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Workout Volume is Killing Your Gains!


What’s up, guys? Jeff Cavaliere, ATHLEANX.com. Today I’m probably going to ruffle a few feathers
because I’m going to show you how volume and training volume is killing your gains. You’ve probably heard exactly the opposite. You’ve heard ‘more training volume is the
key; volume is what drives hypertrophy’. But I will tell you this: I know there will
be a lot of strength coaches, trainers, and even longtime trainees who are going to say
“Thank you, Jeff, for finally making this video” because a lot of people who are in
this industry realize that volume and the focus on volume is a 2019 version of functional
training. The obsession to run and balance with one
leg on a BOSU ball, lifting a weight in the other hand didn’t really lead to a lot of
carry over to anything functional. It was a buzzword. It was overused. The same thing is happening here. Volume is not, in isolation, going to be that
important because what you need to do at all times, is consider it in context along with
intensity. We’re going to talk about this because there
are a few scenarios here. What we do is, people say “God, I hear if
volume is the driver, we know these are linked. Intensity could come down. I could trade in some intensity for volume
and get the same results, really driving hypertrophy.” That’s what has me shaking my head because
there’s a reason why people have adopted this. It’s easier. Anybody could add more volume in the gym without
having to add more intensity. Intensity should read to you as ‘effort’. Effort is irreplaceable. Effort is linked to this training volume. This volume becomes significant when effort
and intensity is considered as well. Because they’re linked there is this setup
here, much like supply and demand, and the concept of supply and demand that, as volume
gets high, training intensity needs to come down in order to allow you to recover between
sessions. The same thing if the intensity were to get
high your volume would come down in order to allow you to get back in the gym again
for the next session, and the next session. But what happens in specific instances? Well, the newbie hears about this and they
run to the gym, they’re probably doing a bro-split, and I’ve pointed out before that it’s not
necessarily that you can’t do any good out of a bro-split. You can if you know how to do it in a smarter
way, but let’s say in a suboptimal way they’re doing a bro-split. They head to the gym, they’re doing chest,
and they add what used to be 10 sets for chest, or 12 sets for chest, and they’re now doing
20 or 24 sets for chest. At the expense of what? Intensity. I don’t care who you are, if you’re a natural
lifter, as you start to add that kind of volume something is going to suffer. The quality of the sets that you’re doing
are going to go down over the course of that workout. What might have been good in the first two,
three, five, six sets is not going to look the same way when you get toward set 16, 18,
20, and 22. Much like the concept I’ve covered here before
in “Three Sets of 12 is Killing Your Gains”, where we break down the quality of an individual
set, if we’re holding back in order to hit a number – the volume number of 20 or 24,
in that example – and we’re holding back the quality of what we do down here we’re
wasting our time in the gym. Guys, I promise you that. It’s a waste of time. The irony is that research shows you really
don’t need that many quality sets to create muscle protein synthesis. The spark for muscle hypertrophy. You don’t. You need somewhere between 4 to 10 sets of
high-quality work. But high quality has nothing to do with volume. The quality is driven by the intensity. So, let’s say someone with more training experience
says “I’m not doing bro-splits anymore. I’ve been told to do total body training three
times a week or two times a week” or whatever the scenario might be. Push, pull, legs. I’ve split it up differently. They realize that I don’t have to put this
all on one day. They realize that volume isn’t necessarily
looked at in a microcycle of a day, but extrapolated over the course of at least a week, but multiple
weeks. So, I can get my volume in over time. What they’ll do is split this up. They’ll hit their volume across multiple days. So what might be a total of 20 or 24 sets
of a specific target, whatever you’re trying to target here using the same total as an
example, it would break down into 7, 7, and 7, or even 5, 5, and 5 on a little bit of
a lower end. Realizing that they can re-hit this muscle
protein synthesis goal multiple times per week. With the idea being ‘if I can only hit a muscle
once a week in a bro-split, that’s 52 opportunities to create protein synthesis’. Whereas I could do it twice a week and get
104 opportunities. Or even 3 times a week. The problem, once again, is they’re told that
in order to do this you’ve got to make sure – you’d better watch out for that intensity
of your training. God forbid, if you train to failure, you’re
going to interrupt your body’s ability to recover 48 hours later. You’re going to create too much damage. You’re going to create too many problems. So, what happens is they hold back in a number
of repetitions they perform as they approach failure. They stay below failure. And beyond that, you have to ask yourself
the honest question – this is why I’m making this video. To make yourself ask these questions of yourself. That is: Are you really even training to true,
momentary, concentric failure? Meaning, I cannot even lift this thing any
bit more. I go all the way, as hard as I can until I
can’t lift it anymore. Is that actually happening or are you stopping
just because it’s getting difficult? Believe me, I’ve done it myself. The second it was difficult I stop. It’s burning, I’m done. But that’s not true failure. So, if I’m taking it, being told to stop a
few reps shy, we’re not only a few reps shy of failure already – we didn’t really do
failure – but now we add a few more on top of that. What’s happening is the intensity is suffering
so much. So now we’re left with this whole group of
people, this epidemic of people in this zone over here, wallowing in this zone. They think they’re doing the right thing by
adding more and more volume, but their intensity is not adequate enough to create change. That’s a problem. If I took this group of people, if I took
the next 100 people and said “Do me a favor. If you could do one or the other”, either
increase your volume, or increase your intensity; I would have them increase their intensity
and let the volume drop. I could guarantee what would happen. Those people that aren’t getting results will
start getting results again. It’s not necessarily driven by volume if there’s
no presence of intensity. Guys, please let that sink in. The intensity is what is key and there’s an
epidemic, as I’ve said, of too low of an intensity in people’s training these days. Why is this happening again? Because it’s too easy to just adopt this than
it is to do this. I’ve used the analogy before when it came
to diet and nutrition and how that plays a part in your overall approach to fitness,
along with your strength training and weight training. The deal is, we can all trick ourselves to
get to the gym for an hour a few times a week. Four times a week, five times a week. We can do that, but it’s the requirement and
the commitment that following nutrition takes 23 hours of the day outside of the gym. Of course, you’re going to be sleeping, but
in those other 23 hours the commitment is so much larger. The responsibility is so much greater. That’s why so many people struggle with nutrition,
even when they can make the commitment to get to the gym for an hour. So, yes, we can do this. Anybody could do this. You go to the gym and spend a few hours – as
long as you’ve got time you can do this. But a lot of us don’t have the will power,
or the guts, or the drive to do this. This is hard. This is not. What you’ve probably heard before, just doing
this in the absence of this is junk volume. I was just on a podcast with Chris Duffin
and we talked exactly about this content. There’s an epidemic now of too much junk volume. Find a way you could at least exist here. At least exist in the middle. Bring this down a bit, bring this up. But if you had to do anything else, at least
err on the side of the intensity. Get the intensity a little bit higher here,
bring that volume a little bit lower. I promise you guys, you’re going to find better
results from doing that. If you’ve found this video helpful, please
leave your comments and thumbs up below. Let me know what else you want me to cover
and I’ll do my best to do that for you. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe
and turn on your notifications so you never miss a video. And guys, if you’re looking for programs that
understand this, we’ll never shy away from the intensity. I say it all the time. You can either train hard or you can train
long, but you can’t do both. All of our programs are available at ATHLEANX.com. All right, guys. I’ll be back here soon, in just a couple of
days. See ya.

100 thoughts on “Workout Volume is Killing Your Gains!

  1. NOTIFICATION SQUAD GIVEAWAY – Alright guys, I’m giving away a complete 30 Day Workout program to 100 lucky clickers within the first hour this video is published! Remember, this is NOT THE FIRST 100, but those randomly selected WITHIN the first hour the video is published. So don't b*tch if you're not one of them 🙂 Just try next time. Click the link to see if you’ve won. Good luck! 
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  2. I feel like this isn't true for a teenage or low 20s person, as one I can say that going to the gym 6 days a week is more productive than 3-4 days per week, and training to failure leads to more gains than otherwise. I have gone through phases of working out different ways and the most productive way is 6 days a week, 2 days per major muscle group (bicep/back, legs, chest/tris) and eating a shit ton on food works the best, and that result is the same with my friends. Maybe if you're 35 he is right, but underestimating the young body happens a lot in these "over-working" type videos

  3. What are your thoughts on the state of flow? Can you watch joe rogan's podcast with firas zahabi and give us your opinion on that?

  4. If you shift the "low"-label to the origin of the graph, the x-axis becomes a unit-less function input value, and thus the graph makes sense again. Weird how bad the wrong labeling fucks with our brains.

  5. If athlean x replies to my comment I will stop smoking within 2 weeks …Jeff is absolutely the best in my opinion..some maybe has more experience or more education some have no credentials and discredit this man but they have nothing on this facepull loving fitness master

  6. He’s not wrong I mean let’s look at the great Dorian Yates he only did 1 all out working set to failure and 6 mr Olympia later

  7. so i did bench press with 27kilo in total 3 sets of 12 reps with 45 sec rest in between,
    first set was easy, sec set was hard, third set i fail in the 8 – 9 rep,
    if i did all i can do in the first set i think i will fail in the sec set,
    should i really dont give a shit about the number and in each set do what ever i can do ?
    so many information on this channel but i feel every topic is conflict with each other .
    i saw that u should not reach fail in every set (u will need more recovery time + it will effect rest of workout).
    and from what i understand from this video or other ones from jeff that i should push myself to limit every set.
    so what i should do ?
    sorry for bad English .

  8. Would love to see Jeff and Firas zahabi argue on this..they have exactly opposite attitudes about this subject

  9. Same principal for strength/endurance gains? Me and my house mate have got a competition going… who can do more pull ups in one set by 2020. Most of what in know about training is fairly hypertrophy focused but a lot of the same principals probably apply. I was wondering if people had any tips for this goal?

  10. It's always a balancing act. If you work out intensely you will have to rest more if you work out at volume with lower weight you can work out every day but you won't really be tearing your muscle fibres. It's always a compromise

  11. Cut your rest periods low. There are things that make me question him. Volume is needed. If you feel like you're dying then you're doing enough. If you're looking around resting too long. Yeah no shit.

  12. jokes aside, when he says workout volume is he meaning the length of an individual workout, or how often i workout in a given week? or both?

  13. @ Mr. ATHLEAN-X: I think it has to do with the time-horizon: Hypertrophy after a single workout vs. Hypertrophy in the long run (say after 3 months). Having 10-12 sets spread out during the week seems the best, and for that to be sustainable (avoiding accumulated fatigue), the intensity/effort has to come down a bit (in fact never going to complete failure, but leave 2-3-4-5 reps "in the tank"). See the vids following these links I post below:

    https://youtu.be/7S0NjKYlJ7I

    https://youtu.be/xiJKa41Fsxo

  14. So essentially I can still benefit from low or high volume as long as I keep the intensity there whether the volume be high or low.

  15. I've been increasing my volume a lot lately. Been adding sets and going to the gym 6 days a week. I'm getting some pretty solid results. But intensity is super important to me and I go till failure on every set. The first couple weeks were pretty brutal but I'm really liking hitting the same muscles hard more than once a week.

  16. So basically is Jeff saying to do less reps but lift heavier weights?

    The plan I’m on has me doing 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Should I be doing 3 sets of 4-6 with heavier weights instead? I’m a little confused about this.

  17. Hmmm…there was a time when the intensity lay within the volume, such as 10×10's, aka German Volume Training. Anyone still using GVT?

  18. you could also end up doing high volume and high intensity and actually be breaking down too much muscle where you can't completely recover from and stop growth. For some this could be a problem. I have since cut my sets way down. Still hit each bodypart twice a week. I am sleeping better now and have less joint pain.

  19. I agree somewhat with what you're saying. I'll only add that you don't need 4-10 sets to stimulate growth…you can do that in 1 set to failure…dorian yates did it…that's how i do it…most of the stimulation you get is from that first all out set…where you're at your strongest. sure, you might get some more growth stimulation with a few more sets, but that also takes more time to recover…

  20. Hello friends, dancer from Boston here. I teach classes and rehearse 2 times a week. Because I need my body to pay my bills I always feel apprehensive going to that intensity level that I feel I'm capable of. Any tips would be greatly appreciated

  21. Isn't intensity the load? You can make more effort lifting the same load but that won't keep getting you more muscle mass. Personally I have gotten way better results when focusing on increasing the load over time. However, don't people get results with German Volume Training?

  22. So Jeff is saying 4-5 sets? Not reps? If I up my weight, my reps come down to 6-8 ( 1 set) to failure. So somehow I should do more sets. What a thought.

  23. Basicaly it turns out to lower your weight and make good intensity workout near failure ? This just opened my eyes about what really is failure. Tank you !

  24. I'm sorry but this is bullshit. You can build muscle without going to muscle failure even once.
    Just try it out yourself, buy a pull up bar that you can mount at your door at home. Every now and then you walk by, several times a day, do just a single or two, clean, pull ups (assuming you can do more than one or two).
    So what you are basically doing is accumulating volume by doing this several times a day without any real intensity (going to failure). You will build muscle and be able to do more pullups in a row without every doing many pull ups in a row.

  25. As a 41yr old, not being concerned with hitting PRs and lowering the weight a little bit while increasing volume has allowed me to train consistently throughout the year with out joint/ligament pain. It's been really good for me as an older lifter.

  26. The problem with bro splits is the tapered volume approach… 45 sets for chest, 35 for arms, 20 for back, 0 for legs haha.

  27. What about 10 sets of 10 with serious intensity? I just did 10 x 10, standing ez curl barbell curls, 35 lb. plates on each side. The 1st set was just as intense as the 10th. What I noticed is it took longer to recover, over 48 hrs. So…it you can’t get to the gym text week for say travel or work,, 10 x 10 would be a good workout before the layoff. That’s what I learned. I think what Jeff is saying is train intense.

  28. Volume IS the MAIN driver for hypertrophy!! Intensity is also key but volume is much more important! This is proven beyond doubt. There are many things related to hypertrophy that are not known yet but THIS IS known!
    The thing is you have to find your own values of volume and you do that by acquiring experience through years of training. Beyond a certain volume you are indeed affecting your gains negatively. But after a while you will find your "sweet spot" in which you make most gains if you're serious about your training and you track your progress.
    Confusing your viewers with so many contradicting videos is not cool man!

  29. I do my workouts at work, if I go to failure every time I workout I wouldn't be able to do my work afterwards. I still need some performance ability after the gym as a Fire-fighter.

  30. Hi Jeff
    What if I do a high volume (20sets per week), high intensity workout, and my recovery is very fast. Do I still have to decrease the volume or just stay with it?
    I am seeing gains by the way, but I feel it's slow compared to the intensity of my workouts.
    Thanks in advance

  31. Intensity is what I hear from all of this. As long as all you’re set have intensity volume is secondary. Progressive overload 👍🏽

  32. So should we do 10 sets in one workout, or 2 set a day for 5 days? Or 10 sets, but twice a week for the frequency? Its as clear as mud to me.

  33. Hey Jeff! I’m trying to better understand what you’re saying. For example if one were to do Incline Bench 3×5 and Flat Dumbbell Press 3×8 at a high intensity in the same workout, would that be too much volume on the chest? For a relatively new lifter in this scenario.

  34. Yea I was killing my gains with too much volume my whole life until
    recently. I always thought that working out more meant more gains.
    Instead it just caused a bunch of health problems, (shoulder impingement
    & spinal problems). Less is more when done right.

  35. Yea I was killing my gains with too much volume my whole life until
    recently. I always thought that working out more meant more gains.
    Instead it just caused a bunch of health problems, (shoulder impingement
    & spinal problems). Less is more when done right.

  36. There seems to be a very equal division between weight training experts recommending going to failure vs. leaving 2-3 reps (usually 2) in the tank. For example, Jeff Nippard just released a fairly substantiated video on the subject of volume in which he supports leaving a few reps in the tank, but it was piggy-backed off this Jeff Cavalier video — and as we know, Cavalier supports always going to failure. So which is it? Or is this another training facet that needs to be individually tailored?

  37. Thanks for this info Jeff, but I've been following your perfect workout videos and for a push pull legs split, it's extremely high volume, like 3 hours a day, I've been getting leaner and more ripped but in terms of gaining mass it's been quite sad, I'm 6 ft tall and now weigh 144 lb, I'm gonna try to split the perfect workout over 3 days because otherwise this is gonna continue

  38. If you're not gonna take a lunch breaks in between 3 sets same muscle, & rest 2-3 weeks…before same muscle again…
    -I'd recommend 8-9 sets.

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