what is the Optimal Volume for Hypertrophy?

Find out how many repetitions per muscle group you should perform per session if your goal is to increase muscle mass & optimal volume for hypertrophy.

Training Methods of Hypertrophy

There are many opinions and methods on training focused on hypertrophy.

In fact, it has become fashionable for the benefits of maintaining or increasing our muscle mass, whether for aesthetics, health or to improve our performance. Now, how can we optimize our training sessions focused on optimal volume for hypertrophy?

There are a number of variables that we must take into account to design an adequate and effective training plan to generate hypertrophy. These are:

  • training volume
  • Weekly frequency
  • Load (reps max)
  • type of muscle action
  • Rest time between exercises
  • Duration of each repetition
  • Order of the exercises
  • range of motion
  • stress intensity

We will explain in different articles how to use each of these variables to achieve better and faster results, in order to generate hypertrophy. In this article, we will focus on the first of these, training volume.

Also Read: Recommended Daily Protein Intake for Athletes By American College of Sports Medicine

What is Training Volume?

We define training volume as the total amount of work done, either in one session or in one week. Normally in strength training, it is usually prescribed as repetitions by the number of series, either per session, per muscle group, or per exercise (McDonagh and Davies, 1984).

It should be noted, first of all, that many people, including professionals in the sports sector, have a serious misconception and reason that the higher the volume of training, the greater the hypertrophy they will generate. However, they point out that their progress or that of their clients in terms of body composition or sports performance has not only slowed down but also worsened. What is this about?

Optimal Volume for Hypertrophy

An excessive volume of training leads to overtraining, a catabolic state in which our body is unable to recover due to lack of rest. When we abuse the volume of training, problems such as loss of muscle mass, poorer performance, increased risk of injury during a session…

What can I do to avoid this problem? What does the evidence show about the optimal training volume for hypertrophy? How do we manage this variable to always stay within the optimal margins in relation to muscle gains?

The optimal volume for hypertrophy to gain muscle mass

The dose-response relationship between volume and hypertrophy is compelling: higher training volumes are clearly and positively associated with greater muscle gains. Based on the findings of Wernbom et al, multi-set routines totaling 40-70 repetitions per muscle group per session can be considered a general guideline for those with limited training experience. More advanced lifters seem to need higher volumes to maximize muscle protein accumulation, perhaps twice as much as untrained people.

Since the consistent use of high volumes over time accelerates the onset of overtraining, periodized programming by increasing volume during the training cycle seems beneficial. Furthermore, training periods should be integrated into the final phase of each mesocycle to facilitate the recovery process and avoid overtraining.

This last part is based on the principle of Supercompensation.

what is Supercompensation principle

During this period of volume reduction or discharge, positive adaptations are generated, such as an increase in muscle glycogen storage, a total repair of the fibers…

Respecting this principle is responsible for the progress and constant improvement in our performance and our hypertrophy.

Training Frequency

Training frequency refers to the number of times we perform a certain exercise or train a muscle group in a given period of time (usually a week).

Training frequency refers to the number of times we perform a certain exercise or train a muscle group in a given period of time (usually a week).

Training frequency modulation is an effective strategy for manipulating volumetric loads. 

Training frequency modulation is an effective strategy for manipulating volumetric loads.

Split routines  (upper/lower body) allow for a higher weekly workload, improving muscular adaptations through the dose-response relationship between volume and hypertrophy.

The frequency must be organized by alternating the number of times a muscle group is trained weekly according to the characteristics and composition of fibers (fast, intermediate or slow), as well as the physiological response of each athlete. This can be achieved by alternating full body and split routines (for example,  progressing from a 3-session mesocycle with a full-body routine to another mesocycle with 4 weekly sessions of an upper and lower body routine, culminating in a mesocycle of 5 – 6 sessions per week). In this way, we will increase hypertrophy and reduce the potential for overtraining.