Resistance Training & Program Design part 6

Posted by on Mar 14, 2013 in Program Design, Review Topics | 0 comments

(see Step5)

Step 6: Volume

Volume, as we discussed indirectly in the previous post, is simply the number of repetitions performed.  A set is a group of reps performed without rest.  If an athlete is instructed to do 2 sets of 10 (often written as 2×10) they would perform 10 reps, rest the specified amount of time, and perform another 10 reps.  Pretty basic stuff.

Multiple Sets, or a Single Set to Failure?
Much debate has encircled the idea of doing a single set to failure, or multiple sets.  Studies have shown 6×2, 3×6, and 3×10 all increasing strength with no significant difference in strength gains between repetition schemes.  These studies all involved untrained individuals.  Again, context is key…know the athlete’s training status.  The lesson here is:

For a beginner, anything works

Strength for trained athletes
If the goal is strength the repetition scheme should involve sets of 3-6 reps.  This maximizes strength potential and maintains the quality of the movement performed, especially with power exercises like the clean and snatch.

It is generally accepted that higher volume leads to larger muscle size.  No substantial amount of studies have been done on this topic, however interviews with elite bodybuilders suggest that performing three or more exercises per muscle group is the most effective strategy for increasing muscle size.


  • If you are training a football lineman, both strength and size are important as the athlete needs both power and size as he will be colliding with other players.  Train with sets in the 8-12 rep range, to simplify go with sets of 10 reps.
  • If you are training a basketball player, strength is important.  Sets of 3-6 on the power exercises and 10 on assistance.
  • A cross country runner is training for muscular endurance, 12-15+ reps would be appropriate.

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