#172 – Why High Volume Is Not The (Only) Answer to Muscle Growth with Andy Baker
Andy Baker returns to the podcast once more to discuss his strategies for driving hypertrophy in intermediate lifters. Andy is a master programmer who has co-authored Practical Programmingand The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40. In this episode Andy argues that the current vogue for high volume training in pursuit of hypertrophy demonstrates an incomplete understanding of the programming variables and is often simply impractical.
Andy reminds us that both volume and intensity are stressors in the SRA equation, and we need more stress to drive continued strength adaptations. Since cross-sectional muscle size is the main driver of strength gains after the novice phase (during which neuromuscular efficiency increases also contribute to strength), the additional stress should contribute to hypertrophy. Most trainees have the idea that more volume is needed after novice LP, since they have increased intensity as the only variable up to that point. This is true, but how much is enough volume? Logically, volume can be driven up indefinitely, whereas intensity can only be driven up to a point — 100% of a rep max.
Practically, however, there are limits to the amount of volume a trainee can do in a workout. Instead of increasing sets and reps indefinitely, Andy recommends using novel exercises at varying rep ranges to drive additional volume. These are typically supplemental lifts such as pause/tempo squats, front squats, rack pulls, incline bench press, press starts, etc., however they could also be accessory movements like lying triceps extensions. He recommends introducing these early to mid-intermediate, giving the trainee plenty of workouts to acclimate to the new movement to the point it can be trained heavy. The goal here is to identify, over time, a handful of assistance exercises which work well for the lifter, recognizing that every lifter will be different… and even the same lifter may not respond the same way to assistance lifts as their training career progresses!
Andy also points out that accumulating new movement patterns builds a mind/muscle connection that trainees coming out of the novice stage — during which the exercises are very limited — often lack. Since these movements are mechanically less efficient than the main barbell lifts, they can be done for more reps and thus, give the muscles more time under tension, which contributes to muscle growth. Andy emphasizes that as soon as a trainee learns new movements, they mustbe loaded heavy.
You can find Andy at http://www.andybaker.com, where he offers online and in-person coaching, custom programming design, and programming templates.
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