Understanding Training Volume: One of the Most Important Variables for Making Progress

In my last post, I discussed the bodies desire for homeostasis. I began to touch upon the importance of disrupting homeostasis briefly and yet at the same time encouraging it. In this post we are going to focus even more on the disruption of homeostasis by discussing the idea of training volume, or as I will often refer to it as simply volume. 

Volume is the measure of total work performed during a training session and one of the most important things to monitor as it pertains to any training. 
The first thing I want to touch upon is how to find the volume. In regards to strength training the equation for volume is V = S*R*W or Volume = (Sets)*(Repetitions per Set)*(Weight). If two of these variables stay the same and one of them increases then the overall volume increases. However, sometimes there might be trade-offs. Say for instance you use heavier weight but must then perform lower reps. Well as a result volume may decrease or stay the same. 
To get stronger, you must always consider how to manipulate your workouts so that volume gradually increases not just from session to session, but over the week as a whole. Sometimes this means doing more workouts that week or increasing one of the three variables of the equation. However, at the same time volume will not always increase linearly. Due to this wave-like effect of progress, this is why the workouts have been broken into phases. 
At HPI we typically structure our programs into components of different phases, about four weeks at a time. By the fourth week of a phase, many of our clients should have the attained their highest volume accumulated over the phase. Then once we start a new phase, you may find the weight increases, the reps drop, and as a result, the volume drops. This drop in volume is by design. Manipulating volume in such a way will ensure steady progress as well as continue to promote recovery so that you do not burn out. The ultimate idea is two steps forward one step backward, but know you are still progressing.
With this being said, I would now like to address the endurance oriented readers. Calculation of total volume for the endurance athletes is a tad easier. It comes down to your total mileage for the week. It is also important to take into account heart rate and duration of these workouts. You do not want to have a high volume/intense session of endurance training preceded by high volume/intense lifting session. Such recklessness in the schedule may end up causing overtraining and leave your system fried. 
If you know you may have two high volume sessions coming up, I would encourage you to give yourself a minimum of 2 days between these two sessions. This does not mean you cannot run or lift during these two days; it does mean you should monitor your volume as well as your perceived exertion, not letting yourself go over a 6/10. This means you should feel like you are challenging your system but if you sweat it should be more of a glisten instead of a drench.
By monitoring volume, and making sure that over time it is gradually creeping upwards, you should find yourself progressing towards your goals volumes. 
As mentioned volume is one way, we manipulate homeostasis to do our bidding. I hope you have a better understanding of why it is so important to monitor. Stay tuned for other posts that explore the other methods we utilize to optimize progress. 

- Dave Howington

Making a Plan pt. 3 - The Importance of Journaling

In part 1 of this series we discussed progressive overload. It is the key principle towards attaining your goals. In part two we discussed periodization, and the importance of keeping yourself organized. In part three we will discuss the importance keeping a journal. Keep in mind, I am not talking about “dear diary” type stuff, but rather keeping track of what you do day in and day out.


I personally feel regardless of your goals periodization is important. However, in all honesty periodization is arbitrary if you are not actually keeping track of what you are doing. Without a journal you may as well be a dog chasing its tail. Don’t go me wrong periodization can be extremely helpful, and if you are competing in a sport like powerlifting, olympic lifting or even strong man it is almost essential.

If you are a field or court athlete, it is equally important to keep track of something even in the absence of an organized plan (periodization). If you don’t you will struggle to progress, and when you do hit a plateau you will have nothing to look back upon to see what variables you may be able to change to overcome it.

This is why one of the best things you can do for yourself is go to your local office supply store and buy a notebook of some sort. In this note book create several columns; for the exercise, the reps, the sets, and the weight lifted.

Another thing you can do at the end of each session is write how the session felt, you might notice trends. If you consistently feel drained after several sessions in a row it may be time to consider performing a deload, if each session feels really good maybe it’s time to set a new personal record.

As you can see the largest benefit of having a journal in some shape or manner is it will help you better keep track of where you are headed by detailing where you are at and looking back at where you came from. A journal can even be motivational to objectively see how much you actually have improved.

Keeping track of what you are doing is essential in the persistent quest of reaching your goals.


Making a Plan pt. 1 - Understanding Progressive Overload

Pertaining to health and fitness, figuring out what we're supposed to do can be one of the most daunting ventures of our lives.

Take a look at nutrition. Depending on where we go for advice we'll see an expert say carbohydrates are the devil. Next thing you know a study gets released that tells us we need carbohydrates. Pretty soon someone will probably say; the only way to optimize your digestion is by eating while doing a hand stand.

All this to say; I'm not even going to touch the nutrition aspect. Rather, we will spend some time exploring programming design. I simply can't state the importance of having a program in place. As the old adage goes, "Failing to plan, is planning to fail".

The first thing we will discuss is the cornerstone principle of progressive overload.

Progressive overload simply states something needs to change so that our body can keep growing. Many of us do this intuitively without even realizing it. For example, when weight feels easy we make it heavier.

Progressive overload, as a principle, should be one of our key focal points for our training. However, because it is a principle, there are also a variety of methods we can use to implement it. This is important because we do not want to stick to only one method of implementation, otherwise our training will stagnate and we will cease to adapt.

Below are three of the more popular methods for implementing progressive overload.

1.    Increase the weight

2.    Increase the range of motion (think of doing a step-up on a higher box)

3.    Decrease the amount of rest between exercises

There are way more methods than just these three. Renowned trainer, Bret Contreras has a book dedicated to 10 methods of progressive overload. This vast sum of methods is why having a solid understanding of programming is crucial. If we can understand the basics of programming and how it revolves around the principle of progressive overload, we can figure out how we can manipulate our training to ensure we are always improving, and for lack of a better word, progressing.

Throughout this series we will talk about: periodization, weekly layouts, volume/intensity/frequency, progressions/regressions, and even how deloads and recovery come into play. All with the purpose of helping us achieve our goals and using progressive overload to work for us.

- Dave