Volume intensity training

Burst through plateaus by combining these two hardcore training methods.

How many gym rats do you know who never seem to progress? Physique improvements flatline, and strength and size gains stall. It’s like once they reach a certain level, that’s where they stay forever. Maybe you’re one of them? Many lifters forget that they need to be progressing intelligently there’s more to it than upping the weight and going to failure. The solution: Alternate between heavy lifting one week and high-rep sets the next. Follow our plan for 5 to 10 weeks and you’ll be shopping for a larger shirt in no time.

HOW IT WORKS

Lifting lighter loads with more volume (sets x reps x load) provides a hard workout for your muscles, while your central nervous system (CNS) recovers after weeks of intense training (low-rep sets with heavy weights). You’re getting the best of both worlds in this program—skin-tearing pumps one week and heavy weight the next. On volume weeks the weights will feel easy since you’re coming off a week of heavy training. On intensity weeks, you’ll feel strong and focused because you’ll have to work up to only one or two hard sets. This undulation keeps your body guessing, prevents over training, and provides a mental break, which makes training less monotonous.

DIRECTIONS

FREQUENCY: Perform each workout (Days 1, 2, and 3) once per week.

TIME NEEDED: 45 minutes

HOW TO DO IT: Perform the exercise pairs (marked a. and b.) as alternating sets. Complete one set of a, rest, then one set of b, rest again, and repeat until all sets are complete. Do the remaining exercises as straight sets.

FIND YOUR NUMBER

Let’s say a lifter’s one-rep max (1RM) on the bench press is 235 pounds. Based on the
chart, his eight-rep max would be 190 pounds (80% of 235). In Week 1 (volume week) he’d use 85% of 190 pounds (160 pounds) for all sets. In Week 2 (intensity week) he’d use percentages of his 1RM (235 pounds).

1. Bench Press Hold the bar with an outside-shoulder-width grip. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slightly arch your lower back. Lift the bar out of the rack, lower it to your sternum, and then push the weight up, making sure to drive with your feet.

TURN THE PAGE FOR “VOLUME VS. INTENSITY” SETS AND REPS.

SETS: 3 REPS: 10 (EACH SIDE)

2a. Off-set Split Squat Hold a dumbbell with your left hand at shoulder level, standing with your right foot in front of your knee. Keeping your torso upright, bend both knees and lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor.

2b. Dumbbell Push Press Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level with a neutral grip. Dip your knees and then explosively straighten your legs and press the weights overhead using the momentum from your lower body.

SETS: 3 REPS: 10

VOLUME VS. INTENSITY

HOW MUCH TO LIFT EACH WEEK FOR BENCH AND DEADS

WEEK 1

4 sets, 8 reps, 85% of your 8-rep max

WEEK 2

5 sets, 50% of your 1RM for 12 reps, 60% for 8 reps, 75% for 5 reps, 85% for 5 reps, 90% for 3 reps.

WEEK 3

4 sets, 8 reps, 90% of your 8-rep max

WEEK 4

6 sets, 50% of your 1RM for 12 reps, 60% for 8 reps, 75% for 5 reps, 85% for 5 reps, 90% for 3 reps, 95% for 1 rep.

WEEK 5

4 sets, 8 reps, 95% of your 8-rep max

WEEK 6
Rest

WEEK 7
Repeat the cycle, adding 5–10 pounds to each set.

THE BENCH PRESS AND DEADLIFT are the two lifts you’re working to get stronger on during this program. For you to follow the set-and-rep scheme, you need to calculate the loads you’ll use for both lifts. First, find or estimate your one-rep max (1RM)—the most weight you can lift for one rep. From here, you can figure out how much weight you can use for any number of reps. For example, during the volume weeks (Weeks 1 and 3), you’ll do sets of eight reps. You need to find a) the load that gives you eight reps based on your one-rep max and b) the load that’s the correct percentage of that eight-rep max. (You’ll use a different percentage each week.) See “Find Your Number” below to figure out approximately how many reps a certain percentage yields. The intensity weeks are simpler since you’ll use percentages of your one-rep max.

FIND YOUR NUMBER Let’s say a lifter’s one-rep max (1RM) on the bench press is 235 pounds. Based on the chart, his eight-rep max would be 190 pounds (80% of 235). In Week 1 (volume week) he’d use 85% of 190 pounds (160 pounds) for all sets. In Week 2 (intensity week) he’d use percentages of his 1RM (235 pounds).

1. DAY 1

3a. Staggered Stance Bentover Row Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and stand with your left leg in front of the right, keeping the weight on the front leg. Bend forward at the hips and row the dumbbell to your side. Repeat with your other arm.

SETS: 3 REPS: 15 (EACH SIDE)

3b. Cable Woodchop Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable station. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and split your feet, with one foot slightly in front of the other. Rotate your torso diagonally downward until the handle is at the outside of your opposite leg.

SETS: 3 REPS: 15

2. DAY 2

SEE “VOLUME VS. INTENSITY” AT LEFT FOR SETS AND REPS.

1. Deadlift Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, bend down, and grasp the bar outside your knees. Your shoulders should be over the bar. Drive your heels into the floor and push your hips forward, lifting the bar until it’s in front of your thighs. Keep your back straight throughout the lift.

SETS: 3 REPS: 10

2a. Cable Row Sit at a cable station with your feet firmly planted. Keep your lower back in its natural arch and grab the handle with a shoulder-width grip. Row the weight to just below your chest and allow your torso to come slightly forward on the eccentric portion of the row. You should feel a stretch in your lats.

2b. High-incline Dumbbell Press Set an adjustable bench to a 75-degree incline. With your elbows in and your core tight, press the weights straight up. Start with a lighter weight since the steep angle recruits more deltoids, making the lift more difficult.

SETS: 3 REPS: 10

3a. Single-leg Romanian Deadlift Row Hold a D-handle attached to the low pulley of a cable station. As you balance on one foot, keeping the natural arch in your lower back, bend at your hips and lower your torso. Extend your hips to come back up and then row the cable to your side.

SETS: 3 REPS: 15 (EACH SIDE)

3b. Swiss Ball Punch Rest your forearms on top of a Swiss ball in a plank position. Brace your core and extend your arms, rolling the ball forward out as far as you can go, and then back.

SETS: 3 REPS: 15

3. DAY 3

1a. Front Squat Rest a loaded barbell across your clavicle and shoulders, crossing your arms for sup-port. As you squat down, keep your torso upright. Also, your knees should track over your feet. If they cave inward, you need to engage your glutes and push your knees out more.

SETS: 3 REPS: 10

1b. Rear-delt Flye Lie face down with a dumbbell in each hand on a bench set to a 45-degree incline. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you raise the weight out to your sides with your thumbs facing downward.

SETS: 3 REPS: 10

2a. Bent over Row from Floor Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width grip and, keeping your lower back arched, bend over until your torso is parallel to the floor. Row the bar to your belly, pulling with your elbows. Rest the weight on the floor after every rep.

SETS: 3 REPS: 10

2b. One-arm Swiss Ball Press Lie back on a Swiss ball and brace your core for stability. Explosively press the weight straight up.

SETS: 3 REPS: 10 (EACH SIDE)

3a. Close-grip Pulldown Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Pull down, bringing the bar to your collarbone. Squeeze for one second.

SETS: 3 REPS: 10

3b. Swiss Ball Knee Drive Set up as you did for the Swiss ball punch, but keep your arms steady and drive one knee at a time up to the ball and back

SETS: 3 REPS: 15 (EACH SIDE)

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