Volume is not just for your stereo or your hair. Volume is an absolutely essential metric for improving your performance in the backcountry. Although strength training, fat loss, and muscle-building are good goals for anyone, increased volume should have its rightful place in your workout plans.
Consider when you are hiking with a pack, bow/gun, and layers of clothing. You are taking step after step after step in rough terrain, often on a steep incline, and you are not resting every 5 or 8 reps (steps) – you might be resting every 25, 50, or even 100 steps. You are doing some serious volume when you are hunting because you are carrying all that weight for a very, very long time. Doing sets of 5, 6, 8, or even 12 reps at the gym is not going to properly train your muscles for this kind of work.
You need volume training in your workouts.
What is Volume?
Volume (as it pertains to weight lifting) is the total amount of weight you lift in a given workout. Volume is not about a 1-rep max; in fact, you can lift more volume using lighter weight than you can using heavier weight.
Volume is based on a simple formula: weight x reps = total weight lifted. The goal of volume training is to increase the total weight lifted from week to week.
To get an idea of how to achieve the highest volume possible, let’s look at a scenario involving 3 different people with 3 different approaches to lifting to determine how volume differs between training styles.
Imagine Person A focuses on strength, utilizing 5 sets of 5 reps with 250 lbs. Person B focuses on muscle mass, utilizing 4 sets of 8 reps with 200 lbs. Person C focuses on volume, utilizing 5 sets of 25 reps with 100 lbs; Person C is using significantly less weight per rep than Persons A and B. But who is going to lift more volume?
Using the formula above, the results are:
- Person A lifted a total of 6,250 lbs
- Person B lifted a total of 6,400 lbs
- Person C lifted a total of 12,500 lbs
The takeaway with this scenario is that the amount of weight on the bar or rack does not indicate the amount of volume lifted. Instead, a much lower weight that allows for much higher reps can yield more than twice the volume at the end of the workout.
How to Train for Volume
Training for volume is simple (though it can be exhausting). Simply choose a lighter weight and do a very high number of reps while focusing on maintaining proper form.
However, having a plan is always necessary to succeed in the gym so here are a few ways to plan out your volume training:
High Volume Sets
Performing high volume sets is a simple and straight-forward way to incorporate volume training. However, high volume sets does not mean 12-15 reps. A high volume set is a minimum of 25 reps per set (I have gone as high as 50 reps per set). Doing this for 3-4 sets with a 1-2 minute rest in between sets is a great starting point for incorporating volume training.
Escalated Density Training (EDT)
EDT is a form of training that involves lifting a set amount of weight for as many reps as possible (AMRAP) in a given amount of time. To perform an EDT set, select a multi-joint exercise (squats, deadlift, bench press, shoulder press, leg press, etc.) and choose a weight with which you can perform about 20 reps. Then, set a timer for 15 minutes. Your goal: do as many reps with proper form as you can in 15 minutes.
Obviously, you will have to take breaks throughout as needed. The point is not to go the full 15 minutes without stopping. The point is to do more reps with the same weight each time you do this workout, thus increasing the volume you are able to lift.
Tabata is a form of interval training in which you perform short periods of intense work followed by even shorter periods of rest. To perform a tabata set for volume training, choose an exercise and use a weight with which you can perform 12-15 reps, then do a 20-second work/10-second rest cycle for between 8-10 minutes (an interval timer on your smartphone is very helpful here). If you reach failure during the 20 seconds, simply do partial reps until the time is up. Safety and form are paramount here; don’t do a tabata circuit with an exercise if you cannot do it properly. Tabata is a great way to increase volume while also improving fat burning potential during your workout.
Benefits of Volume Training
There are many benefits to volume training that will hopefully make the hard work more valuable in your mind. Here are a few:
Increased Muscular Endurance
Volume training will without a doubt teach your muscles to use oxygen more efficiently and increase your muscular endurance. When you are hiking at 10,000 ft at a steep incline, you will be glad that you spent the time you did doing volume training as you will be able to go farther without stopping.
Improved Mental Strength
Volume training will test your mental fortitude. You will want to stop early. You will want to go back to an easier form of weight lifting. Don’t give in! Mountains will challenge you in the same way so prepare now through lifting weights for volume.
Improved Fat Loss
Fat is non-functional weight; it serves you no purpose whatsoever. Volume combats fat on two levels: (1) it increases your metabolic rate through intense exercise with short rests; and (2) it breaks down muscle fibers down beyond typical strength training and thus continues fat burn for an extended period of time (24-48 hours) after your workout as your body rebuilds.
The benefits of volume training are totally worth the effort. You need to practice how you play – you need to train how you hunt. Volume training is the way to do it. Turn up the volume and get to work… Fall is coming and you need to be ready before it arrives.