Low training volumes

There is a lot of support for using high training volumes for bodybuilding. However, lower training volumes actually seem to be better when working with athletes who need to produce force at very fast speeds.

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This effect seems to be the result of at least two different mechanisms (and there might be others, such as greater increases in tendon stiffness that might negatively impact stretch-shortening cycle function at fast speeds).

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#1. High volumes enhance hypertrophy, but this reduces high-velocity strength

Many studies have shown that higher training volumes enhance muscle growth (at least up to a point). This has been confirmed by meta-analyses combining the results of many studies. 

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Even so, an increase in the size of the muscle also causes an increase in the internal moment arm length. The internal moment arm length is the leverage of the muscle at the joint, and it can be visualized by considering the distance that the muscle bulges outwards from the bone that it rests against. When the leverage is large, this enhances force production at slow speeds. However, the longer leverage actually has a negative effect on force production at fast speeds, because it makes the muscle fibers shorten more for the same joint angle range of motion, which means that they must shorten faster for the same joint angular velocity. Consequently, the force-velocity relationship requires them to produce a smaller force when shortening at a given (fast) speed.

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#2. High volumes enhance fiber type shifts, which reduces high-velocity strength

Muscle fiber type shifts happen after strength training, causing the fastest type IIX fibers to convert into slightly slower type IIA fibers. This has a negative effect on the maximum speed that the muscle can achieve, and therefore on the force that it can exert at fast speeds. Importantly, the extent to which fiber type shifts occur is greater when training with higher training volumes.

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Conclusions

Higher training volumes increase muscle growth and gains in maximum strength (up to a point). However, lower training volumes are more effective for improving maximum speed and high-velocity strength measures, such as vertical jump height. This unusual phenomenon seems to result from (at least) two adaptations that occur to a greater degree after high volume training, compared to after lower volume training.

Higher training volumes cause a larger shift in fiber type proportion (from the very fast type IIX to the moderately fast type IIA). This reduces maximum muscle shortening speed. Also, higher training volumes cause more hypertrophy. While this extra muscle growth contributes to increased strength gains at slow speeds, the accompanying extra lengthening of the internal moment arm length (that is a direct result of the hypertrophy) has a negative effect on force production at fast speeds.

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By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 93 exclusive posts
65
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16
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Videos