Progressive Overload vs Volume

Alpha Physique

There’s a lot of talk in the fitness industry in regards to training volume. Volume this, volume that, your training volume has to go up over time (which doesn’t really tell you anything).

Training Volume

The reality, is that most people who go to the gym more than twice per week, will give themselves enough total training volume. Unless they are using pink dumbbells, there is likely enough training volume and enough of a stimulus in that respect.

The thing you have to remember with volume, is that not all training volume is equal. RPE comes into the mix.

Therefore you can technically perform really high volume, but if the RPE is low, with four reps left in the tank for example, you wouldn’t stimulate as much growth as you would if you had performed technically much lower volume with only one rep left in the tank.

So volume is an over-rated, over-emphasised concept.

It is important, but gradual, sustainable progression is more important.

If you don’t have planned progression in your training program, you WILL STALL eventually. Volume simply determines the speed of progression. There is also a range to this volume, which is ever-shifting. That’s another concept that people get caught up in: chasing “optimal”. Optimal doesn’t really exist due to the dynamic complexity of our bodies, but that’s another story for another time.

Fall below this volume range and you make no progress due to a lack of stimulation. Go above this range and you make no progress due to inadequate recovery, and eventually you’ll get injured if you keep it up (*cough*YouTuber’s*cough*).

Once within this range, the higher you are, the faster you will progress, but you also risk it becoming unsustainable and the risk of injury also rises.

Most people will fall within this range.

Most guys tend to fall apart on the consistent, gradual progression that’s required over the long haul. This is why program hopping is such a bad idea too. There needs to be a plan. Simply turning up to the gym and winging it isn’t going to cut it.

Create a plan, make it your primary goal and stick to it for at least three weeks, then everything comes naturally after that. You will be on the road to long term awesomeness.

In-line with the theme of long term happiness on this blog, my suggestion is to look at the big picture, and do all you can to ensure that you’re progressing for as long as possible. Preferably you should always be progressing in some way, shape or form.

Progression = Happiness

Stagnation = Frustration (Even worse if you’re completely screwed due to an injury)

Therefore, my advice is to stay on the lower end of this volume range, whilst incorporating at least some high RPE work, to ensure you’re definitely giving yourself enough of a stimulus to grow. Another nice advantage of this type of training is that it’s very time efficient. It’s great.

Always remember, gradual progression is king.


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2 thoughts on “Progressive Overload vs Volume”

  1. Brilliant post again!

    I do agree that volume is all people talk about, but doesn’t a certain amount of volume almost guarantee progression?

    1. Yes a certain amount of volume will guarantee progression for a certain amount of time. Eventually however, your body always adapts, so you need the continual progression to keep pushing past the adaptations 🙂 Then you run into the problem of “If I go any higher I’m asking to get injured”, so just be careful!

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