Volume is one of the most important metrics to track because it directly relates to how much fatigue is produced. If you’re feeling beat up, tired, sluggish, or over-trained, it may be because of ineffective volume prescriptions. When volume is programmed optimally, athletes get the maximum exposure to intensities that build their base strength, while allowing fatigue and recovery to balance each other.
The concept of “optimal training” is made up of many variables and training metrics. A good starting point to find optimal training is to talk about the various ways volume can be created. For this, we must understand three concepts:
If you’re an online coach, these are three metrics that will allow you to understand your athletes’ individual response to volume. This will change over time with your athletes as they become more skilled and less responsive to basic training. Therefore, it’s not only important to track ‘absolute volume’ (total tonnage), but the context in which that volume was accumulated. You can track your athletes training metrics using our coaching platform.
Relative intensity considers the bar load, how many reps were completed, and how close you were to fatigue when calculating volume.
For example, 5 reps at 60% would have a low relative intensity because you wouldn’t be close to your fatigue limit. However, 5 reps at 80% would have a higher relative intensity because you would be training closer to fatigue when compared with the 60% set.
Let’s take an example from another sport like completing a marathon. The runner could walk, speed walk, jog, run, or sprint. Each of these different exertions represents how ‘hard’ the runner is working relative to their fatigue.
On MyStrengthBook you can track relative intensity for volume, which is displayed using colored bar graphs. Volume in the grey and blue zones is like walking or speed walking. Yellow zone: jogging. Red zone: running. Black zone: sprinting .
Remember, relative intensity isn’t about how much distance you travel, it’s a measure of how close you are working to fatigue. Whether an athlete sprints 1km or 5km, both athletes are training in the black zone.
Volume split by core lift is having the ability to look at how much volume was achieved through each of the powerlifting movements.
Any time someone refers to ‘volume’, it’s likely a representation of their total volume . In other words, the total amount of volume accumulated when adding together squat, bench, and deadlift.
In analyzing when you feel ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in training, it’s important to start by looking at total volume – since total volume has more of an effect on overall fatigue levels. However, when understanding the volume split between the lifts, you may recognize discrepancies or trends that lead to feeling a particular way.
It’s as simple as saying to yourself, “my squat feels really strong right now”, then looking at your squat volume in isolation, or maybe looking at your squat volume as a ratio of your deadlift volume, or analyzing squat volume over time to ensure there are global increases or decreases. These are the sorts of insights that allow you to define more optimal volumes across each of your lifts. You will begin to realize a ‘range’ in which is most optimal (e.g. 10,000-15,000lbs of volume), not necessarily an ‘exact number’ (e.g 11,000lbs).
Baseline Volume defines your level of powerlifting fitness – it’s the average amount of volume you typically handle within a particular timeframe.
For example, you might run 12-week training cycles. So, for the last 12-weeks you’ll want to know how much volume you did on a weekly basis as an average. Let’s say on average you did 12,000lbs of volume per week. Some weeks may have been higher, some weeks lower, but on average you did 12,000 lbs.
We call the “average” your baseline. Theoretically, the higher you train above your baseline, the more you’re challenging your fitness and the harder it will be to recover. Conversely, the lower you train below your baseline, the easier it will be to recover.
Therefore, what’s ‘high volume ‘ for one person may or may not be ‘high volume’ for another person. It ‘s all relative to your baseline. So, when someone says, “I’m doing a lot of volume right now”, you should ask him or her how much more than their baseline they are training .
Athlete A: Current training week = 25,000lbs. Baseline volume = 15,000lbs.
Athlete B: Current training week = 50,000lbs. Baseline volume = 75,000 lbs.
In this scenario let’s assume both athletes are training at the same relative intensity (i.e. they’re both running, not walking) . Even though Athlete B is training at higher overall volumes, their current training week is lower than their baseline. Technically, Athlete A has a more challenging current week of training than Athlete B.
Putting These Metrics to Use
The first step is to start collecting this information. Once you have a block of training under your belt (3-6 weeks), you can start analyzing trends in the metrics above. You can use MyStrengthBook to either (1) build out your own training programs or (2) use one of our training cycles on our Program Library. If you were uncertain on which program to do, you can get a recommendation from one of our team members by completing our program quiz. We’ll put you on a program that has the optimal volume prescriptions.
If you’re an online powerlifting coach, these metrics will be important to track over time in order to continue personalizing your athletes’ training programs. The idea is that every athlete will have a specific context for their volume. Therefore, tracking this information early on will allow you to make key programming decisions to guide your athlete effectively.
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The next article will describe 3 ways to challenge your volume.
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