Well, if you talk to Mike Mentzer or Dorian Yates, they’ll tell you high intensity training is best. If you talk to Arnold, or most bodybuilders back in the 70’s and 80’s, they’ll most likely tell you high volume training is the way to go. So which is it? Which will give me the desired results I’m looking for? First, lets cover what each training style is and then give you some advice on which to choose.
High Intensity Training
Just like the name implies, this training style is INTENSE. High intensity training involves brief, intense bouts of strength training. Most exercises during the workout only have about 1-2 working sets, and those sets are taken to muscular failure. You might only perform 5-7 working sets in a given workout, after a few warm up sets are completed for each exercise. This type of training style can be described as performing an exercise until no more perfect reps can be performed, without dropping the weight or taking rest periods. Due to the high intensity with this style of training, workouts usually only last 30-40 minutes, and the frequency of training is low, due to the rest and recovery needed. You can hit your entire body within 2-3 workouts per week. Reps are kept around 4-8, focusing solely on the amount of weight lifted and reaching concentric muscular failure.
High Volume Training
Also as the name implies, this training style is HIGH VOLUME. This type of training involves many more sets than high intensity training, and usually doesn’t involve any sets taken to muscular failure, perhaps maybe only the last set of a few exercises. Due to the amount of sets and reps in a given workout, high volume training splits are based around hitting one muscle group per training session. You might see something like this: Monday – Legs, Tuesday – Chest, Wednesday – Back, Thursday – Shoulders, Friday – Biceps, Saturday – Triceps, and Sunday – Rest. Reps are kept around 8-12 per set, which research has shown to be most beneficial for muscle hypertrophy and muscle fiber diameter expansion. These workouts are much longer than high intensity sessions, due to the amount of time it takes to complete 20-30 sets for each muscle group, with reps around 8-12. Completing high volume training sessions over the course of 1.5-2 hours is not uncommon.
Which training style is best?
It really comes down to personal preference. Both training styles yield results. You can gain strength and size using a high intensity approach (although gains in strength are more prominent) and you can also gain strength and size using a high volume approach (although muscle hypertrophy is more prominent). If you like keeping training sessions shorter in time, go with HIT. If you have the time and like performing multiple sets for multiple exercises, stick with HVT. Due to the intensity of HIT, I do recommend taking a break from this style of training after 8-12 consecutive weeks of it. You can burnout very fast with this way of training. I’m a firm believer in variety and testing your body in different ways. Use HIT for a certain period of time and then change it up to HVT after that. Don’t get stuck in a rut until your training becomes boring, redundant, and un-enjoyable. That’s how you know it’s time to change something.
Train hard and train smart.