureable quantity of something in the past, how can my new increased quantity NOT be considered progress?”

In the past there have been people who attempted to formulate progress according to combined ratios of volume, density and intensity (as well as other factors), but these tools (as useful as they may be) could only ever be an assistance to your own idea of accomplishment.

This has got a little longer than I imagined; instead of being the 2 parts that I intended, I hope to see you back here for Part 3! (Coming soon; with the announcement of a surprise new project!)

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