Intensity vs Volume. What really matters?

Balancing Volume and Intensity in Weight Training

Many gym enthusiasts often come across the age-old debate of volume versus intensity. Which one should you prioritize in your training sessions? The concise answer would be, you need a blend of both. Let’s delve into the details.

When you excessively emphasize intensity, the aftermath is often profound muscle fatigue. This doesn’t just deter your training session the following day but could potentially impede your overall results, pushing you into the realm of overtraining. On the flip side, an excessive volume without paying heed to its effects can lead to injuries. The sweet spot, like many other dichotomies in weight training, is to strike a harmonious balance between the two. And to do so, a sound understanding of volume and intensity training fundamentals is indispensable.


Volume Training Explained

Volume, in the context of weight training, alludes to the total quantum of weight you hoist over a defined timeframe. There are multiple ways to quantify this, but perhaps the most straightforward method is by multiplying the weight you lift with the number of sets and reps you execute for a given exercise. Take, for instance, if you perform squats with 315 pounds in a 5×5 routine (5 sets of 5 reps), your total volume for that session is 7,875 pounds (5 x 5 x 315).

Engaging with volume training is like having a roadmap for your workouts. Once you have a clear idea of the volume you’re integrating into each session, you can tailor your regimen to ensure you’re optimizing the volume according to your objectives. What makes volume training especially appealing is its measurability and the ease with which one can monitor progress. An illustrative progression would be managing to complete 10 reps with a weight that previously capped at 6-8 reps.

Diving Deep into Intensity Training

Intensity, in weight training parlance, denotes the vigor of your training. Numerous metrics exist to measure this, but the most prevalent one is through percentages. This is often expressed as a percentage of your one-repetition max (1RM) employed for a particular exercise. To illustrate, if you have a 1RM of 300 pounds for an exercise and opt to execute eight reps at 80% of your 1RM, you’re lifting 240 pounds in that specific set. Naturally, as the percentage ascends, so does the intensity, drawing you nearer to your limit.

The allure of intensity training rests in its potential to facilitate workouts with formidable weights. This is an unparalleled method to augment strength. Furthermore, it serves as a potent tool to transcend plateaus. After engaging with weightlifting for an extended period, it’s a commonplace occurrence to witness stagnation. Intensity training is your antidote, inducing enhanced muscle damage, which consequentially stimulates muscle growth.


The Need for a Balanced Approach

Why this emphasis on incorporating both training methods? The logic is entrenched in the biomechanics of muscle growth. Muscle hypertrophy is birthed from a cumulative tension stimulus over a span. To engender muscle growth, one can either intensify the tension in each rep by elevating the weight (intensity training) or prolong the duration of muscle tension exposure by amplifying the workout time (volume training).

Many fitness aficionados tend to lean towards one method, giving birth to training terminologies like strength training (intensity) and BBB training (volume). However, in the practical world, a pure approach is seldom observed. Imagine the implications of solely lifting your 1RM for every exercise. While it boosts strength, it also rapidly induces fatigue, making sustenance a challenge. Conversely, ponder over the feasibility of lifting a meager 10 pounds for a staggering 1,000 reps. The disparities become glaringly evident.


In wrapping up, this extended discourse aims to furnish you with a robust understanding of the intricacies of volume and intensity training. Crafting an effective weight training regimen is contingent upon cognizance of both training techniques’ merits and potential pitfalls. Eschew the binary mindset of prioritizing one over the other. Instead, endeavor to uncover your unique blend, your “golden” ratio of intensity and volume, to pave the path for optimal results.

FOrbes Health

Winner of Best Workout data tracking App (2022,2023)

The best Workout Analysis App
(2022-2023)

FOrbes Health

Winner of Best Workout data tracking App (2022,2023)

The best Workout Analysis App
(2022-2023)

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