This archived article was written by: Devin Latu
Why is it that almost everyone you see working out in the gym does high volume body part splits? Today is Thursday and in just about every gym in America, that means it’s leg day. Tomorrow is arms, Monday is chest and Tuesday is back, … or something like that. Why the lack of variety? What is the need for all that training volume?
You need to understand that most forms of training have been passed down from generation to generation, and nobody has ever thought twice about it. Sometime in the ’60s, sensible training programs started becoming less and less common when anabolic steroids were introduced. Back in the day, people used better, lower volume programs. But these started to disappear during the ’60s. By the time Arnold Schwarzenegger worked out at Gold’s Gym, high volume, body part splits were the usual way for everyone to train for size and strength.
This type of training is based on the fact that “it’s what everyone else is doing.” There are no studies saying that you need eight-12 sets per body part to grow. In fact there are studies that show the opposite; that one set is just as effective as three.
The logic of this type of training will also tell you that higher volume training is connected with higher levels of growth hormone (GH). What they don’t tell you is that the level of GH increase is not enough to make any difference at all. In fact, almost anything you do elevates GH. Extreme temperatures elevate GH but my biceps don’t get bigger every time I take a shower. The increased GH emission from training is so tiny that it is not even enough to make the slightest difference.
If you do eight-12 sets for chest on Monday, you can not recover from that workout and be able to train again for seven days. So you are only getting one growth spurt per week or 52 per year. But if you reduce volume, you can train body parts twice per week instead of once. Now instead of 52 muscle stimulating workouts per year for each body part, you can do 104.
The total sets per workout should be kept low and the total sets per exercise should be even lower. There is no need to do four sets of incline presses, flat bench presses and decline presses for your chest workout. You think that you need to hit every angle and do an endless amount of sets to stimulate every last muscle fiber, but that’s not true at all.
The reason these training programs are still popular is because nobody wants to be told they are wrong. Admitting your mistakes is something many people can’t do. Nobody likes to have their ego bruised so they keep on doing and promoting the same high volume workouts that they always have.
But that’s fine, let them do what they want. Personally I have way more important stuff to do than spend every waking moment in the gym. If I can get better results in half the time, I’ll choose that every time. Cut your volume, up your weights and intensity, and get ready for the “what are you on” questions to start rolling in.