Long before the debates over High Intensity Training vs. High Volume Training, champion bodybuilders and gym owners used to cycle training over a period of months starting with lower volume gradually increasing it and then cutting it back again. With this training you’re balancing the pendulum between your body’s need for more work versus your body’s need for rest and recovery. Each movement of the pendulum brings you to a higher level.
Arnold used to start the year with 10 sets per body part. Then he’d increase it to 12 sets, then 15, then 18 and finally 20 sets. He’d also increase the frequency of training body parts from twice a week to 3 times a week. Then he’d cut back to 10 sets again and start over.
North Hollywood gym owner, the late Vince Gironda used to have his students train with two and sometimes only one exercise per body part doing 3 sets of 8 reps one month, then he’d have them go to 5 sets of 6 reps, then 6 sets of 6 reps and finally 8 sets of 8 reps––then he’d back them down to 3 sets of 8 again. He called this simplifying the workout.
I first learned to cycle my training like this on 3 week cycles from Leo Costa back in the mid-nineties. I’ve been using my own form of it ever since. Leo called it going from
the Hypo Training Zone to the Hyper Training Zone. It made sense to me since like others I noticed that the greatest progress from HIT type programs comes to people who are over-trained. That progress however, seldom continues without making changes.
Charles Poliquin now also recommends changing training cycles every three weeks. Charles calls the high volume workouts the Accumulation Phase and the cycles of high intensity the Intensification Phase. Each cycle, develops different muscle fibers and Charles says, “for maximum muscle mass, both Type IIA (fast twitch with endurance characteristics) and Type IIB (pure fast twitch) fibers need to be trained.”
Whatever you call it cycling between high and low volume is an effective way to train when building muscle is your goal.