How do you determine which training volume suits you?

Nancy Heijnis
30 May 2022
Reading time: 12 minutes

Do you feel like you're not getting the most out of your workouts? There is a good chance that you train too much or too little. More training is not always better. To get the most out of your training, it is therefore important that you know which training volume suits you. But how do you determine this? We explain it to you in this blog!

What is training volume?

Let's start at the beginning. Because what is training volume? In short, training volume is the number of sets you do per muscle group. This indicates the size of your training. It is customary to express your training volume on a weekly basis, although in some cases this is also done per training. An example: you train weekly on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. You do 6 sets of 5 reps each workout. This equates to a training volume of 15 sets for this muscle group.

In addition to training volume, it is also important to look at training intensity. This is a combination of the weight you train with and the speed at which you perform the exercises. Because the ideal weight differs greatly per person, it is customary to express this as a percentage of your personal 1RM (One Repetition Maximum). This comes down to the weight you can move a maximum of once. For example, suppose your max is one squat with 80 kg, then 80 kg is your 1RM for the squat. You will always train on a certain percentage of your 1RM, never on 100%, but for example on 65% or 80% of your 1RM.

More is not always better

Initially, more sets per week, and therefore a higher training volume, leads to more muscle growth. However, it is important to know that there is a max to this; your true training ceiling. Be careful not to go over this. If you train too much and repeat too many sets per week per muscle group for a long time, your body cannot recover sufficiently. Over a longer period of time, this can lead to overtraining. In this way, you will eventually achieve the opposite of the muscle growth you want to achieve, namely muscle breakdown and thereby a greater chance of injuries. But how do you determine which training volume is right for you?

Which training volume is right for you?

To stimulate muscle growth, your muscles need a stimulus. In particular, the fatiguing reps in a set excite the muscles and work effectively for muscle growth. This is also known as the mechanical tension. This comes down to the fatigue that occurs when you do several repetitions with a certain weight. The mechanical tension can be increased by increasing your training volume or intensity.

Reaching Mechanical Tension

To achieve mechanical tension, first make sure that each set contains about five effective reps. To ensure that these reps are effective, you need to train with sufficient effort (for example, assume 80% of your 1RM). Next, it's also important to rest long enough between sets. With isolating exercises, exercises in which you target a specific muscle (group) (eg leg extensions), one to two minutes of rest between sets is sufficient. If you are doing compound exercises, exercises in which you train several muscle groups at the same time in a compound movement (for example, deadlifts), then three to five minutes of rest are usual.

The training volume

In addition to the number of effective reps per set, it is also important to do multiple sets. Both per training and per week. In this way you wake up the muscles. How many sets this should be per week for you (your training volume) depends on your training status. Someone who is just starting to train, for example, grows in muscle strength and muscle mass from (almost) any form of strength training. If you've been training for a longer period of time, you'll need more sets to make progress. Your body gets used to the situation and therefore needs more stimuli to become stronger or more muscular.

The guidelines

Although the number of sets required for growth in muscle strength or mass can vary greatly from person to person, there are a number of guidelines that you can take into account. For example, 10 sets per muscle group per week are usually more than sufficient for beginners. However, have you been training fanatically for a longer period of time? Then you quickly go towards 15 sets per muscle group per week. Finally, if you are advanced, you can think of 20 sets per week or even more.

These are averages and it can therefore differ slightly per person (and per muscle group). So try this for a few weeks and then look closely at your training progress. If you think your body can handle more, increase the training volume slightly. If it becomes too much, take a few steps back and try to increase the number of sets after a while.

Number of sets per workout

When planning your workouts, make sure you don't do too many sets per workout. After five sets, the growth stimulus already decreases sharply. If you exceed 10 sets per training, the growth stimulus can even stagnate. Therefore, always assume five to ten sets per muscle group per workout and never overdo it. You can better put this power and energy into another muscle group!

If you have been training fanatically for a longer period of time, it does not hurt to plan a recovery period in the meantime. This gives your tendons and muscles time to recover from this difficult period. Taking a week of rest during your holiday is therefore not necessarily wrong. Just recharge and after the holiday you can go back to it full of new energy and fresh motivation!

The main points in brief:

  • Training volume is the number of sets you do per muscle group per week.
  • In particular, the exhausting repetitions in a set stimulate the muscles and work effectively for muscle growth: the so-called mechanical tension.
  • To achieve mechanical tension, first make sure that each set contains about five effective reps.
  • In addition to the number of effective reps per set, it is also important to do multiple sets. Both per training and per week. The ideal number of sets depends on your training status.
  • Don't do too many sets per workout, go for five to ten sets. If you exceed ten sets, the growth stimulus can stagnate.
  • If you train too much and repeat too many sets per week per muscle group for a long time, your body cannot recover sufficiently. Therefore, be careful with this and plan a period after a long period of intensive exercise to recover your muscles and tendons!

Start here, end stronger!


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