Which routine is better: Intensity or Volume?

August 17th, 2007 by Paul Johnson

A very old argument among bodybuilders is, which workout routine gives better muscle gains, high volume or low volume high intensity?

Logic behind high intensity workouts:

These include the HIT cheerleaders. They believe that in order to stimulate muscle growth it’s all about going to failure on each set. Their workouts are brief and intense. They feel that you cannot gain muscle without going to failure and making the workout absolutely grueling. Often the routines go one step further with rest pause reps, negatives, etc.

Logic behind high volume workouts:

High volume routines don't believe in failure. Instead they believe in working the muscle at a high load frequently. They believe that high intensity workouts are geared more around building strength instead of muscle hypertrophy.

Scientific studies:

There are few studies out there comparing more volume to lower volume routines. The ones I have come across, suggest one set is adequate for trained individuals for muscle hypertrophy. A study published in Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Jan;32(1):235-42. was done on 42 men with a year of weight lifting experience during a specific 9 excercise routine 3 times a week. For 13 weeks one group continued one set and the other increased to 3 sets per excercise. Both groups increased muscle and strength, but surprisingly they found no difference (negative or positive) in strength or muscle, between the group who tripled their volume. I suspect that doing more sets per muscle, may just increase muscle endurance and not strength or muscle size.

  1. Damien Bell on October 3rd, 2010

    You need both. maximal intensity and adequate volume. But Never ever drop your intensity so that you can do more volume.I doubled my bodywieght ( I can prove this ) in 15 months training with low volume and rediculous intensity. U cant argue with results. Theory is never a substitute for experience or practical experimentation. Every client Ive had who Ive pushed to extreme levels of intensity has gained superior results to the clients ive had who cant match the intensity. PS GENETICALLY GIFTED PEOPLE CAN DESTROY ANY THEORY cause they can do almost anything and get incredible results. Learn from people with average genetics and incredible resulrs!!!!!!!!