26 Aug #223 – Intensity & Volume for the Advanced Lifter: Can’t We Just Be Friends?
Matt and Scott have discussed the primary programming variables of volume and intensity many times, but there’s a persistent idea that “volume” and “intensity” happen in discrete workouts, at separate times. This idea probably stems from popular early intermediate programs like the Texas Method, which prescribes dedicated volume (5×5) and intensity (1×5) days for each lift. Indeed, this approach — as well as more moderate approaches like HLM — works well for a long time, but eventually the advancing lifter faces a problem.
The loads on intensity day can only increase for so long before the cannot complete five reps. Typically at this point they would then try to complete three reps, and/or increase the amount of backoff on their volume days — 90% of intensity day squats for 5×5 may become 80%, for instance. All of these tweaks are in service of increasing the weight on the bar and setting new PR’s. However, many lifters soon run into a scenario in which they can no longer drive up their intensity day loads at any rep range. They could drop their volume day loads even further, but many athletes, especially Masters athletes, find that they detrain quickly with light loads even at high volume.
At this point volume and intensity must become one, and the line between intensity day and volume day begins to blur. A lifter may complete a heavy triple for “intensity” then follow it with 2 or 3 sets of 5 at a lower weight for additional “volume.” The key here is that you don’t have to accrue volume and intensity on separate days, and eventually, if you advance far enough, you simply won’t be able to!
Thinking in terms of volume and intensity accruing over a training cycle — whether it’s two weeks, three weeks, or twelve — and paying attention to both tonnage AND intensity (remember Masters lifters are prone to detraining at low % work) can help you to clarify the interplay of the programming variables and make better decisions on your next program.
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